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My Website is Down!

By Heshy Friedman

Closeup of Page Not Found sign in Internet Browser on LCD Screen - Shallow depth of field

My Website is Down! I hear these words from time to time from a frantic customer. There are several reasons a website can go down:

  1. Your domain name was not renewed
  2. Your hosting service is down
  3. Your website was hacked
  4. A website script is malfunctioning
  5. Your filter of firewall is blocking your website

 

Your Domain Name was not Renewed:

This happens way too often, and it’s usually from negligence. If your domain name is up for renewal, and your credit card on file with the domain registrar is expired, they will not be able to bill you. This will result in an account suspension, which means that your domain name will no longer point to your server. This will cause your website and email to stop functioning.

All domain registrars send out email notifications to their customers when a domain name is up for renewal, so you should heed these messages. In general, I don’t recommend extended domain registration periods, in case the email address you used to sign up for the account no longer used in several years. This will leave you unable to get renewal notifications, and may result in a possible account suspension down the road. I suggest renewing a domain for a year or two at most; this way you can revisit the domain more often and make sure everything is up to date on a more frequent basis.

The good news is that when a website goes down because a domain name was not renewed, all you need to do is call the domain registrar, give them your updated card number, and they should be able to get you back up and running (assuming it’s within 60 days and you didn’t lose your domain name.)

 

Your Hosting Service is Down:

While many web hosts guarantee 99.9% uptime, their servers always manage to crash, and it’s usually at the worst possible time. In most cases, a server crash is only temporary, lasting no more than a few minutes. A crash can occur when a service on the server fails, or a website on the server malfunctions and brings down the entire server. Usually the hosting admins are monitoring this, and are able to get the website up pretty soon after restating a service or rebooting. However, there are times when a problem can be more persistent, leaving the website down for many hours. This happens more frequently with the bulk hosting companies, though I have also seen extended server downtime from some of the better and more reliable hosting companies.

The most frustrating thing about an extended downtime is that you are at the total mercy of the hosting company. There is really nothing you can do when this happens other than continuously bug the hosting company, asking them for answers which they may not always have or want to share with you. If you are on an economical hosting company and this happens frequently, make sure to switch your hosting and pay a little extra for a more reliable hosting environment. Sometimes it’s worth spending a little extra for peace of mind. There are also very high-end dedicated hosting solutions with companies like Peer1 that specialize in top support and uptime assurance, though these tend to be very costly.

The hosting service can also go down if you fail to pay your hosting bill. Most hosting companies will give a grace period before disabling your account, and they usually only disable it rather than delete it, so that a payment can get you back up and running again pretty quickly. If your website uses SSL for security encryption, and you fail to renew your SSL certificate, this can also result in a website loading error.

Hosting companies also schedule periodical maintenance on servers to update hardware or software; this also causes downtime. However, they are usually scheduled in advance during nights or weekends in order to minimally affect traffic, and the hosting companies usually notify their customers so that they can plan for the scheduled downtime accordingly.

 

Your Website was Hacked:

Website hacks are an unfortunate reality of computing today. Websites may be randomly targeted by mass scripts, or specifically targeted for various reasons. The most common attacks are Brute Force Attacks and SQL injections. (Read our article for more information on these.) In both of these types of attacks, malware is typically placed on the website which tries to reroute a website or inputted data to a suspicious or unsafe location. Filters, firewalls and other software, including Google, often block these scripts from rerouting, resulting in the pages failing to load.

The easiest way to clean up from a hack is to have the hosting company restore the site to a previous instance where the website was safe, and change the FTP passwords. An attempt to find a vulnerability should be made, especially when dealing with SQL injections. When website data is changed regularly and this is not possible, manual cleaning may be necessary from the website developer, or with a malware cleanup service such as Sucuri.

Websites that are repeatedly attacked may need to take additional steps to ensure their safety and viability, including:

  • Signing up for a malware monitoring service such as Sucuri
  • Running a full malware scan of any local computers connecting via FTP that my transmit a virus to the server
  • Making sure all FTP passwords are very strong
  • Making sure any backdoor entrances on any scripts or database connections are blocked
  • Changing hosting companies (some hosting companies seem to be more prone to hacks)

 

A website Script is Malfunctioning:

This can happen when a script on the website fails and causes your website page(s) to crash or load an error. This can either be a coding error message, database connection problem, infinite loop, or any other issue related to the coding. Sometimes a server update may cause an incompatibility with a script causing it to fail and crash the page.

The solution to this is to have the website developer update or fix the code to ensure it works properly. These usually can be fairly simple for the developer to fix, unless the code is complex or the server configuration is overly complicated.

 

Your Filter of Firewall is Blocking your Website:

Website filters and firewalls are designed to block out inbound and outbound website intrusions and inappropriate websites. Sometimes the filters or firewalls are overly sensitive (especially with new websites), and may block a website that is legitimate that should not be blocked. Filter and firewall algorithms may also act up and randomly block a legitimate website. This can be caused by another compromising website on the same server, or by a random new algorithm of the filter that is obviously flawed.

If your website is being blocked by your filter or firewall, the solution is to whitelist your website on your filter or firewall settings. Many companies have an IT staff that manages filters and firewalls, and whitelisting can be addressed by the IT staff to properly resolve this issue and get the website back up and running.

 

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