What do you do when your website goes down?

First things first, don't panic.

Communicate to your customers

When you're sure there is a problem, the very first step should be to implement your social media PR plan for website downtime. (Don't have one of those? Well, check out our recent post on the topic and get one sorted for next time.)

You need to be proactive about communicating the problem to your audience. Your customers will want to know what is going on immediately. So you can't wait a few hours while you email and call your web hosting company or web developer. Post a blog entry and a few tweets to reassure your customers that you're aware of and resolving the problem. Let them know how to contact you should they have concerns (this is particularly important if your site has e-commerce).

If you don't have a social media presence, then you could send out an email to your list saying something similar. The important thing is that you're seen to be managing the situation, not just hoping no one noticed - they will.

Check your domain name is working

Has your domain name registration expired? Check your domain using a WHOIS service and make sure that all is ok. If your domain has expired then you'll need to re-register it immediately.

Your domain registrar will normally give you notice of an upcoming expiry date. But, if you do discover your domain has expired, don't worry, no one can quickly jump in and register it for themselves. When a domain expires, there is a 45 day grace period when it can't be sold to anybody else.

Check with your web hosting provider

It may be as simple as your hosting has expired and your provider has stopped their service. A pretty easy one to resolve.

It could be that a traffic spike has caused your site to fall down, this is common when a website suddenly receives an unexpected boost to traffic. Perhaps content you've created has gone viral, or a big digital influencer has linked to your site and their audience has checked you out. Good news either way, but you must speak with your provider to ensure your hosting plan can cope with popularity spikes like this.

And of course, it's possible your hosting company are having technical difficulties themselves. Visit their website or get in touch directly to confirm this suspicion. If you do try to get in touch and their customer service leaves a lot to be desired, you may be able to pick up information from social media sites like Twitter.

Review your web hosting provider

Following on from the last point, if it appears that some of the problems are due to your hosting company, then perhaps you should consider changing to a better one, in preparation for next time. The way your hosting company deals with your downtime will be a big indicator of how much they care. Were they quick to respond? Did they handle the issue professionally? Did they go above and beyond to help you get back online? If so, there is probably no reason to jump ship. But if your experience was a negative one, maybe it's time to look elsewhere.

So Alertra's fast and reliable web monitoring service will let you know immediately when you website is down, but after that you may need to do some work finding the cause of the problem. And, importantly, take the necessary steps to ensure it doesn't happen again.