Occam’s razor is an important and useful idea for trouble-shooting: if there are many possible causes, the one with the least assumptions should be chosen. In other words if there is a complex problem and a simple solution, go for that!
Unfortunately, many confuse this for the “if I have no other information, it must be what I believe” principle. In other words, for lack of any other information, take the one that makes the most intuitive sense.
Here is what your website might or might not be down.
It may well be true: servers do physically break and settings can become corrupted, which can result in a website being down for an extended period of time. If this is true, you need to contact your hosting company or webmaster. That said, your hosting provider is likely to be aware of the problem as soon as it develops.
Another possibility is your website is unavailable for a short period of time because the server is undergoing maintenance. This is very common and may result in your website being unavailable for a short period of time. Most website hosts maintain 99%+ uptime, but even 1% downtime over the course of a year is could be down 84 hours a year and still be u 99% of the time!
There are a whole host of issues that might have nothing to do with your website hosting provider. These include:
- You forgot to pay your website hosting and your account was terminated. Most website hosts do not keep backups, so your website is gone! Go to dnsgoodies.com to check.
- You forgot to pay your domain name registration fees and your domain name no longer belongs to you. As a result, your website is down….permanently. Go to dnsgoodies.com to check.
- Your internet access is not consistent. If you have poor internet connectivity, your website might be doing just fine; your computer is just unable to reach it. If you have a cell phone, turn off the wireless so that you are going through the cell phone network and check your website. Or, have a friend in a different location check your website.
- Your computer might be compromised with a virus or browser redirect program. You’ll know this if you start to see your computer behaving unusually. Likewise, if you have installed new software or downloaded programs—knowingly or unknowingly—your computer settings might have changed, which caused poor connectivity.
- The internet can be down. On Hawaii Island, we have had two cable breaks in the past few years, which means whole areas of the island had no internet access for many hours. So your website is accessible by billions of people worldwide, just not you!
What should you do if your website is “down”?
The first step should be to check if it is really “down”. If you can’t access any other websites or email, it is most likely your network or your internet service provider’s network. Make sure everything is plugged in, call a neighbor and begin your troubleshooting from your end.
There are many services online. I like “Is it down right now? (http://www.isitdownrightnow.com/). Another free service is Up Time Robot (http://www.uptimerobot.com/), which you can use to monitor your website over time. I highly recommend checking one or both of these before doing anything else.
If you find that your website is down by using external tools, wait an hour and try again. This is usually long enough for scheduled updates or maintenance. If it’s still not accessible, contact your hosting provider.
If you find that your website is “down” just for you. You need to do some detective work. Check your website hosting account and your domain registration.
Next check your internet connectivity. Remember that a lot of networks experience heavy congestion from 6 to 10pm as people come home from work and watch streaming video and play online games. If your internet is super slow, it’s time to look for a new provider or check with your current provider about upgrading your speed.
If your computer is compromised, take it to a professional to get it cleaned and optimized.
So, the next time you’re certain your website is down, dig a little deeper and look for range of possible causes. Sometimes the easiest answer is not always correct!