We probably all remember the grand old Duke of York, who had 10,000 men. It must’ve been quite a sight as he marched them up the hill. You certainly wouldn’t miss that.
When it comes to your website, it’s quite a different situation. Remember that saying about whether anyone hears the tree that falls in the forest. If your website suddenly stops being available to visitors, does anyone become aware of that very quickly? Has that happened to you already? It’s quite a worry. People who would like to buy from you cannot access your website. How can you avoid this dreadful situation?
And when you’re down, you’re down.
With most reasonable web hosting companies, it should rarely happen that your website is down and that you are unaware of it. No one is quite as bad as the spoof web hosting company, nouptime.com.
Actually, if you visit the website, http://nouptime.com, you may not even access their home page. At this time, if you visit their site, you may see the message we have just seen that runs as follows:
Bandwidth Limit Exceeded
The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to the site owner reaching his/her bandwidth limit. Please try again later.
It would appear that this is a self-inflicted wound. Either the site has suddenly become unexpectedly popular with too many businesses, or perhaps the site owner bought only a limited amount of bandwidth each month. Real life is rarely as bad as that.
Good web hosting will keep you up
Most good web hosting companies will be performing much better than that spoof. Here at clickHOST, we have three passions as we strive to deliver worry-free web hosting to every one of our customers. These are simplicity, honesty and safety.
In other words, we will make sure that you completely understand what we are doing for you in the simplest possible way. We will always be completely honest and you can rely on our word. Finally, we will be taking every measure possible to guard against any hazards that might jeopardize your uptime performance.
Nevertheless, there may be very rare occasions when something unexpected happens. How can you check for yourself that all is well?
How to check whether you’re up or down.
Knowing whether your website is up or down sounds a relatively simple task. All you need to do is open the URL in your favourite browser and see whether your website shows as you might expect. Most often, you will see your website and all is well. Where it gets complicated is when it is not visible.
The reason why your website may not be visible could be any one of a number of reasons. The Internet is a complex network of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who will pass a message through the network to its destination. Whether or not your website is being correctly displayed by your web hosting company, it could be that your request to see it did not correctly pass through the network. You can check this by pinging your domain.
On a desktop PC this is done by using the PING Command in a Command Prompt. Here is what you would see if you checked the clickHOST.com domain.
The Ping command sends four packets of data requesting a reply and times how long the reply takes to arrive. If you chose to ping the nouptime.com website mentioned earlier, you’ll find that Ping shows that the route is clear. The problem is with the website itself..
If Ping shows no replies back from the domain, then there may be a problem en route. Another command prompt will allow you to check where problems may have occurred. This is done by using a tracert command. Here is what you would see in doing this for the clickHOST.com domain.
In this case there were eight attempts to establish a route but they all timed out. Eventually the 9th attempt connected directly with the server for the clickHOST.com domain.
If the route to your domain seems complete but you cannot see the website, then something more serious is happening. You may need to do some more detective work to pin down exactly what the problem might be.
You may want to deploy a more advanced an uptime checker tool like Pingdom which sends requests to your server periodically from different locations around the world and alerts you of connectivity problems. Pingdom is a premium tool and does a lot more than this.
A common problem with uptime checkers is that your web host’s firewall will detect the regular requests from the tool ip addresses and block them. The website owner will of course receive a notification that the site is unreachable and rightly so, become alarmed. If a website owner is unable to reach the site, it’s only human to assume in the heat of the moment that the same is true for everyone. In fact, it may be that your ip address is blocked.
Who is at fault?
Until the problem is identified, it is not possible to say who is at fault. It could be due to some decision you yourself have taken, it might be some problem the web hosting company is encountering or it might be a third-party who, directly or indirectly, is causing the problem.
Hopefully you can work in a cooperative way with your web hosting company to tackle the problem in a timely fashion. This again will be affected by the nature of the problem.
Why are you down?
It is impossible to list all the possible reasons why your website might be down. However, here are a few to illustrate how problems arise:
- The bandwidth allowed under your web hosting contract is too small for the traffic you are receiving
- You have changed some elements of your website or your content management system (CMS) that is not allowing your webpage to be displayed.
- Your web hosting company is having operating problems.
- Some hacker has attacked your website and included some malware so that your web pages are now being blocked by some ISPs.
- … and the list goes on.
If you know that it is some action on your part that created the problem, then you are the one who must fix it. In all other cases, you should create a ticket with your web hosting company to get their involvement in finding the solution.
Are you down for everyone?
If you know there is a problem, it is important to know how long this problem has been occurring, and whether it is affecting everyone who is trying to access your website. Monitoring services are available to give instant alerts of downtimes and which parts of the world to be affected.
Here are two free services that are available to do this:
- Check Website Availability – Test the availability and performance of your website from over 50+ locations worldwide and make sure your customers can access it. Know DNS resolve time, connect time, first byte time, last byte time and total response time.
- The Free Uptime Check (similar to Pingdom) utilizes select regional groupings from our network of 132 global checkpoints, which systematically pings and checks your website’s uptime.
- Use this tool to see if your site is down for everyone or just you.
How to get back up again
As noted above, it is important to work with your web hosting company to correct whatever problem may have arisen. Time is of the essence here. If your website is off-line too long then not only may this be affecting potential customers, but it could be that search engines downgrade whatever rankings you may have in keyword searches.
How to avoid this happening again.
As the old saying goes, whatever does not kill you makes you stronger. Unless the downtime is due to outside circumstances or some rare problem that could never occur again, you will be wise to consider hardening your system against whatever caused the upset. In some ways the Internet follows the laws of the jungle. Only the strong survive.
Thanks to business writer, Barry Welford for his great contributions on this post.