If you find that your website is down, there are number of reasons that can be. The Internet is a massive interconnected spiral of deep sea cables, data centers, and modems that can be a bit spotty at times, leading to numerous points of failure. Some possibilities include:
Your Own Connection
The most common reason for a website being inaccessible isn’t actually the website itself–the issue could be in your very own home. From a faulty modem or router configuration, to an issue with your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Check to see if you can access other websites aside from your own. If you can’t, there could be an issue with the Domain Name Service (DNS) resolution at your ISP. Another indicator that this could be the problem is if websites aren’t loading, but other services in your home that utilize the internet, such as smart speakers or security systems, are still working properly. One workaround would be to configure your computer or router to utilize public DNS such as from Google. There are numerous online guides on how to do this, but you can find Google’s official guide here.
If you find that none of your Internet-connected devices are working, there could be a larger issue with your ISP at play. You will want to reach out to their support team to troubleshoot in this case.
An issue with your connection certainly isn’t the only possible reason for a webpage not loading correctly. The issue could very well be with your hosting provider. This is the company that maintains the servers where your website files are located. An indicator of a possible hosting issue would be only your website being offline, while other websites load without a problem. Some possible hosting-related issues include server misconfigurations or crashes, or an issue at the data center where the servers are physically located. Often the data center is not at the same location as the hosting company, especially with smaller hosting companies. For example, our websites are hosted on the Google Cloud platform. Usually these issues are out of your control, and will require intervention from the hosting company’s support team. They will be able to correct the problem on their end, or connect with the data center staff for a resolution.
Your Domain Name
Your domain name is like your website’s street address–it’s how your computer knows where your website is located on the internet. More specifically, your domain name is matched to the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the server where your website files are stored. If there’s an issue with your domain name, your computer won’t be able to locate the IP address of your website.
There are numerous factors at play when it comes to issues with domain names. For example, your domain name registration could have expired. An indicator of this would be your domain name leading to a “landing page” from the registrar, or company where you registered your domain name. If you find that your domain name registration has expired, you will want to act quickly to reactivate the registration to ensure that your domain name isn’t acquired by someone else. A common domain name registrar is GoDaddy, but there are many others. There could also be an issue with the domain name registrar itself that will need to be corrected on their end. Often, but not always, your domain name registrar and hosting provider are the same company.
Content Delivery Network (CDN) Downtime
Many hosting providers, us included, utilize a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to improve website speed. We use a common CDN known as Cloudflare, for example. How a CDN operates is beyond the scope of this article, but an issue with the CDN can cause the same types of problems as your actual hosting provider being down. Typically, it is your hosting provider who chooses to use a CDN, but it is also a service that you can set up yourself. Your hosting provider should be able to assist with determining if a CDN is at fault, even if they didn’t set it up themselves.
Updates and Incompatible Website Plugins
Many websites are built on common Content Management System (CMS) platforms such as WordPress. While a CMS will provide a base set of features, often a website requires specific functionality that extend beyond the capabilities of the CMS. There are thousands of “plugins” that can be added to a CMS platform to accommodate these needs. Most plugins are created by other companies or individuals not associated with the CMS. Because of this, compatibility issues can arise when a plugin is updated by the author. It is always best practice to update plugins in a controlled environment such as a “staging” site (a copy of your website that isn’t accessible to the public), so you can make sure they don’t cause any issues.
In addition to plugins, the CMS platform itself is frequently updated. These updates can also introduce compatibility issues not just with any plugins you may have installed, but also with the server configuration at your hosting provider. Just like when updating plugins, major updates to the CMS should be performed in a controlled environment such as a staging site.
You should make sure that your hosting provider performs frequent backups of your website, preferably daily at minimum. Most providers will give you the ability to restore a backup of your website yourself, so that you can be quickly up and running again should your site have an issue with a plugin or CMS update. In addition to remote backups, you should always keep a backup of your website on a local device, such as a USB stick or external hard drive. It’s never guaranteed that your hosting provider will be able to restore a backup for you, so it’s good to have a copy of your site in your own possession just in case. This is also beneficial should any other problems arise with your hosting provider, such as them going out of business without notice.
While there are certainly other factors that can cause your website to go down, these are some of the most common ones. Being aware of these possibilities will be a great help when troubleshooting any future website problems.