Why is My Website Down?


Even if you only designed the website for your client, chances are you’ll still get a call if the site goes down. There are a number monitoring services that can help you or your client get a jump on the situation, alerting you if the website is unreachable. But what then, you know the website is down, but why and how can you get it back up and running as fast as possible.

After the jump you’ll find a list of the common reasons that a website might be or appear to be down.

IT’S THE SERVER

  • Hardware Failure

    Like any computer a server can experience hardware problems, and when it does it makes your website unavailable.

    Even if just one component of the server stops working, it can make the entire server unavailable. Network cards, hard drives, video cards, and motherboards can all malfunction, taking your website offline.

    Unfortunately the only thing you can do in this case, is wait for hosting provider to fix the problem. Good hosts will often have spare components in hand in the case something goes wrong, they malfunctioning component can be replaced quickly.

    If you do have the content of the website (all the files and related assets and data), you maybe be able to get the website setup in a new location, if this is taking a long time. So it’s always a good idea to have a recent backup of all your web related content, in case of problems.

  • Software Crash

    Software powers your website, from web servers, to database servers and mail servers and application servers, the software that powers your website can crash, and when it does, your website becomes unavailable.

    In many cases your hosting company will be monitoring the key software applications on the server and restart them automatically. If you’re self hosting, you’ll need to make sure your server is setup to do this, or you’ll need to connect to the server and restart the software manually.

  • Quota Exceeded

    Your web hosting plan will include a hard drive space, and bandwidth quota. If you exceed either of this, you website may be taken offline by your web host. In some cases your website may continue to serve your website, and charge your for the overages.

    Most web hosts have different plan levels that will give more hard drive space and bandwidth at much more affordable rates than paying overages each month. Other web hosts claim to offer unlimited plans, and while this can sound too good to be true, it usually is!

    If your website is down due to hard drive space usage, you may be able make room by removing older log files, or unused files you have stored on your server.

  • Permissions Issues

    Servers are often shared between many users. To protect users, permissions are setup to allow you to save your files in specific locations. This prevents users from having access to other users files.

    In some cases these permissions can become messed up! In such cases the files you uploaded become unavailable, and cannot be served thru the web server. You may be able to log in to the server (via FTP or SSH) and fix the permission problem, or you may have to contact your hosting provider to fix the permissions problem.

IT’S THE NAME

DNS: Domain Name System

Every computer that connect to the internet does so with an IP address. This allows network traffic to be routed to each computers location. These numbers can be hard to remember. Imagine having to type http://72.14.204.147 each time you wanted to go to Google. These number can also change if you move to a new web host.

To alleviate these problems names can be assigned to these IP addresses, and DNS converts those names to the underlying IP address.

If DNS is unavailable you will be unable to convert the name you entered to the corresponding IP address, so unless you happen to know the IP address of the site you’re trying to reach, you’d be out of luck accessing it.

In other cases the DNS records can become messed up, and the name can be translated to the wrong IP address, so you may end up being taken to another website, or a machine that is not accessible.

If you find that the DNS service provided by your ISP is unreliable there are a number of public DNS services, such as OpenDNS or Google DNS that you can use.

If you’re web host provided DNS is causing problems, there you also have some options. Most domain name registrars can now provide DNS service, or independent companies such as easyDNS can manage your DNS for a small fee.

IT’S THE NETWORK

Network issues are a very common reason that a website cannot be accessed.

The problems may be localized to your location or be a larger issue closer to your web host.

If you think of a network as a highway, and an accident the cause of congestion, depending on where you are starting your journey and your destination, you may be not be affected at all by the accident, or be stuck in traffic for hours.

Similarly, depending on where your website is hosted and the location of the network outage, your website might not be affected, or be totally unreachable.

Web services such as downforeveryoneorjustme.com can help you determine how serious a problem you have.

Most computers provide network tools, such as traceroute that can also help you determine where a network problem is affecting your ability to connect to your website.

What other reasons have you find that your website has been unavailable, and how did you resolve the problem?

About Mubashar Iqbal

Mubashar Iqbal is the creator of Most Inspired, a web designer and developer, who has been building websites for over 13 years. You can read his blog at Mubashar Iqbal
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One Response to Why is My Website Down?

  1. This is a good reminder for those of us developers who sometimes jump the gun and assume that a site’s issue lies in the code and not at the server level.