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The Downtime Survival Guide

Let’s be honest. Website downtime can infuriate us. And according to some, downtime can do much worse. It can affect user confidence, loyalty and ultimately eat into your bottom line. How can we dodge the fail whale? While we answer it, we might also engage in a bit of swashbuckling. Arrr!

Click on the graphic below for an enlarged view:

Website Downtime Survival Guide Infographic

View an enlarged version of this infographic »

The Downtime Survival Guide

The guide below can be downloaded here:

Things to do before your site crashes…

  1. Buy DNS backup service. A lot of downtime (and headaches) can be attributed to problems related to your DNS. DNS backup services constantly grab your DNS data and act as a backup if your primary DNS goes down.
  2. Buy a monitoring service. You can purchase a service that pings your website every few minutes and notifies you (via text message, email, etc.) if it goes down.
  3. Always backup your database. In addition to making regular backups of your website and databases, make sure you create an additional backup before tweaking the database itself.
  4. Make sure your domain name registration is up to date. So many downtime fiascos could be solved by simply remembering to renew your domain name. Go ahead and set your domain name to auto renew. Or purchase your name for the next ten years and set the domain registrar lock.
  5. Use Google Webmaster Tools (GWT). Using GWT is a no-brainer. It provides you with detailed reports about your pages’ visibility on Google and will notify you of any errors that are encountered while crawling it.
  6. Use appropriate server downtime error codes. Be sure to use appropriate redirect server codes. Consult the internet or your IT team for proper use of server codes. Example: it’s generally better to tell crawlers that the downtime is temporary by returning a 503 HTTP result code (Service Unavailable) instead of returning an HTTP result code 404 (Not Found).

What to do if your site crashes…

  1. Confirm that your site has gone down. Verify that your site is actually down. Make sure the problem isn’t your browser or internet connection. To be doubly sure, phone a friend and have them test your site.
  2. Try to determine the cause. If you can, try to pinpoint why the downtime is occurring. Programming error? DNS problem? Expired domain? Hardware related?
  3. Contact your hosting company or IT support. Get on the horn with your hosting company and see if they can assist you with your outage. Contact your IT support team or that super-nerdy neighbor of yours.
  4. Notify users of the outage. Don’t leave your users in the dark. Put out a message on your social media accounts to let users know what’s going on and when you plan to have things up and running. If the outage is planned, send out an email beforehand letting users know the date and duration of the outage.
  5. Regularly check in with your IT team. Regular communication with your IT team is crucial. Cooperate with them if they need any help finding information about your website or server. Get an estimate from them as to how long it will take for the problem to be resolved.
  6. Stay calm. Chill out! It’s not the end of the world. Downtime affects the best of us. Staying calm will go a long way in making sure that you and your team can resolve the problem as quickly as possible.
  1. Great article and great infographic!

    Downtime is also (very) bad when you’re paying for PPC Ads. Even when your website is down, you’re still paying for clicks.

    That’s a problem we had some time ago and that’s why we are building an application to fix that.

    Great post!

    • Yes, it’s a huge problem when you’re paying for traffic. It’s like throwing money down the drain if you don’t stop it enough time.

  2. Great observation Tiago. You are not only paying for clicks, which now need to be controlled. You are also paying for lost sales opportunities and lost customers. And then you are paying for unproductive employees while availability is restored.

    For downtime originating from database changes, we have built an application that solves the problem.

  3. Nice survival lists.. needs a lot of work actually before you can get your site again up and running. Hosting support plays an important part on this kind of problem.

  4. Having worked for a smaller web hosting company, this hits close to home.

    The best thing you can do with your customers is be honest with them and don’t make promises you can’t keep.

  5. Kiss… you people ROCK! Love the graphic (as always)

    How much time do you folks spend on something like this?

  6. A great and very informative post! Stay calm is excellent, if only I could, it’s getting easier as time goes by but it feels just a little like the end of the world. Great graphics by the way. I discovered recently that people really relate to pictures, my Social Media satire went down a storm on Twitpics!! Try it out, it’s great!! Great work, regards, Peter

    • I don’t disagree with you on the whole staying calm is easy, because it’s not. Even I was frantic when it happened to me… but ultimately, you just got to remind yourself over and over again, else nothing will get done.

  7. We won’t know how important it is when everything is fine, your risk management tips for website are very critical, we definitely need to do it to prevent losses.

  8. Our servers had a minor outage over the weekend. This graphic is great at helping explain what happens when a site or server goes down. Thanks for creating!

  9. Backup, backup and more backup! Always have failsafe efforts in place to prevent a large disaster.

  10. Great article, maybe missing one point “After downtime ends”:
    Get some analysis about the outages and create some optimizations against it in future.

  11. Interesting, but, graphs based on 4 year-old data? Really?

  12. I very much to like and agree with your point of view. I love what you’ve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Hope we can become good friends, and exchange and to help each other! Thanks!!

  13. Surprised you guys didn’t suggest webmasters use Cloudflare.

  14. Great run-through, this is one comprehensive infographic!

  15. thank you for this! Now, there’s no need to panic when my site is suddenly down. I know now what to do. I think during down times, I should compile what I should put on my site next time.

    – Jack Leak

  16. Very good guide! BYW, mere using NS servers in different locations has always been working fine for me. However, this is best for static websites. If you site is constantly being updated you have to have full copies, including the databases, on both the servers. Some may find it problematic.

  17. If you don’t have a friend to call to see if your website’s up, you can always use

    It’s a quick way to tell if the issue is just your local connection, or if your site is actually down.

  18. :D I really had fan about the graphics, if you were too literal about the meaning of the pics you would’nt know that its all about website’s downtime XD. Nice post

  19. The most important: backup and monitor your website!

    As a sysadmin I always advise to buy some external monitoring service. They are cheap and allow you to control your website from different countries. Right now I’m using Other alternatives:,

    Great post!

  20. We use for the monitoring service. Really simple.

  21. Very interesting post. Quite surprised Yahoo had 0 minutes- would have expected that to be Google!

  22. I was surprised by the frequency of peoples outages. My shool is the only website that always seems to be down.

  23. You must lead relaxed life to survive in this world. Get massage

  24. Think the tech team needs to read this.

  25. Can we avoid downtime errors for these websites? I hope so. It’s really annoying to experience any of this! But, my question is, can we avoid them on our own?

  26. A very informative and amusing graphic. To answer Andrew’s question, downtime errors cannot be avoided due to several external causes that a website owner doesn’t have any impact on.

  27. Stephen Macdonald Jul 14, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Yes, this is right! Website downtime can infuriate anyone and can compromise any website especially if it is used for online business purposes! That’s why it is important to find a hosting company with the best hosting services without any downtime error!

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