Crashed WordPress site? Here are 5 most common causes for WordPress website crashes and how you can avoid them.
Thanks to the continuing global uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic, more businesses are moving online. Customers are increasingly interacting with businesses digitally. In this scenario, your business or professional website is your only trump card. A mere two-second delay in load time can drive away 14% of your customers. Imagine the damage a crashed website could cause. And yet, website crashes are surprisingly commonplace.
What Causes A Website To Crash?
While there are many reasons why any WordPress site can crash, in this article, we shed light on the most common reasons for website crashes. In the rest of the article, we’ll also share four effective and practical measures to prevent them.
1. Website Hackers And Malware
With WordPress continuing to dominate the market share, it is no surprise that most hacking attempts are directed at WordPress sites. In fact, WordPress accounted for a massive 90% of all hacked sites in 2018.
Successful hacks are among the leading causes of site crashes. Hackers are innovating with newer and more potent threats such as malware, SQL injections, ransomware, Spam emails and phishing. Hackers overload your web server with loads of malicious code, spam emails, and fake requests. This overloads your server and can cause your website to crash.
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2. Incompatible Components
Plugins and themes on a WordPress site are similar to mobile apps on a smartphone. They enhance your website’s utility and functionality. Plugin/theme developers release updated versions of their products that contain bug fixes and new features/ enhancements that help speed up your WordPress website.
In some instances, these updates may not be compatible with the WordPress core version and can cause a website to crash. This is what happened in 2016 when the WooCommerce plugin 2016 update broke many sites.
3. DDoS Attacks
Short for Distributed Denial of Service, DDoS attacks have the same effect as organized massive crowd protests. Like how massive crowds block roads and prevent other people from using them, these attacks target websites and flood them with large volumes of traffic and server requests.
These volumes can overload even the best of web server networks, thus causing them to crash.
In fact, in 2018, Microsoft’s GitHub was the target of the largest DDoS attack in history with traffic over 1.3Tbps. Such site crashes act as a distraction while hackers take advantage of your compromised site to look for vulnerabilities or to break into your login page.
4. Deleted WordPress Files/Folders
Before the WordPress version 4.9.7, any user, including authors and publishers, could delete files or folders from any installation. A WordPress site could easily crash due to a deleted file/folder. Additionally, hackers could gain access to an author account and delete critical files like wp-config.php or .htaccess.
In later versions, WordPress fixed the problem; however, administrators or admin users could still accidentally delete files/folders while performing site maintenance. For instance, in 2016, a U.K-based WordPress hosting company caused many of its 1.7 million hosted sites to crash. The problem? Running a server cleaning script during maintenance that accidentally deleted many user files.
5. Expired Website Domains
Surprised? It’s true though. Many websites crash or are inaccessible simply because their domain name account has expired. Expired domains can also be exploited by hackers to redirect visitors to malware sites or distribute suspicious ads.
How do website domain registrations work? Typically, you register a domain name with a provider for one to three years. Usually, recognized domain providers send you timely reminders towards the end of your subscription period to renew your domain.
However, if you still fail to make the payment and renew your domain, your domain might get suspended, leading to a website crash.
How To Avoid Website Crashes
Now that we have looked at some of the reasons for website crashes, let’s look at some simple ways to reduce the chances of their occurrence. Here are four preventive measures that you can implement immediately for your website:
1. Scan Your Website Regularly
According to AV-TEST Institute’s latest malware statistics, over 350,000 new malwares are registered each day. Over 8 million malware variants have been added just in April 2020.
With WordPress websites being on hackers’ radars, you need security tools designed specifically for detecting WordPress malware variants. While there are plenty of free malware scanning tools in the market, cybersecurity experts recommend premium or paid security plugins like Sucuri or MalCare. Since they are developed exclusively for WordPress, they deploy advanced and evolving technology to detect all kinds of malware.
A couple of key things to look for in a security plugin – automated and comprehensive scanning and easy removal of any kind of malwares like Website Hacked Redirects, SEO Spam, phishing, etc. These processes can sometimes slow down your website though. However, security plugins like MalCare perform these operations on dedicated servers, thus avoiding any load on your server.
2. Test Updates On A Staging Site
Updating your WordPress site components, including – Core WordPress, Plugins, Themes – is essential, but performing updates directly on a live website can be risky. Improper updates or compatibility issues can crash any website.
The best solution is to set up a staging website that is a replica of your live websites. A staging site includes every component of the site -core files, plugins/themes, and database records. A staging site is the best way to test updates, design modifications, or a new plugin.
Once it is set up, you can apply all your updates and changes on it, without any impact on your live site. Once you have tested all the updates, you can easily merge them onto your live website.
How do you set up a staging site? Staging plugins like WP Staging and Duplicator are easy to use and work just like other WordPress plugins. Another option is the BlogVault plugin that combines website backups with integrated staging.
3. Restrict WordPress Files/ Folders Modifications
As discussed before, website crashes often happen due to accidental deletion or modification of WordPress files or folders. You cannot eliminate human errors, but you can minimize risks. Do this by restricting the number of users who are allowed to make file modifications or deletions.
As a thumb rule, provide file deletion/ modification rights only to WordPress administrators for website maintenance. For other users, assign roles that do not allow them to access critical WordPress files such as wp-congig.php or .htaccess. As an administrator, you can manage user roles through the WordPress admin account.
WordPress hardening measures such as disabling file editors can also help in restricting file changes.
4. Renew Your Domain On Time
Running a business while maintaining a website is no easy feat. No surprise then, that site owners forget to renew their domain in a list of to-dos.
To avoid this, regularly log into your domain account and check the validity of your current registration. Update your contact information if you have recently changed your phone number or email address.
Additionally, ensure the accuracy of your payment details, including credit card number and validity.
If the option is available, set up automatic domain renewal.
In today’s digital landscape, all businesses are heavily dependent on online revenues for business success. Website downtime and the resulting user dissatisfaction can have long-lasting implications for your business.
The best defense is education and preventive action. We hope this article has helped you have a better understanding of website crashes and the measures you can take to avoid them. A key takeaway? Make website security an integral part of your website maintenance. Another recommendation is that you backup your website before making any changes – big or small. This way, you minimize downtime even in the case of a crash.
Have you ever had a website crash? How did you deal with it? Do let us know. Stay safe.