Why do websites crash due to traffic
Your website crashed! What now?
The Amazon crash on Prime Day is just the latest example of a website going down due to poor planning. By not making sure there were enough servers to handle the expected traffic, customers visiting the giant online retailer had to grapple with error messages, which Amazon and the companies selling on the Amazon platform lost countless times Brought in sales.
In reality, it happens all the time, just not always in such a public way. The most likely reasons your website went down are as follows:
- Plugin or extension failure
- Corrupted code
- Hosting provider issues
- Virus or hacker attack
- Traffic spikes
- Expiration of the domain
And while you might think that it isn't a big deal that your website is experiencing some downtime, think again. Imagine a department store or supermarket closing its doors in the middle of the day. This is the same as if your website crashes: traffic is temporarily stopped, which prevents transactions from taking place. This leads to poor customer experiences that can negatively impact brand affinity and future buying decisions.
So the question is not whether or not crashes are bad (they are), but what to do when one does and how to prevent it in the first place. Let's find out.
No website is immune
Unfortunately, this just seems to be an inevitable nuisance associated with doing business online, dealing with faulty machines and lots of moving parts.
We've already mentioned the big Amazon Prime Day debacle, but the truth is that Amazon won't be the first (nor the last) big company to crash during a highly publicized event. J Crew's website crashed on Cyber Monday, as did Australian website Click Frenzy during their own version of “this digital retail holiday”. The list of vilified online retailers goes on, but we think you got the point.
Surveys have shown that the majority of Fortune 500 companies regularly experience some downtown areas. Depending on the size of the business, this can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue, not to mention the additional expense of fixing the issues and the remaining reputational damage to the business.
The important thing is to know what to do when a crash happens and how to prevent these types of events from happening again too often - especially at those moments that can be critical to your company's bottom line.
What to do if your website crashes
The law of averages suggests that your website is likely to crash at one point or another. Whether it's too busy in your data center or a bug in a long line of code, what do you do about it?
Check if it is really offline
The first thing you have to do is check that the website is really down. For example, sometimes your internet goes down, or there is an incident on the WiFi, or you are viewing a cached version, or any number of other things that could replicate the "symptoms" of an accident. So refresh the page, try a different browser, and restart your computer before you panic.
Get in touch with your hosting company
If your website is really down, you need to contact your IT department immediately to find out what the problem is so that appropriate action can be taken. Fortunately, the best website hosting services have 24 hour support and will help you get things up and running in no time.
Stop the campaign
In the meantime, stop traffic as much as possible. The last thing you need is for prospects to be directed to your website after clicking on a pay-per-click ad, email, or brochure ad that you put out only to find the page offline. Pause your campaigns and don't restart them until you've confirmed that your website is working properly again.
What you shouldn't do
As important as knowing what to do is knowing what not to do. There are several unhelpful and potentially harmful reactions that many website owners could have instantly in response to a crash.
The last thing to do is lose your head when your website crashes. As I said, these things happen to everyone at one point or another. So take a deep breath and follow the tips above so you can proactively work towards a timely solution.
Switch hosts immediately
Don't miss out on a great hosting service because of an inevitable mishap (something you are likely to experience with any hosting service at some point)! Of course, you'll also want to rate your hosting service, so ask yourself if you're happy with the overall service. Think about how often your website crashes - what the reasons are and what other benefits you can get from this provider. After careful consideration, you can decide whether the best course of action is to get rid of the loser and find someone who is worth your hard-earned money.
Ignore the problem
Pretending the problem doesn't exist won't make it go away. In fact, it's only going to make it worse. Offer your customers the respect they deserve and address the problem in a timely manner. Go to your social media accounts or send a bulk email. Regardless of how you connect with them, make sure with your followers that you are aware of the problem and that you are resolving it. This will earn you far more respect in their eyes than ignoring the subject.
How to avoid crashing in the first place
Of course, there is one other takeaway that is important to any crash discussion, and that is what you could have done to avoid the crash in the first place. While such occurrences will happen (rarely, we hope), they typically occur due to negligence on the part of the host or site owner. Here are a few important things to do to prevent that dreaded “site down” page from appearing:
To be prepared
Despite having an abundant workforce, statistics from previous years, and enough money to supply a small country, Amazon made the same fatal mistake as so many others: It wasn't prepared. If you're making a big sale, launching a new product, or generating massive hype in any way, make sure your servers have the power to handle higher than usual traffic. Also make sure that you have additional IT support available during this time in case the unforeseen happens.
Update & test
Often times, websites crash because of a simple bug in the software. Updates are constantly being released to fix these bugs, so you can save yourself a lot of hassle by keeping up to date with all of your software and programs. Expired domain names are a surprisingly common reason many websites go offline, so save yourself the embarrassment and make sure your domains are renewed.
Also, do your due diligence ahead of time and make sure that any changes to the site's code are reviewed and double-checked on different browsers and devices before going live, and definitely do that before a big sale or promotion. A simple syntax error is enough to dismantle the most powerful online names.
Get on the cloud
Using a cloud-based server minimizes the chance of crashes. Why? Because these servers automatically adapt to handle the load that is thrown on them every minute. So if you have a sudden influx of visitors, the cloud-based server can help avoid something that could otherwise be a devastating event.
Crash & Burn? Not necessarily
Nobody likes to end up on a retired or temporarily shut down website, and now you have the tools to make sure your customers don't have to. Be prepared, check your hosting caps, and keep your systems up to date to avoid this hassle. And when (and when) it happens? Stay calm and take care of it. Your website will be back online in no time.
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