Web Hosting and Your Website: Dealing with Downtime before It Even Happens
One of the worst feelings for a business owner is attempting to fire up your company website, only to see a “404 Not Found” or “Server Not Found” error. While at least a little bit of annual downtime is inevitable with even the best of the hosting services, loss of access at a critical moment can represent a significant loss of revenue, and things only get worse (and increase your sense of panic) as the outage continues.
Unfortunately, most businesses only start thinking about site uptime after their site goes down for an extended period and they take a financial loss because of it. It’s possible to greatly minimize your downtime with proper preparation, however, and this article will examine all the steps that are available to do so.
Secure Quality Web Hosting
The true measure of a web host isn’t what they do when everything is working normally; it’s how they respond when there is an emergency.
Web hosts almost always provide an uptime guarantee, and that guarantee is almost always north of 99%. There’s some contract trickery they can engage in if you’re not paying attention. One example is guaranteeing “access to your files” for this amount of time, rather than that your site will actually be functional and available to the public. Another is putting their own homepage on a more reliable server and using that as their benchmark, while client sites get farmed out to a different and less reliable server.
No web host can honestly guarantee 100% uptime, as there are too many factors beyond their control that can potentially disrupt hosting for at least a short amount of time. But a good host should be able to keep your site up at least 99% of the time and have the reputation to back those statistics up.
Subscribe To A CDN Service
A content delivery network (CDN) basically replicates your website on different servers in different parts of the world. The main purpose is to help your site load faster for international users by placing the data physically closer to them, but it also helps with uptime as you have copies of your site on multiple servers in completely different locations. If one server goes down, or one particular area is experiencing a natural disaster or something of that nature, your site can still be accessed from the other servers. It’s an added cost, but it’s definitely worth considering if you absolutely need your site to always be available.
Reduce Your Dependence On Third-Party Servers
Both web designers and the businesses they work for love to farm out elements of the website to other servers; things like cloud file hosting, scripts and plugins, for example. It initially seems like a smart use of resources, as it represents less bandwidth and storage space that you have to pay for.
Here’s the problem, though; you’re now also dependent on the uptime of all of those different third-party servers for your site to function properly. If one of them goes out, and it’s beyond your control, all you can do is wait for them to resolve their own internal issues before your site is back at full function again.
It’s OK to use things like cloud storage, but your providers should be just as reputable and reliable as your main web host is, or you’ll wind up in exactly the same sort of trouble. Ideally, you want all of the plugins, scripts, and apps that are critical to the basic function of your website to be under your own control, either on your own servers or on a cloud storage account that belongs to your business.
It’s also important to be careful with things like plugins, scripts, and automated website themes. The more of these you add, the more coding you’ve got potentially conflicting with and causing problems for each other, especially when they’re not all designed by the same people for the same unified purpose. It’s usually wise to reduce your need for scripts and plugins to as few as possible to execute your core functions.
Consider Web Server Monitoring
The final preventive measure you can put in place is to subscribe to a web server monitoring service. These services continually monitor your site and let you know immediately when it becomes unavailable, and will generate a log to give you more information on exactly what is going wrong. Immediate notification allows you to take contingency actions more quickly, like shifting to another server or getting on social media to let your customers know how long the site will be out.
Elizabeth Bryant is a busy website developer with an eye for marketing. She loves to write online articles on small business to post on marketing and entrepreneurial websites.