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5 Things to do when your website is down

January 4, 2015

There’s nothing worse than being told by a customer that your website is not working. Or logging on yourself to check something, and finding the page you want to see is not displaying.

Website downtime can have a direct impact on your business and on your profits – particularly if you have an e-commerce website – so it’s important to know what you need to do if your website goes down.

Even the most robust websites suffer technical glitches happen, so the chances are you will experience it at some point. Often, it might only be down for a few minutes, as part of wider technical problems or updates to a global server.

But sometimes, there might be a specific problem with your website individually. If you do experience website downtime, here are the five things you should do;

1. Check that your website is actually down

Everyone has internet connection issues from time to time. Before you dive into any technical troubleshooting or get on the phone to your hosting company, just double check that it isn’t a fault with the connection in your office or on your computer.

Can you get onto a robust website like Google or the BBC? If you can, then there is likely to be a more specific issue with your website.

If you can’t get on any website, there’s probably just an issue with your internet connection. A great tool to check for this is Down For Everyone, Or Just Me?. This will help you further identify whether the problem is just your connection.

To double check, try accessing your website from your phone if you have a 3G or 4G internet connection, or phone a friend in a different location and have them check your website for you.

2. Check any changes you’ve recently made to your website

Enter the domain address of your website and check whether or not the page loads. Look at the browser status bar, and if you find that the page loads completely, but doesn’t display anything – it will usually display ‘loaded’ or ‘done’ rather than ‘waiting’ or ‘connecting’ – then it could be an issue with the coding or programming of your website.

If this is the case, it is usually as a result of recent changes someone has made your website.

If you change any HTML code directly, then just leaving out a punctuation mark can have an impact on the entire page or website. Even if you’re just making changes in a WSYIWYG editor, it may be that something you’ve done has just affected the structure of the page and caused it to crash.

Revert to any old pages if possible, or manually amend any recent changes made to the site, to see if this solves the problem.

3. Try and identify what the problem might be

If it’s not a code or programming error, you will need to take some more steps to try and identify the problem, depending on your technical know how. If you’re not very computer savvy, you might want to skip out this step!

Sending a ping to your website will help determine whether there’s an issue with your DNS settings or the server. Open up ‘Command Prompt’ on Windows, or ‘Terminal’ on a Mac, as follows;

Windows > Start > All Programs > Accessories > Command Prompt

Mac > Applications > Utilities > Terminal

Once here, just enter ‘ping’ and the name of your website. For example ping www.bytestart.co.uk.

If you see a reply with numbers like this – ‘bytes=32 time=14ms TTL=53’ or ’64 bytes from’ – then your server is responding. It’s alive and can be reached, so you don’t need to worry about a major server issue.

If you receive a reply like, ‘unknown host’ then this indicates there’s an issue with the domain. The domain name may have expired, or someone made a mistake with the DNS settings. If this is the case, contact the company which hosts your site.

If you receive something like, ‘request timed out’, or if nothing happens, then this indicates the whole server has crashed, or there’s a network issue. Get on the phone to your I.T. people.

4. Call the right people

If I.T. is beyond you, or you know there are some major issues, then it’s time to call up the tech team. Always try and have a correct phone number on hand if possible, so you can get straight through to a person.

If you maintain a good relationship with your web development company, they’ll be able to help you identify what the problem is, and hopefully fix it on your behalf. This will save you a lot of time and effort.

Have all the appropriate information you might need on hand, including log in details and passwords. It can be helpful to keep all these in a single file, so you always know where to find them in an emergency. That way, you can pass them along to the appropriate tech people, and leave it with them.

5. Take to social media

If you’ve got this far, the chances are there’s a pretty serious issue with your website, and it’s out of your hands. Instead of sitting around worrying about lost business, get on your Twitter account and Facebook page.

Let your customers and clients know that you’re aware of the problem and are working around the clock to fix it. Transparency and honesty is always appreciated.

If you can, offer other ways which your clients can interact, get the information they need, and maybe even buy from you. If that’s not possible, just tell them you’ll be happy to help with all queries as soon as you possibly can.

Don’t jump the gun by contacting all your customers directly. You might not need to. If they’re not viewing your website, the chances are it will be back up before they even realise. If you know there will be a significant period of downtime though, it might be worth contacting clients via an email list.

Communication is often key

Keep checking in with your IT team. Don’t overreact, because staying calm will help solve the problem quicker. If you have good relationships, then everyone will be working as hard as they can to get your website live again.

The best thing you can do is just be patient, help out if you can, and communicate between your team and your customers. Downtime happens to everyone, and your clients will know this.

The chances are your website will be up again very soon.

About the author

This article was written by ByteStart’s regular web and technology contributor, Nick Pinson. He is a Director at iWeb Solutions, an e-commerce website design agency based in Staffordshire.

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