Hosting Tutorial & Guide

Is My Website Down? How to Diagnose and What to Do?

updated on Sep 01, 2015
Is My Website Down? How to Diagnose and What to Do? No one likes website outage. Frequent downtimes not only cause inconvenience and a loss of revenue for the webmaster, but also hurt the visitors' feeling and search engine rankings. However, every website could be down occasionally due to a service failure or some errors on the website.

When your website is inaccessible, don't be panic. You can contact your hosting provider immediately to ask the support team to investigate the cause for you. If you don't want to completely rely on the support team or need to practice some skills, you can follow the tutorial below to have a check on your website status, and then figure out the cause and solution as soon as possible.

How to Check Whether Your Website Is Really Down?

Sometimes, the inaccessibility of your website does not mean a real downtime. Instead, it can be caused by your Internet connection failure or some other local issues. Therefore, before taking any action, you must make sure an outage has occurred indeed by trying the following methods.
  • Contact your hosting provider to see whether there is a server or network failure. If the server itself is broken or the Internet connection to it is not successful, your website must be down.
  • Test your website in another browser and try another Internet connection. To find out whether your local environment has any problem, you can use different web browsers to visit your website, convert to another Internet connection, or ask your friends to access the site in a completely different environment. If the website cannot be accessed in any way, it should be down.
  • Use an online tool for a test. There are some websites like http://www.isitdownrightnow.com/ offering free tools for you to check the status of your website. You can count on them for a result.
Once you confirm that your website is in an outage state, follow the tutorial below to find out why and work out the proper solution.

Check Whether Your Website Is Really Down

Why Your Website Is Down & What to Do

There are various reasons for a website downtime, and below are the most frequent ones along with their fixes.

Reason 1: A server issue is ongoing.

The server-side problems that are out of your control can break down all the websites on your server. They can only be fixed by your hosting provider, and there is nothing you could do but wait. The common server issues include:
  • The server is under scheduled maintenance. All web hosts would schedule maintenance for their servers to make sure they run optimally. But before processing maintenance, they always send notifications through email. You can check your email to see whether your server is under maintenance.
  • The server is overloaded. Traffic spikes can cause a serious overload to the server if they cannot be properly absorbed. When the CPU or memory fails to keep up with the demand, the server becomes slow or even shut down. If you are using a shared server, your website could be easily taken down due to the overload caused by another website.
  • The server is down for any other unexpected issue. Besides the situations above, your server can also be inaccessible because of the failure of power or other hardware in the data center.
Solution: You should contact your hosting provider as soon as possible to know if there is any issue happening to your server. When the answer is yes, ask the support team when your website will be back online so that you can estimate the loss and be well prepared for the inquiries of your customers or visitors.

A Server Issue Is Ongoing

Reason 2: Your website is hacked.

Hacking can cause severe damage. When your website is hacked, in a bad case, it could be in a mess or even taken down by the hacker. Besides, if the hacker puts malware or malicious code on your site, your hosting provider will isolate or suspend the site as soon as they detect the bad things. In this case, you site can be inaccessible and you may gain notifications for the suspension.

Solution: It is easy to find out whether your website is hacked. Once you get the result which is bad, you have to fix your site before it goes online again. Depending on the severity of the hacking, you may need to rebuild your site using a fresh and clean backup. As cleaning up a hacked site is technical and time-consuming, it is important to always keep your website secure for prevention.

Reason 3: Your website or server is under attack.

Attackers usually launch a DoS or DDoS attack to flood the target server. The former can be stopped and blocked in a short time, but if a DDoS attack is launched toward your website or server, numerous traffic from multiple Internet connections and a widely distributed network of computers will take down the server easily. Your website will stay inaccessible until the attack is mitigated or stops.

Solution: Since DDoS attack is a kind of server problem, you can do nothing about it. If you are notified about a DDoS attack on your server, there is no other choice but to wait for your host to mitigate the attack. Web hosts usually update the server status frequently during an attack.

Your Website or Server Is Under Attack

Reason 4: You have made mistakes on your site.

If your server runs normally without any issue, the outage of your website is probably your fault. Have a careful check to see whether you have made any of the following mistakes.
  • Your website includes coding errors. Have you put custom code in any core file? If yes, you need to take time to re-check all the code. Depending on the function, coding errors could take down a single page, a section of your website, or even the entire site. In the case that your website works in one web browser but fails to show up in another, the cause is probably a code error.
  • Scripts, plugins or extensions are causing conflicts. If you run multiple scripts or plugins that are incompatible with each other, your site may suffer from an outage.
  • Domain has not been renewed. This seems a little bit unreasonable but the case is not rare. Some webmasters may forget to pay for the domain name when the previous term expires.
  • You have not upgraded the DNS server (Domain Name Server). This usually happens when you transfer a domain from one host to another. If the DNS server is not right, your domain can never be accessible.
Solution: For the first two issues, you must spend much time to find the error code and remove the conflicting scripts or extensions. If you are not technical enough, find a professional to help you. And for the latter two situations, you should always make sure that your domain and DNS server are valid. You can ask your hosting provider for the correct DNS configuration.

You Have Made Mistakes on Your Site

Reason 5: Your hosting account is suspended by the provider.

There are several cases that your hosting provider can take down your website while all other sites on the same server are still accessible. See if you are in any of the following circumstances.
  • You have hit the resource limits. Every server comes with strict limits for resources, especially for shared servers. When you use a shared hosting plan to host several websites or a relatively large website, you can easily reach the limit for CPU, RAM, storage or bandwidth. In this case, your account will be suspended and isolated until more resources are purchased.
  • You have forgotten to renew the hosting account. If you pay the bill with credit cards, web hosts usually deduct the hosting fee automatically before the end of the previous term. But for PayPal, no automatic renewal will be performed. Websites hosted with an unpaid account are not visible on the web.
  • You have violated the TOS of your hosting provider. Each web host has its own terms of service. Once you violate any of the terms, your account can be terminated immediately with/without notice.
Solution: The easiest way is to contact your hosting provider to know what you have done wrong. They will provide you with instructions about how to get your account unfrozen. For the shortage of resource, you can make an upgrade or transfer your website to another provider which offers more resources with good prices.

Your Hosting Account Is Suspended

Extra Tips for eCommerce Sites

In the case that you run a website for online businesses with direct revenue, you should apologize to all your customers for the downtime sincerely as soon as possible. In addition, consider trying the following tips to save your business and reputation.
  • Notify customers about the security of their data and everything else. For websites processing payments directly, customers care much about the safety of their personal information, so you should send emails to them to make them rest assured.
  • Assure customers their order status. For customers with unfinished orders, you'd better email them and tell them that their orders are not affected (assumed it's true). Also, when in a long outage, you should offer periodic updates.
  • If you are sure about when your website will go back online, tell them. This increases your customers' faith and potentially encourages them to come back at that time.
  • Launch a promotion to get customers involved again. While apologizing for the outage, you can offer your customers with a discount or free gifts to recover the relationships with them as well as to increase sales.

Extra Tips for eCommerce Sites

How to Minimize the Downtime of Your Website

To ensure the maximum uptime of your website, we have the following suggestions which have been proven to be useful.
  • Monitor your website constantly. Uptime monitoring tools help you keep a close eye on the status of your website. When a downtime occurs, they can alert you immediately so that you can take prompt actions to resolve the problem.
  • CDN saves you in short downtimes. Since your website content is cached and distributed to multiple servers, visitors can still access the static content even if your website is down for a while. Services like CloudFlare and MaxCDN help much in fighting against short downtimes.
  • Use a backup server if you run a large business. In the case that you are very serious about the uptime of your website, you can set up a secondary server and use a DNS management service to route the traffic to this server when the primary server fails.
  • Select a reliable server from a well-known web hosting provider, and be sure to stay away from those web hosts which are known for being unstable or insecure. If you are looking for a shared server, check the offerings from the following famous providers.