4 Ways To Track Website Downtime (And Prevent A Potential Disaster)

Frank Moraes
Last Updated on October 21, 2020
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When you are running an online business, every second counts — regardless of what time of day it is.

But what happens when your website goes down?

You start losing money.

Below, we will explore website downtime, what it is, how it occurs, and how you can make sure it doesn’t happen to your site (or if it does, how you can learn from it).

Downtime is a term that refers to the period of time when a system (or multiple systems) is functionally unavailable for use.

Also known as “outage duration,” downtime lasts for a certain period of time and leaves you with no access to this system. This can ultimately impact your business’s performance.

Downtime can occur unexpectedly or it can be planned.

Unexpected downtime often occurs when a system’s unable to perform due to an unplanned event, while planned downtime typically results from planned maintenance efforts.

Unplanned downtime is a critical issue and is most commonly used in reference to crashed servers and networks that are experiencing a network outage and/or comprehensive communications failures.

When these communication failures are not planned, quick reactions are paramount — this includes for industrial applications, international websites with heavy usage, and banking and finance sites. Personnel will unite in their efforts to get these systems back up and running as fast as possible.

Crashed System
Image via Pixabay

The unintentional and unplanned downtime experienced by major businesses and sites (like those mentioned above) poses a crucial impact on users of the related systems. This is heightened for businesses, sites, and industries that are reliant on providing round-the-clock services.

Let’s find out more about the concept of downtime and the significant effects it has on major players in the international economy, as well as its impact on the individual internet experience.

Who Is Affected by Downtime?

  • News and reporting sites
  • E-commerce sites
  • Online video game portals
  • Organizations processing online transactions
  • Airlines and aeronautics
  • Nuclear power and its related infrastructure
  • Medical informatics
  • Telecommunications networks and their customer bases
  • Banking and finance
  • ISP users

The Impacts of Downtime

The following are just a few of the negative impacts website downtime can have for any digital marketing campaign:

  • Reduced search engine rankings
  • May create an overall negative user experience
  • Can potentially tarnish the brand’s reputation and credibility
  • Lost revenue and potential client opportunities

Typically, a website is the primary platform in which a company can communicate with their clients and audience.  Each second their website is not functional, they are experiencing several missed opportunities and, ultimately, lost profits.

In the following video, Matt Cutts from Google describes how downtime can negatively impact site rankings. In layman’s terms, he explains what Google’s actions are in relation to websites going through systemic downtime.



Top 4 Recent Downtime Examples

In light of the above, let’s take a look at some famed downtime occurrences experienced by major websites in recent years. During this time, we witnessed internationally-renowned brands frantically attempting to restore their sites amid large-scale downtime outages.

1. United Airlines

On January 22, 2017, United Airlines was forced to ground all its domestic flights due to a massive downtime outage that lasted for just over two hours.

As the third-largest airline in the United States, United Airlines faced huge amounts of lost revenue and customer dissatisfaction along with the ultimate loss of a client base that had taken years to build.  This just highlights how system downtime can be a catastrophic affair with far-reaching consequences.

United Airlines
Image via pxhere

2. Facebook

Not many people expect the prodigiously massive Facebook site to ever go down. However, the site did, in fact, go down for a long three hours after a turbulent site ride that had previously lasted just over two days.

The result of Facebook’s downtime was an international user base who could not log into their personal accounts. Adding to matters was the fact that, when users attempted to log in, they were presented with information that made it look as though someone else was already logged into their personal account.

Mass hysteria ensued.

After all, Facebook is home to hundreds of millions of passionate and ardent users who use its platform religiously. But through a range of damage control methods, Facebook took to social media outlets to make a number of assurances, including that it would be back to being fully operational as soon as possible and that no accounts had been hacked.

3. Square

Square’s famed downtime outage forced a multitude of restaurants across the United States to turn away customers for over two hours. Consumers reacted with outrage as users detailed how their dining plans were ruined and how their trust in Square had dwindled immediately.

During the two-hour downtime episode, many other food-related businesses such as coffee carts, food trucks, and more were also forced to turn customers away, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.

Just as angry as the customers who were turned away, business owners were very unhappy with Square’s outage.

Resulting from Square’s dramatic downtime saga was a customer base demanding compensation for their loss of time and money. As a result, Square was further beleaguered by customer demands in addition to dealing with the fallout from business owners and the public at large.

4. Delta

Delta was grounded during a network outage that resulted in over 1,800 flights being canceled and an enormous public backlash that was detailed on various news sites throughout the country. An immense amount of revenue was lost by Delta over the span of their three-day downtime period, exemplifying one of the most notorious cases of downtime in recent history.

Canceled Flights
Image via Flickr and licenced under CC BY-SA 2.0

How Can You Track Website Downtime?

When equipment undergoes downtime, it is imperative to track what’s happening during what is essentially a blackout period. In layman’s terms, when critical processes become non-operational, you are receiving no data output. Despite the lack of data received, monitoring data during a downtime period can produce a wealth of useful information for future applications.

Tracking downtime (and uptime) data to produce this vital information can be achieved in one of two ways — automated or manually. While manual tracking of data is a commonly-used option, the data that it produces is often inaccurate and can prove challenging to use in a meaningful way in the future.

Adding to the issues presented by manual tracking is the potential for imprecise transcription, rendering the data troublesome for accurate compiling. Just as problematic are situations when events are unassigned, resulting in the reduced ability to effectively prioritize tasks.

Tracking Website Downtime
Image via Pixabay

So how can you make sure you are tracking downtime effectively?

Tips on Tracking Downtime Data

1) Separate Instances of Downtime into Major or Minor Stops

Minor stops are commonly considered to be periods of downtime that don’t exceed five minutes and don’t require maintenance. Examples of minor stops can include situations such as issues with sensors, jams, or the equipment needing small adjustments. Periods of downtime that exceed five minutes are classified as major stoppages and are typically viewed as either a changeover or breakdown.

2) Assign Reasons for Downtime Episodes

After periods of downtime occur, the source of the problem needs to be identified and appropriately assigned for future problem-solving. Some systems automatically inspect error codes to determine and assign reasons for downtime episodes.

3) Acknowledge Downtime Event Characteristics

There is a highly specific list of other data that should be collected to render downtime information useful, such as:

  1. Process area
  2. Production line
  3. Machine number
  4. Machine name
  5. Product code
  6. Product name
  7. Machine error or fault codes
  8. Duration of event(s)
  9. Production date
  10. Production time
  11. Shift number

4) Consider Website Performance Monitoring Services from Leading Companies

Every second of website downtime adds to the possibility of losing money, clients, and tarnishing a brand’s image. Websites that are repeatedly inaccessible and, worse yet, not capable of providing paid services to customers, are the bane of many online companies.

As a result, website performance monitoring services have exploded in popularity, with many offering a range of crucial services such as uptime monitoring, root-cause analysis, API integration, and Synthetic Interaction Testing.

Today, there are four leading website performance monitoring services that are a cut above the rest. Offering website owners a wide array of premium services, these all-in-one websites provide an immense degree of security and comfort.

Top Website Monitoring Services

Pingdom: Pingdom by Solar Winds is one of the most prolific website monitoring services available today. With prices ranging from just $9.99 to $199.99, there are bundles available for all types of users with a wide range of budgets.

Its many services include the following: Real User Monitoring, Uptime Monitoring, Page Speed Monitoring, Synthetic Interaction Testing, Root Cause, Visitor Insights, API integration, and an ultra-reliable Alerting System.

Pingdom offers a collection of user-friendly tools such as tutorials and guides, assorted apps, an array of downloads, and useful eBooks.

Pingdom Website Monitoring Services
Screenshot animation created via Pingdom

Uptime Robot: Uptime Robot’s slogan is “Downtime Happens. Get Notified.” Its succinct and simple message resonates very well with its customers whose most pressing concern is knowing if and when downtime episodes are happening on their websites.

Uptime offers alerting services via SMS, email, Slack, HipChat, Telegram, Twitter, Push, and web-hooks.

Far more than just a notification service, Uptime Robot also offers the following:

  • Checking services for ports, pings, keywords, and HTTPS
  • Records downtime, uptime, and response time
  • Provides verification of downtime from multiple locales
  • Offers pre-defined windows of time for non-monitoring
  • API services
  • Stat sharing with visitors, colleagues, and friends

Trusted by more than half a million customers, Uptime Robot is used by corporations such as Expedia, Fandango, and Staples, with plans ranging from free to their deluxe Pro Plan.

Uptime Robot Dashboard
Screenshot via Uptime Robot

Service Uptime: Considered by many to be the perennial website monitoring company, Service Uptime is completely free of charge, easy to use, and offers many user perks.

Visitors to its site will be immediately impressed with its real-time calculations of scans performed (currently at 7,949,554,112), in addition to the number of downtimes recorded in the last twenty-four hours.

Service Uptime is renowned for its lightning-fast alert services which let users know when their sites either become inaccessible or start to return unreliable data.

The many advantages of Service Uptime include:

  • 24/7 website monitoring
  • Rapid notification of any site problems
  • Real-time reports on all data, including historical data
  • Effortless setup
  • Reliably accurate diagnoses of issues
  • No software installation
  • Notification services available on a range of platforms
  • Zero integration issues or tech risks
Service Uptime Platform
Screenshot animation created via Service Uptime

Monitis: Known for offering a vast collection of website performance monitoring tools, Monitis continues to be a major player in the field and has amassed a user base of well over 200,000.

Monitis offers comprehensive monitoring services for more than just websites but also servers and applications. Giving users the ability to perform in-depth monitoring and recording of their websites, applications, and servers anytime from anywhere.

Monitis perks include:

  • Three-minute setup time
  • Trusted by professionals worldwide, including IT specialists, Business Executives, and Service Providers
  • Helps boost the ROI of customer businesses
  • Reduces stress and worry by taking away monitoring responsibilities from users
  • Custom pricing plan dependent on the specific needs of each user

Monitis

How to Protect Your Website from Downtime

Downtime can have a detrimental impact on any business, so it is essential to have some form of protection or fail-safe in place just in case it happens to your business.

Combining a CDN (content delivery network) with a backup host and DNS management can help protect your website from experiencing long- or short-term downtime.

CDN: This network will effectively store and deliver all cached content from the website while providing an effective means of protecting it from the occurrence of any short-term downtime.

Backup Hosting: It is recommended to set up a secondary hosting account with a separate hosting company and one that is on a different server. This can be a reliable backup to have if your primary account or server experiences any downtime.

DNS Management: There are services available that can automatically begin to route the traffic from the website to a secondary server to avoid instances of downtime.

Website monitoring services such as the ones listed above are also good services to take advantage of, and many will be able to alert you by email or text if the website goes down.

Router Cables
Image via Pixabay

Conclusion

A company’s website is an integral part of their ongoing success. Through the many modern instances of downtime, it has become abundantly clear that downtime is a matter that must be swiftly dealt with to avoid lasting negative repercussions in terms of revenue, customer satisfaction, and client loyalty.

Fortunately, major search engine browsers such as Google have caught on to the commonality of downtime and its resulting impacts and have provided site owners a way to, at the very least, mitigate potential rankings damage via the engine’s crawler mechanism.

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