It’s necessary for a website that’s trying to build traffic to always be accessible (that’s pretty much all websites!). In this post, we’ll see what you can do to minimize WordPress downtime. But before that, we’ll understand why it happens and the damage it causes.

We’re not talking here about planned downtime – the time when the site is not accessible due to something that you are doing in the backend. There can be many other occasions when your website is down and you’ll not even be aware of it. That’s the kind of downtime that we’ll discuss here.

What happens if your website is down?

When a Google bot or a visitor cannot find you on the internet, it sends out the wrong signals. As a result, your website can suffer many consequences:

Revenue loss: Every second of downtime translates into loss of traffic.  It’s estimated that Amazon suffered a loss of over $66,000 dollars per minute during a half hour outage in 2013. The loss can be huge for websites that cannot afford even a few seconds of downtime, like banks or high traffic e-commerce websites.

Dip in SEO: But financial loss is just the start. No visitor likes to see the Website Cannot Be Found message flashing on the screen. If your site is doing the disappearing act, it sets off warning bells. Think about it, who’d want to transact with a website that cannot stay accessible?

It’s not only visitors who don’t take kindly to website downtime, Google frowns on it too. If a Google bot finds your website down frequently, that’s no good for your search engine rankings. However, Google does make an allowance for occasional downtime.

Loss of credibility: And to top it all, you’ll lose credibility if you have a website that’s not accessible. It’ll blunt your competitive edge and mark you out as an unreliable destination. When visitors attempt to reach your website and cannot find it, you’ll also lose new leads.

How Do You Know That Your Website is Experiencing Downtime?

To fix issues relating to downtime and minimize WordPress downtime, you first need to be aware that your site is experiencing downtime. For this purpose, it’s necessary to monitor your website using a plugin or an external service. These plugins and services continuously monitor your website and report any outage immediately. Some also provide analysis of downtime.

Jetpack (Monitor Module): Jetpack is a free plugin from Automattic that checks on your website every five minutes and notifies you if the site is down. It’s free and easy to use.

Real User Monitor by Pingdom: Real User Monitor is also a free plugin, and checks site accessibility from different locations around the world.

Uptime Robot for WordPress: Uptime Robot is an external solution, and it requires you to open a free account before you can use their plugin. Works great, though. (It’s what we use at ThemeIsle.)

Down Notifier: If it’s a service you prefer to use for monitoring uptime, look up DownNotifier. It checks your site every 10 minutes for free, and every one minute if you’re a paying customer.

Pingdom: Pingdom is a premium service, with customers like Google and Apple.

In case you want a wider choice, MonitisService Uptime and Uptrends are also popular services worth considering.

What causes downtime and what you can do to minimize WordPress downtime?

We’ll list the possible causes of WordPress website downtime and then we’ll see what we can do to minimize their impact.

1. Has Your Domain Name Expired?

Domain name registrations are not forever, so check if you’ve overlooked renewing your domain. Check this by typing your domain name at who.is, or just go to your original registrar and see if there aren’t any missed invoices…

Look up the expiry date, and renew the registration if required. Go for the auto renew option, if it’s available with your domain name registrar.

2. Is Your Name Server Configured Correctly?

Even if your domain name registration is valid, not setting it up properly can cause WordPress website downtime.

We surf the internet by typing in URLs in the address bar of the browser. Search engines translate these URLs into IP addresses (a string of hard-to-remember numbers) to find the physical location of the domain on the server. If the domain path is not configured correctly, search engines can lose their way.

Minimize WordPress downtime: Pingdom DNS Check Test

You can use DNS Check Test to check if the DNS path is configured correctly. Many domain name registrars offer this service, so you can also check this with the registrar from whom you purchased the domain.

One way to eliminate WordPress downtime on account of misconfigured DNS is to use a secondary DNS service that you can fall back on when your primary DNS service is down. The secondary DNS complements the existing service and can take over seamlessly from this service.

3. Sub-standard Hosting

There are many hosting options like Virtual Private Servers, Dedicated servers, managed hosting and shared hosting, but the first two options are generally out of reach for smaller websites.

When it comes to shared hosting, these are the probable issues that may arise,

Hardware constraints: There maybe many hardware constraints in the host server which affects your website. The host may allocate insufficient disk space or processing resources for your domain, the hardware used maybe outdated or it maybe kept in a physically unsafe environment.

Software issues: Web server software like Apache Web Server, MySQL, SQL Server, MariaDB and PHP are necessary for smooth functioning of servers. The software on the servers may not be updated regularly, and this can also result in WordPress downtime.

Other server-end vulnerabilities: A good host should include firewall protection and protection against DDoS attacks. DDoS attacks are distributed denial of service – that’s a situation where hackers swamp a website with so much traffic that it’s unable to handle visits from regular users.

Generally, as far as hosting services go, it’s mostly a case of what you pay is what you get. Most hosting services now offer 99.99% uptime, but you should check the track record of the host before you move into their servers. Check particularly for the quality of support.

If you do not want to be hands on maintaining WordPress, look for a managed hosting service provider who specializes in WordPress. These service providers can take over the complete task of monitoring and maintaining your website.

Here are some of our hosting reviews that might come handy when it’s time to select a better host for your site:

4. Is Your Website Secure?

All webmasters know that keeping a website secure is not a one-time fix, it’s a constant vigil. Weak security for your website leaves it open to phishing and brute force attacks and many other security risks. Improving the security of your website will prevent malware and hackers from taking down your site.

There are many small and big things you can do to improve site security. You can enforce strong passwords, improve security on the login page, update WordPress regularly, scan regularly for malware and much more. Keep your website’s security up-to-date at all times.

Not only that, you can also rely on quality plugins like Wordfence or services like Sucuri.

5. Plugin/theme issues on your end

Other reasons for WordPress downtime can be software issues at your end. New themes, plugins or any other software that you introduce may be incompatible with existing plugins/themes on your system.

It’s best to try out new plugins/themes in a staging environment after taking a backup, rather than on a live site and have it break.

For a concise presentation on website downtime, take a look at this infographic from Kissmetrics.

Minimize WordPress downtime: Conclusion

In spite of all the precautions you take, it may happen that your website goes down anyway. This is when you’ll fully understand the importance of a backup. With WordPress it’s easy to save your entire website, so you always have a copy from which you can restore.

Even with the best safeguards in place, downtime can happen to any website, big or small. Stay calm and keep your visitors informed via alternate channels of communication such as social media. Give them a time when you expect the site to be up again. And work with your host to see how you can overcome the problem as quickly as possible.

Struggling to minimize WordPress downtime? Feel free to speak up in the comments.