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Business & Strategy
Uptime Maintenance DevOps

The Hidden Costs of Website Downtime

Sep 24, 2021

Depending on your industry and how much traffic you have, the cost of website downtime will vary, but it’s always more costly to fix a problem after it has occurred. According to Gremlin, the average hourly cost of critical server outages for the top five eCommerce sites in the US is around $3.5 million USD.

In today’s age of always-on internet connections, every minute your website goes down costs you money. What if you were a company that relied on its website for most of its revenue? Any disruption to your site could lead to significant losses in both sales and customer loyalty.

So why do so many companies take this risk with their websites? The straight answer is that people aren’t aware of how costly downtime can be.

This blog post provides an overview of the causes of website downtime and the hidden costs behind it.

What is website downtime?

In simple terms, website downtime means that a site is inaccessible to its end users. However, site downtime includes a broader range of issues that include broken functionality, like being unable to add an item to a shopping cart. Performance-related issues also fall into this category, as slow sites frustrate users and can cause them to leave your site altogether.

Website downtime can be either planned or unplanned:

  • Planned downtime: Happens on a schedule, usually for maintenance. It’s typically planned for off-peak hours and often provides users with alternatives (like telling them how to utilize other channels, or at the very least, when to expect the site to be back online).
  • Unplanned downtime: Occurs when a system cannot perform due to an unplanned event (server overload, cyberattacks, power outages).

Unplanned downtime is a critical business issue that can potentially be costly and harmful to your company.

What causes unplanned website downtime?

There are a myriad of potential causes for unplanned downtime, including:

Server Downtime

If your hosting provider isn’t as robust as it should be, the chances are that you’ll face server downtime eventually. Overloaded servers can hinder your performance and reduce your website availability. In 2020, for example, one of AWS’ regions was down and caused downtime for millions of users and estimated losses of 99 million USD according to Tech Monitor.

To increase uptime, companies should monitor usage and implement load shedding to intelligently refuse some requests to help you deal with traffic spikes that could cause downtime.

Human Error

Human error is one of the major causes of website downtime. Misconfiguration of server hardware, operating systems, applications, and devices can cause server downtime. Plus, failure to upgrade or scale servers to accommodate more data or computing power can also cause downtime.

One good way of reducing the occurrence of human error is by using automated DevOps practices to minimize website downtime. DevOps practices can also increase efficiency by introducing automation to your software development lifecycle.

Unaddressed Maintenance

Spaghetti code and an outdated UI aren’t the only reasons to update your website. Cybersecurity evolves and failing to maintain your sites can not only cause outages but also expose your digital assets to malicious actors.

Plus, failure to upgrade outmoded applications that the vendor no longer supports can cause sites to go down or create incompatibilities and errors between conflicting versions of software

Hardware Failures

Hardware fails, especially if it hasn’t been properly configured, maintained, or monitored. On-premise hosted websites are susceptible to this kind of downtime. It can be mitigated by hardware maintenance and redundancy, but if you aren’t aware that these failovers are happening, you will only get one chance for a mistake.

Cyber Attacks

Cyberattacks happen all the time. Hackers find new ways of wreaking havoc on websites using DDoS attacks, DNS cache poisoning, and exploiting sites without SSL certificates or by SQL injection. It’s possible that even if your website isn’t directly attacked, it could be exposed to a DDoS attack through shared hosting, causing downtime.

What are some of the hidden costs of downtime?

Businesses have placed a lot of attention on managing websites and mitigating downtime during peak traffic times such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

The reasons behind this are obvious, as during these periods, meeting demand and ensuring peak performance is fundamental to a healthy e-commerce website. Failing to do so means hefty losses and could spell doom for even the most solid business.

However, some of the costs of downtime aren’t as obvious as this and often go unnoticed. Here are some of the hidden costs you need to take into account when factoring the total cost of website downtime.

Website Downtime Hidden Cost #1: SEO

Once Google indexes your website, the search engine regularly crawls it with GoogleBot. The Googlebot collects data and changes to add to Google’s search engine. If your website is down, GoogleBot will find an error code where your website should be, which will impact your search engine’s ranking position. In fact, Moz research revealed that downtime causes websites to drop rankings and thus lose visitors. The longer downtime lasts, the less your website gets crawled, reducing your chances of recovering the position you lost.

How to Prevent It

Find a reliable hosting service. Since not all hosts are created equal, and most options look deceptively similar, finding a hosting provider that scales with you is a must to ensure the most uptime. Solutions like AWS and Azure offer solid web hosting and integrate well with modern website implementation methods.

Website Downtime Hidden Cost #2: Increased Bounce Rates

If your website is down while your customers are trying to access it, they will bounce from your site automatically.

If your website is slow to load or suffers from performance-related downtime, chances are that your visitors will get tired of waiting for your website to load and will go to greener pastures where websites load fast.

How to Prevent It

Changing your website’s response status code can help both Google and your visitors that your server is down for something that you’re fixing and that this downtime issue is temporary. That way, instead of users getting a 500 response code that says that the server is down, you can change it to a 503 error that shows this outage as a temporary problem.

For Google, this is a signal that your website is not down for good and won’t penalize your rankings.

Website Downtime Hidden Cost #3: Frustrating Customer Experiences

This is probably the most damaging cost of website downtime. Let’s say that you own an e-commerce website. If one of your customers purchased something from you and goes back to the store to track the package and finds your website is down, many things can happen.

Finding that the site where they purchased their goods is down can cause them to believe that they were scammed. They could then call their banks and cancel the purchase, which will result both in monetary and reputation losses to your store.

Keep in mind that when customers lose trust in your brand and your website, they will not come back and will tell their friends.

All of that adds up to future revenue lost that is gigantic in comparison to the revenue lost for that one hour you were down.

How to Prevent It

Create a communication plan to notify your customers and visitors about your site’s downtime. Don’t wait for your visitors to visit your down website. Write posts on your social media and send emails to your customers to let them know what’s happening and your plans for how to mitigate it.

How Uptime by Oshyn Eliminates Website Downtime

Your website’s performance is dependent on how quickly you can respond to downtime — and how well you proactively prepare and manage your site before problems arise.

Uptime by Oshyn is a holistic, managed service that helps ensure your website stays up and running seamlessly. It provides you access to experts, real-time reports, CI/CD tools, an SLA, constant scanning and monitoring, regular patching, bug detection and resolution, alerts and notifications, automated testing, and complete security coverage of your website.

If you’d like to talk to us about Uptime or have any questions at all, please contact us or schedule a consultation today.

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