First, don’t panic. Yes, this is a serious situation, but panic isn’t going to help. Your goal right now is to minimize the impact of the downtime.
Hopefully, you’re prepared with some information when this happens. If your B2B website goes down, you need to know where your site is hosted and where your domain is registered. If you don’t know those vendors off the top of your head (or have quick access to a system that can tell you), go find out now! Having this information at your fingertips can make a huge difference in how long your site is down.
Make sure the site is actually down and there isn’t just an issue with your local network. https://downforeveryoneorjustme.com/ is a big help here. Another trick is to turn wifi off on your phone and check the website on mobile. If the site shows up, there’s likely either an issue with your browser or with your wifi.
If your site is actually down, there are 3 main causes:
- There’s an issue with your website code
- Your host is experiencing downtime (500, 502, and 503 errors are nearly always indications of a hosting issue)
- Your site got hacked or is experiencing a DDoS attack
Unless you (or someone else) has made a change to your website recently the first one is unlikely. If code has been edited, then you need to notify whoever made the change. (Chances are they’re already aware and working on a fix.) Request that they restore a backup of the website as soon as possible. (This is where hosting companies like Pantheon and WP Engine come in handy—it’s extremely easy to restore a backup quickly.)
Please note, plugin and theme installations/updates count as code changes! While it’s relatively rare, sometimes plugins can conflict with each other.
Read more: Chilling web hosting stories.
If code has not been changed recently, then the downtime is probably being caused by your host. If I suspect a hosting issue, I jump on support immediately and do some troubleshooting on my own while I wait. Remember that if the host is having widespread outages, the support wait times may be very long!
While you’re waiting for support, look for a status page on your host. Most reputable hosts will have some kind of status page, like the WP Engine (https://wpenginestatus.com/) or Pantheon (https://status.pantheon.io/). If your host doesn’t have a status page, that can be an indication of an outdated system.
If the status page doesn’t show any issues in your area, then the issue may have just happened, or it may be specific to your site. In that case, it’s helpful to have as much information for support as possible. These are some of the questions support may ask:
- Are you seeing an error message? If so, what? Screenshots and copying and pasting help here. (For example, a 404 error is an indication of something wrong with the website while a 500 error usually means there’s something wrong with the server.)
- What were you doing when you saw the error? On some hosts, odd user behavior can result in an IP address getting banned. (This has happened to me when I’ve had a bunch of tabs open on a single website because I’m checking content.) It’s also possible that your activity overloaded a site.
- Can you confirm that this isn’t a local issue? Again, https://downforeveryoneorjustme.com/ is a help here. (Support professionals sometimes have other tools they use similar to this one.)
One thing to remember about talking to support at a hosting company: the default stance is often that there’s an issue with the code. A common troubleshooting method is to disable the theme and the plugins and re-enable everything one-by-one. Do not let support do this to your live site. It can cause more downtime and other issues.
If support does recommend disabling anything, ask to use the Health Check & Troubleshooting plugin (https://wordpress.org/plugins/health-check/) instead. It’s an officially-supported WordPress plugin that will disable plugins only for you, not for your users. If this plugin isn’t installed, support should be able to help you get it set up.
If nothing is working to restore your B2B website, it’s possible the site got hacked. In that case, Sucuri (https://sucuri.net/) is a great solution. They offer plans that include site cleaning within 4 hours (I’ve seen it happen faster, even with cheaper plans). They can help both with malware issues and DDoS attacks. If your host confirms that you’re experiencing a DDoS attack, Cloudflare (https://www.cloudflare.com/ddos/) is another option. Please note that protection against a DDoS attack requires you to make changes to your DNS settings. That’s why it’s good to always have that on-hand!
Website downtime is always challenging. Figuring out what caused it—and then fixing that problem—can be time-consuming. Address downtime isn’t something you can do by yourself, either. You need to rely on experts: your web developers, hosting support professionals, and sometimes security professionals.