What to do when your website crashes & how to prevent it happening in the future

Hey there, you are either in a state of extreme panic at the moment, or you are someone who is making sure he is prepared for everything.

One of the worst things to happen to an internet entrepreneur is that his website crashes, just at the moment when business was supposed to be so good. You traffic was spiking like crazy – conversion was great, and money was pouring in. And then bam – your website crashes and you have no idea what to do.

The good news is, this happens to pretty much every new company out there. Even very huge organizations, including government websites, crash.

But the bad news is: You’re losing business. Fast. For most big companies, an hour of down-time can literally mean thousands of loss in profit.

In most cases, websites will hold up fine. If your settings are configured correctly, your site design is ok, you should be good to go. However, after a big PR push or lots of attention, an increased volume can wreak havoc on server set-ups that are geared toward a much less trafficked site.

There’s never a 100% guarantee that your website will remain up and running. In fact most hosting providers will always give you a 99% guarantee. But in case of a huge traffic spike, things are a little different. Here is how you should prepare.

Also read: How to monitor your website’s uptime

Preparation is key – do tests

There are multiple ways to simulate traffic and to do tests, as if a traffic spike is occurring. That way your developers can test where the weaknesses are, and what can be done about it. This is something you really have to do. It is fairly simple.

A CDN is a must.

CDNs are cloud-based data services that scale themselves automatically to optimize web hosting and incoming traffic. And it does not have to be expensive. Some of them even work on a flexible basis, and only charge when you get more traffic than you expected, and will return to normal as soon as the traffic spike is over. There are ton of solutions out there, like Cloudflare, Maxcdn, Amazon etc.

Daily back-ups will help you sleep at night.

Keep daily backups of the website’s files, including all databases being used. If the site crashes, having a recent backup will ensure the site content will remain current. This means that none of your hard work goes to waste, and makes sure you feel safe.

Do a basic check on your server.

Contact your webmaster (or look to yourself) and ask to ensure that you don’t have basic data caps in place with your website host. Lots of web hosts impose general data caps that limit the capacity of data transfer to and from a website. While this normally wouldn’t present an issue for regular usage, sites that expect to come under heavy traffic should manually request removal of the caps. This might require some additional expense but it will be well worth it to ensure that your user experience is seamless.

Keep all software up to date

Keep all website software like content management systems, shopping carts, message boards, etc. up to date with their latest versions. Sometimes bugs or security holes are found in older versions which can cause a website to crash or operate unexpectedly.

When shits hits the fan anyway

Now, let’s say you’ve done the steps above and thought you were in the clear—only to get word that your site couldn’t handle the influx of clicks, got overloaded, and suddenly quit. You need some damage control, pronto. Here’s what to do:

Don’t panic.

See above about yours not being the first or the last website to experience an outage. These things happen. It’s just part of doing business.

Don’t hide.

Work as quickly as possible to repair the problem, while sending a message to all your key audiences letting them know that your site is so popular, it crashed due to overwhelming demand.

Contact the web hosting company

Find out more about their uptime policies and guarantees. They may offer credits towards your hosting fee if the site goes down.

Utilize your social media channels

Communicate with your customers and take responsibility for the outage. Post an apology on your business’ Facebook page. Send an email to your current mailing list. Do everything you can to let your clients know that you understand their frustrations and your business is working hard to resolve the outage.