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When you run a website—any website on any platform—it’s kinda, sorta important that it’s live and available for viewing. That is, if you’re trying to build traffic to your site, a user clicks, and nothing shows up, that’s a big problem. Whether this is the result of server downtime, an error, or something malicious doesn’t matter. It’s all perceived the same way by your site visitor: your content isn’t available. End of story.
And often, that’s where your story ends with a potential customer, which is pretty much the worst thing ever. So instead of trying to scramble to repair the damage after you’ve experienced downtime, better to prevent it in the first place, right?
The Obvious (and Not-So Obvious) Reasons Site Uptime is Important
Yes, it’s vital that your site be accessible when someone tries to visit it. That’s a no-brainer. After all, if your site is missing, that raises some red flags. Like, perhaps you don’t have it all together. And conveying that kind of image can be incredibly damaging. I mean, think about it: would you want to give your hard earned cash to a company that couldn’t even keep its site online? Yeah, I thought not.
It causes major credibility problems. You want to appear responsible, knowledgeable, and professional. Too much site downtime makes you appear to be pretty much the opposite of those descriptors. Again, not good.
So yes, a site that’s down too frequently makes a bad impression on potential customers and can make it impossible for people to convert. Can’t make a purchase if your site isn’t available, right?
But the problem actually extends deeper than that. Failure to keep downtime under control can make your site look bad in the eyes of the almighty Google, too. That’s definitely not a good thing. You see, Google, Bing, and the other search engines out there make it their aim to provide the highest quality links possible to searchers. The occasional outage isn’t going to do much harm but if this is a regular thing and a spider just so happens to be crawling your site when it’s down, you could definitely see your site fall back in the rankings.
The effects of site downtime are cumulative. They snowball. And once that damage is done, it can be a real challenge to dig your site and reputation out of that hole. What follows are five easy ways you can reduce WordPress site downtime that have a nice side effect of pretty much making your site better overall:
1. Use an Uptime Monitoring Plugin
This is probably one of the best ways to keep tabs on your site’s uptime without having to manually watch it like a hawk day in and day out. Once installed, a monitoring plugin will do as its name suggests and monitor your site’s uptime. You’ll receive automatic reports, that you can receive email notifications for, and you’ll know immediately if your site is down. This gives you the opportunity to spring into action if need be.
While you have tons of options out there for uptime monitoring, one that I’ve found to be particularly useful is:
Jetpack (Monitor Module)
Jetpack by Automattic is—as you likely know—a feature-rich plugin that adds all different kinds of modules to your site. For instance, it includes Publicize, which makes it simple to share your new blog posts on social media sites automatically when they’re published. And there’s also Tiled Galleries for displaying your photos in a variety of ways. But the module of importance in this instance is Monitor, which sends you notifications when your site goes down and sends a followup notification when everything’s back to normal.
Monitor will check your site to see if it’s up every five minutes, so you’re always going to know just exactly where your site stands. It’s simple, a part of a plugin you’re likely already going to use anyway, and free. So it makes sense why I’m recommending it then, right?
2. Use a Managed Hosting Provider
Another way to reduce site downtime is to be particularly selective when choosing a hosting provider for your site. Do your research here. It needs to have a track record of good uptime. Don’t just go for the cheapest or most popular option. Do your due diligence. Which is really best for your needs?
One possible solution here is to use a managed hosting provider that specializes in WordPress sites. The benefits are numerous to taking this approach. For instance, the whole shebang is more stable. Since this kind of host is made specifically for WordPress sites, it can handle the unique stresses and strains such sites impose on a server.
Managed hosts, as their name implies, make it a whole lot easier to manage your sites. Everything from core updates to theme/plugin updates to backups can be configured and then carried out automatically without much input from you. It takes the day-to-day grunt work off the developer, which gives you more time to build sites, create content, and otherwise run your business.
This kind of host is also notorious for sending out notifications. And I mean that in the best possible way. These hosting providers keep you informed about your site’s status. You can find out about everything from uptime to backups to updates to suspicious logins all thanks to immediate notifications.
There are way (way!) too many managed hosts to name here but a few definitely stand out from the pack in terms of quality, service, and features. If you do decide to opt for a managed host, you’d do well to start your search with these:
A really great managed hosting option is WPEngine, which offers a wide variety of features designed to keep your site secure and live for the long haul. It includes EverCache tech for speedy site loading, automatic scans for hacking (and free repairs), one-click backups, site migration assistance, expert support, and more. Keep tabs on your site’s health and uptime with minimal upkeep.
Another option is Pagely, which was actually the very first managed WordPress hosting provider out there. So the crew over there definitely has an idea of what WordPress users want and need. Features include daily backups, caching, site security, a CDN, and more. You can easily keep track of everything going on with your site from one interface, without having to go through a ton of manual setup.
Pressable is another managed hosting provider that gives you the features you need to run a successful site with next to no downtime. Features include your standard fair like caching, backups, and staging sites. But it also provides a CDN, malware scanning and removal, managed upgrades, and intrusion detection systems, so the likelihood of your site ever being taken down by a hacker is slim to none.
SiteGround offers managed WordPress hosting for those on a budget. It includes the features you need like auto updates, caching, and a CDN, but doesn’t bog you down with anything else. Just the essentials here but that can be a good thing if you’re just starting out or want to test out the managed hosting concept before committing.
3. Improve Overall Site Security
As you might’ve guessed from the roundup of managed hosting providers above, security plays a major role in site uptime. When you put in the effort to keep your site secure, you prevent hackers from gaining access. Reduce access points and you dramatically decrease the likelihood of someone taking down your site through malware or some other malicious bit of code.
So how can you improve site security? Well, there have been many tutorials written on this subject all over the web. You can do things as simple as making sure your login name isn’t “admin,” using a tough-to-crack password, and installing two-factor authentication. We wrote an in-depth tutorial of security best practices awhile ago that you might want to check out to improve overall site security, which can decrease your risk of suffering downtime at the hands of hackers.
If you’re not that tech-savvy or you just don’t have the time to implement manual security measures, you might wish to consider using a security plugin. You’ve got a lot of options here, too, but here are a few we’ve recommended in the past:
- Sucuri Security: An excellent all-around plugin for monitoring site activity and security status. And if you pay for the premium features, you’ll realize greater site protection, which means more uptime and less time spent worrying about “what if.”
- iThemes Security: A total security solution in one simple plugin. Site monitoring is a part of the deal here, and as you know, improved security means better site performance.
- BulletProof Security: Another worthy security plugin contender. Easy-to-use and set up and offers ample protection against common security weak spots.
4. Be Mindful of Site Speed
A slow site might not load for some people. And while that’s not necessarily an issue of site uptime, it can be perceived that way by your site visitors. Even if the server doesn’t time out, a slow loading site leaves a bad impression. So why leave a bad taste in your visitors’ mouths when you can do something about it?
Don’t be afraid to pull out all the stops to improve your site’s speed. I’m talking everything from optimizing images to using a caching plugin to minifying your HTML and CSS. Use lazy load. Do what you have to do to get your site performing better and faster. You’ll decrease the likelihood of site load lag and give your visitors an all around better experience. It all comes down to how you want to be perceived. Putting a super slow site out there into the world conveys a message that you just don’t really care about your potential customers. And unfortunately, whether that’s true or not doesn’t matter.
5. Make Regular Backups
It’s the old word processing adage, “save your work,” applied to the age of the Internet. Backups are essential and if you’re not performing them regularly, you’re just asking for trouble. Seriously.
Site backups make it so that even if your site is hacked, you have a solid copy from which you can restore your site. And if you have a security plugin installed (and you get hacked or someone uploads malware anyway), you’ll be notified as soon as it’s spotted. You can take quick action to repair the problem, which means minimal downtime, even in the worst of circumstances, i.e. a total file wipeout.
WordPress site owners don’t really have any excuses about not backing up their sites, either. It can be scheduled to perform automatically, so once you put in the effort on initial setup, backups will occur on their own without you having to lift a finger. And often within management dashboards, you can implement “one-click” backups on the fly, whenever you feel the need.
While you can perform backups on your own, I think it’s a much better idea to use a backup service since the frequency of backups can be scheduled and they’re conducted automatically, even if you forget and even if you go on vacation.
Some popular backup plugins that have proven themselves as invaluable in the WordPress community include:
- WordPress Backup to Dropbox: Automatically backup your WordPress site, database, and all associated media to your Dropbox account. It’s a total set it and forget it solution and your files are safely stored in the cloud.
- UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration for WordPress: This plugins lets you complete total backups automatically or manually—it’s up to you. You can save your files to a wide variety of places like Dropbox, S3, Google Drive, FTP, SFTP, and more.
- BackWPup Free: A quick and easy way to backup your WordPress installation and files. It saves everything as a .zip for simple restoration and you can store your files just about anywhere you want.
Experiencing downtime on any website can be a real problem but there are unique solutions to this potential problem when you’re running your site on WordPress. I’ve covered just a few of those here. Hopefully you now have a stronger sense of what you can do to keep your site up and running for the long-term with minimal hiccups. Remember: this is a preventative game. It’s a much easier task to prevent downtime than it is to fix it (and the damage it could cause) after the fact.
Now I’m turning this over to you. What do you do to reduce WordPress site downtime? How do you ensure a positive experience for your visitors every time they click a link to your site? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
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