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Surviving Website Downtime

Downtime is an annoying occurrence that most website owners experience sooner or later when managing web hosting needs.  Downtime is basically considered as the amount of time that a website is inaccessible to users for various reasons.  While some websites have near perfect uptime rates, others are offline at least a couple of hours each day.  Understanding downtime and how to prevent it from wrecking havoc on the daily operations of web hosting is essential for success.

Downtime Causes

Although often difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of downtime, there are several common reasons.  The first being planned downtime by the web host for tasks such as server upgrades, hardware, operating systems or software.  Another cause is component failures such as faulty hardware, defective programs, viruses, file corruption, and programming errors.  User errors or malicious intent are other causes which include accidentally erasing files or hackers.  Finally, natural disasters which can’t be prevented such as hurricanes and tornadoes are also common causes of server downtime.

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Affects of Downtime

Regardless of the cause for sever downtime, the impacts are usually significant.  The most obvious impact of downtime is a loss of profits.  A staggering example is Amazon.com’s approximate two hour downtime in June 2007 that resulted in an estimated $3.48 million profit loss.  Customer satisfaction also takes a hard hit whenever a website experiences downtime.  Along the same lines, a loss of interest from potential investors is often a result of website downtime.  Search engine rankings are also affected negatively by downtime as it’s factored into the top five things considered when rankings are generated.

Proactive Steps to Prevent Downtime

While downtime can’t always be predicted, especially in cases of planned downtime or natural disaster, there are proactive ways to prevent website downtime.  Consider the following steps:

  • Use a DNS backup service
  • Purchase a monitoring system to ping websites on a regular schedule and send notifications of outages.
  • Backup data on regular intervals
  • Maintain current domain name
  • Utilize Google Webmaster tools
  • Implement accurate server downtime error codes
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Reporting Downtime

Remember that time is a valuable commodity, especially when it comes to generating profits via an e-commerce site.  Once your site has been verified as down and the respective website is offline, try to locate the cause of the outage.  Often scripts running cause a strain on the server, thus resulting in being knocked offline.  If you can’t locate the reason for the outage, contact your web host’s technical support.  Hosting providers aren’t always aware of outages, so it’s important to notify them as soon as possible to report the outage.  After reporting the issue, it’s equally as important to send notifications to your customers to let them know you’re aware of the website being offline and explain the situation to the best of your knowledge. Finally, stay in touch with the web host’s customer support and IT team that’s been assigned and responsible for fixing the issue.

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