Building, maintaining, and owning a website is an ongoing journey. After you figure out the right keyword strategy, develop quality content that your visitors appreciate, and unlock the monetization potential of your site, there is still much work for you to do if you are to succeed online. Making sure it runs buttery smooth, for example, is a responsibility that requires your long-term commitment. The same can be said for constantly investing in marketing campaigns that can grow your traffic.
What a lot of small website owners tend to overlook, however, is a website’s downtime prevention strategy.
As the name suggests, downtimes pertain to periods when a particular website is rendered inaccessible. It could be due to internal server errors, cyber-attacks, issues with your content management system, and so on. An hour of downtime may seem trivial. But for big online retailers, banks, and other businesses that depend on their online presence, this can cost them up to $100,000 on lost transactions. Prolonged downtimes may also cause you to lose the trust of customers who were inconvenienced — not to mention that they could also affect your website’s visibility in organic search engine results.
In this post, we’ll help you devise an airtight downtime prevention plan that will keep your site up and running.
1. Backup Your Data
Backing up your website should be your last line of defense against downtimes. But that doesn’t mean it should be the last thing you should do when implementing a downtime prevention strategy. Besides, creating backups that protect your website data shouldn’t be too difficult. In fact, web hosting providers like HostGator have built-in tools that allow clients to schedule automatic backups — giving them the ability to continue growing their site with confidence. Alternatively, you can opt for third-party backup software like Dropmysite and XCloner. Not only will these platforms back up your website within minutes, they also make it easy for you to restore your data and get back to business.
2. Clean Up Your Backend
If you use a Content Management System or CMS like WordPress, there’s a chance that you have a cluttered dashboard with a handful of plugins you don’t use. Not everybody is keen on keeping their backend as organized and lightweight as they need to be. As a result, some pieces of software result in conflicts with additional plugins and system updates. These incidences may not automatically translate to site-breaking errors. But when they do, they can be tedious to repair, especially if you have no idea on which components are causing problems. As a rule of thumb, make it a habit to deactivate plugins that are no longer in use. This should enable any website owner to avoid the dangers of having two or more incompatible software running on the same WordPress site.
You should also see to it that your everything on your site, including your plugins, themes, and CMS itself, is duly updated whenever possible. On WordPress, this can be done on the “Updates” section from the main dashboard.
3. Fortify Your Security
One of the leading causes of website downtimes is a Distributed Denial of Service or DDoS attack — a cyber-attack that involves a network of infected computers or collectively referred to as a “botnet.” Put simply, a botnet works by flooding a website’s server with false traffic. This will overload the hardware’s bandwidth capacity and deny access to real users, hence the name. Other types of cyber-attacks, particularly malware infections, can also affect the integrity of your site. That’s why you can’t afford to overlook your website’s security in your downtime prevention plan.
A Web Application Firewall or WAF is a staple item in most website owners’ tool belts. When deployed, a WAF works by actively detecting and blocking malicious traffic — protecting your website from potential cyber-attacks that can lead to costly downtimes. While capable security applications normally require a fee, there are several free options that can give your website basic security features. Comodo’s cWatch is one of the top choices along with Wordfence for WordPress websites.
4. Use a Content Delivery Network
Speaking of security, another way to protect your website against DDoS attacks is to leverage a CDN. Short for Content Delivery Network, a CDN helps mitigate the effects of DDoS attacks by utilizing a network of proxy servers that share the load of handling traffic. These servers are also globally distributed, which means users will get a fluid experience with your site regardless of where they are on the globe. High-end CDN providers are also equipped with extra security features, such as backdoor shell protection, two-factor authentication, and an integrated WAF.
5. Monitor Your Uptime
Whether you like it or not, no one can achieve a 100 percent uptime over the course of a year. No matter how careful you plan your downtime prevention strategy, something in your website’s backend is bound to go wrong even for just an hour or two. That said, it’s important for you to consistently track your website’s uptime in order for you to resolve problems as soon as possible. Doing so will also help you troubleshoot and identify recurring issues that demand your full attention.
Pingdom and Uptimia are two of the best uptime monitoring tools you can use for this purpose. Aside from sending you detailed and accurate reports regarding your website’s uptime, they will also help you dissect the causes of downtimes and provide you with a wealth of performance-related metrics, like your website’s average loading speed, number of pageviews, and the total duration of downtimes.
Bonus: Upgrading Your Host
For popular websites that already generate a huge amount of traffic and revenue, upgrading to a more capable web hosting solution should never be off the table. Bandwidth-heavy websites like online communities and online stores, for example, should at least go for a Virtual Private Server or VPS hosting plan to cater to the needs of their target audience. Of course, upgrading your web host should be seen as your last resort if the strategies above aren’t enough. Just remember to watch for the telltale signs of a struggling web host, such as frequent crashes, downtimes, and noticeable slowdowns.