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Avoiding downtime 

Published May 1, 2019

Unexpected downtime can be costly. Understand how it happens and how to avoid it with this quick guide.

Downtime is costly – even if a site is not completely unavailable. In fact, a 1-second slowdown of page loading on Amazon could cost as much as $1.6 billion per year in sales. On the other hand, a full unexpected shut-down of a large eCommerce company website could cost over $17,000 per minute. Though downtime costs obviously range depending on the size of your business, your industry, and other factors, any unexpected downtime or slowdown is costing you money.

Know Common Causes for Downtime:

Downtime happens to everyone. Unfortunately, avoiding it altogether is nearly impossible. Recognizing some common causes can help you better prepare for any issues and create a plan to deal with them quickly.

Certificate expirations

Many companies fail to renew site certificates in time. Because online security has become important for data privacy, most browsers will filter your site if your certificate is out of date. This can mean that your site is completely unavailable to your customers or behind a warning that states your site is unsafe. Knowing the status of your certificates can ensure that your site is easily accessible for your customers.

Block listing

Search engines all have what they call block lists. These lists are sites that are thought to be fraudulent, predatory, or otherwise problematic. They do not show up in search engine results. Sometimes sites end up on these block lists by error. Sometimes people will falsely flag real sites for personal reasons. Either way, once on the list, it can take time to be removed. This is especially true if you don’t even know that you’ve been listed.

Downed server

There are a variety of reasons why a server may fail. Even if it’s not your server, it can affect you. For example, a company that relies on international orders could be severely impacted by a fire at a local server farm. Any customers that would normally be routed through those servers may have a difficult time getting to the site or not be able to view it at all. However, tracking all servers would be incredibly time-consuming and unrealistic. Setting up alerts for when customers are experiencing trouble loading your site can help alleviate these problems so you can handle them as quickly as possible.

Too much traffic

Whether due to a great promotion or an orchestrated attack, sites often experience unexpected downtime because of traffic spikes. While there’s no way to completely insulate yourself from these issues, you should know how your hosting company handles traffic spikes and have a plan in place for escalation if needed.

Changes to site/Human error

One of the most common reasons for downtime is human error. Making changes to a site can cause problems if not done correctly. Even with testing, sometimes unexpected problems cause pages to load incorrectly, picture links to break, or product listings to be incomplete. Worse, sometimes product pages will simply not load. Consider any possible result of changes, plan accordingly, and test everything before you complete any updates to avoid these problems.

Natural disasters

Unfortunately, blizzards, tornados, floods, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters happen frequently all over the world. While it’s impossible for a company to avoid being affected by nature at some point, you can minimize the damage. Consider where your servers are, set alerts during high-risk seasons, have back-up plans, and know who to contact for major issues. This can mean the difference between a short service interruption and weeks of downtime.

Know When Downtime Happens:

While some unexpected downtime is bound to occur, quick notification of a problem can significantly reduce its impact. The sooner you know of an issue, the sooner you can get to work fixing it. Below are a couple ways to know when something might be wrong.


Whether you are hosting your site yourself or using a hosting service, it’s important to set up alerts for when things go wrong. If one of your servers goes offline, can’t communicate, or sees a significant slow-down when trying to load your page, you need to know quickly so you can fix it. Consider escalating alerts to ensure that the problem gets handled in a timely manner.

Real User Monitoring

Your servers may not be the only ones causing trouble. Real user monitoring allows you to know when your customers are having problems with your site. It tracks loading times for users around the globe and can notify you when a particular region is having problems. This allows you the opportunity to find a solution as well as keep your customer service representatives aware of possible issues that they may hear about from customers.

Improve the Customer Experience:

Beyond just maintaining your site, improving performance gives your customers a better experience and can help negate future issues. This Shopify article suggests several ways you can do so, from getting better hosting to decreasing thumbnail size. As technology continues to develop, customers expect sites to keep up. Make sure your site stays competitive by updating navigation, product descriptions, photographs, and categories. Investing in updates early can lead to an increase in revenue.

Unexpected downtime does happen, and how you respond to it can make the difference between losing customers and keeping them. The most important thing you can do for your customers is communicate. When you discover a problem, use email, social media, banners, live chat, and other methods to let your customers know what is happening as well as when to expect a fix. Social media can be particularly useful here. This is your opportunity to show your customers that you care and turn a negative experience into a positive one. Take advantage of that.

Post Author: Jackie Long
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Blog Manager at NS8. With a varied background and over 5 years of content creation experience, Jackie works hard to provide a compelling range of informative articles.