Your Website Just Crashed During Peak Hours. Now What?
Sean McGowanSeptember 18th, 20174 minute read
Sean is a technical researcher & writer at Codal, authoring blog posts on topics ranging from UX design to the Internet of Things. Working alongside developers, designers, and marketers, Sean helps support the writing team to ensure Codal produces engaging web content of the highest quality. When not writing about the latest innovations in app design, Sean can be found cooking, watching old movies, or complaining about the shortcomings of his favorite Philadelphia sports teams.
June 23rd, 2016 marks a day that future British secondary students will undoubtedly have to memorize for their history exams: the date that citizens of the United Kingdom officially voted to leave the European Union.
But the ‘Brexit’ vote wasn’t just a benchmark on the UK’s timeline—it has cemented itself in the annals of web history as well, specifically in the chapter titled “The Most Disastrous Website Crashes Of All Time”
Just a few weeks earlier, with mere hours remaining before the voter registration deadline, the UK government’s referendum sign-up site crashed, leaving thousands unable to vote. While the cutoff date was eventually extended, critics argued the political damage had already been done.
The site to register to vote in a pivotal referendum crashes mere hours before the deadline. (Source)
A majority of these high-profile cases are blamed on ‘high traffic’, but crashes aren’t exclusive to websites with thousands, or even millions, of visitors. They happen to everyone.
Outages are an inevitable occurrence when running a website—you can hire a top web development company or break the piggy bank for backup servers, but you can’t stop the errors inherent to both man and machine. Crashes happen.
What doesn’t have to happen is an extended downtime, frustrated users, and potentially steep financial losses. All site owners should have a contingency plan, and if you don’t, Codal is here to help construct one.
We probably don’t have to cover this, but before you start executing your crash plan, make sure your website has actually crashed. Confirm your Wi-Fi isn’t experiencing an outage, check Google, refresh the page with a cleared cache (Shift +Enter), or consult a site outage monitor.
Perform A Simple Diagnosis
While there are a number of reasons websites crash, a simple diagnosis can be performed to check if the severity of the issue. For Windows, you can go to your Command window and perform a ping.
Pings essentially send a ‘check-in’ message to the server, to see if it’s operating functionally. To ping your website, you can simply type ‘ping [your site name]’ and press enter. If your server is doing just fine, you’ll get a message like this:
Command window displaying a ping command on Windows (Source)
If you don’t, your server could be down—a serious issue. If not, you can breathe a bit easier, and all it took was a check that those even with the most limited technical knowledge can perform.
Freeze Advertising Campaigns
Siteowners tend to panic when sites crash, and often forget about the money hemorrhaging from a now-useless online advertising campaign. If your site relies heavily on web ads for clicks, page views, and sales, it’s advisable to temporarily halt the campaign if possible.
If nobody’s going to see it, why pay for it?
As soon as you’ve confirmed a crash, it’s imperative you contact your users and notify them of the situation as quickly as possible. If you’re an eCommerce website, or really any B2C company, that could be through email or social media.
To mitigate potential losses in sales, it’s important to offer alternate channels for conducting business if possible as well.
Contact Your Development Agency...Or Get A New One
There’s much to be done when your website crashes, and we haven’t even gotten to the actual fix: your web host or web development agency. Whether it’s a DNS problem, an expired domain, a server crash, or a networking issue, these are the experts to call.
It’s an obvious course of action—of course you’ll want to call the people in charge of running your website when it stops running—but we’ve saved it for last because it’s the most important, and because it’s something you shouldn’t be doing often.
All websites crash, but yours shouldn’t crash often. And when it does, it shouldn’t be a panicked meltdown, it shouldn’t be a major loss in revenue, and it shouldn’t stay down for while. You need a development agency that extends to regular maintenance, crisis mode, and beyond.
We perform these services like this at Codal, and even offer our Amplify service, a team of engineers that are 100% dedicated to your website, on-call at your beck and whim to help fix problems of every scale.
While your website hopefully won’t experience a calamity at the scale of Waitrose or Parliament, a crash can still be a nightmare. Nip it in the bud with a development agency that’s right for you.