Last Friday, there was a huge website hack. Without going into too much detail, a large percentage of the sites we visit every day — like Twitter, Spotify and PayPal — were completely unavailable for a good chunk of the day. There were many author websites that were impacted as a result of this huge outage.
But chances are, this won’t be the only time you log on and notice that your author website isn’t working. Here are five possible causes of your site being down, and what you can do about each one.
1. Domain name has expired.
The first thing you probably did when you decided to create an author website was to purchase a domain name. You might not even remember doing this, since it didn’t cost much (usually $10-$20) and you’ve barely touched this account ever since. But whether you reserved the domain for one year or 10 years, that domain will expire eventually. You’ll likely receive email alerts from the company through which you purchased it as it comes close to expiring, but you may not pay attention to those. You might have even changed your email address since you set up the account. If your site is down, you can quickly find out if your domain name has expired by going to http://whois.com and entering your domain. That site should also tell you where the domain was reserved so that you can reach back out to them about renewing.
2. Hosting has expired.
Yes, the account through which you purchased your domain name may not be the same as the one through which your site is hosted. Many authors think these are one in the same, and that can lead to a lot of confusion. But, to be clear, your domain is simply the name of your site that you are reserving the rights to and no one else can use. Your hosting, which is generally more expensive than your domain, is where all of your files live. It is essentially your rent paid for space on the internet. If you suspect your hosting may have expired, follow up with your hosting company or firm to determine if your account is still active. Much like the whois.com link above, you can visit http://www.whoishostingthis.com/ to check your site’s hosting status.
3. File security issue.
Now that author websites are self-updatable, our clients are always adding blog posts and uploading files — including photos, downloadable PDFs and more. But sometimes, when these files are uploaded they can create problems for the site. In other words, they might contain elements that are considered a security risk by your hosting company — whether or not they actually are. If that happens, there’s a chance that your host will shut your site down and send you an email informing you that the site needs to be cleaned before it can be restored. Don’t ignore those emails! Follow up immediately and determine what you can do to ensure that your site is clean and that it won’t infect others with whom you share a server.
4. Server hiccup.
In the 10 years that we have been hosting author websites, we have had server problems at least once a year. That’s not exclusive to us. Nearly every hosting company will have problems from time to time with their servers — these can crop up as sites that are down for a short time or error pages being displayed instead of website homepages. If you notice that your site is down, call your hosting provider and report the issue. If you get a recorded message from them about a multitude of sites being down, know that you’re not alone and they’re working to fix the issue. Otherwise, make sure to get a customer service person on the phone and report your particular issue. Sometimes, if it’s only your site that’s having a problem, they just have to reset things and can get your site back up and running while you’re still on the phone.
5. Website hack.
That’s how we started this piece, and that’s how we’re ending it. Entire servers or systems go down sometimes for a variety of reasons. And, while you and I may never understand why, there are people out there who make website hacking a hobby. But here’s the good news/bad news: If your site is the victim of a website hack, there’s not much you can do other than wait. That means you don’t need to call customer service, log on to your cPanel or anything else. Just be patient and know that people a lot more tech savvy than you are working to fix this website hack and get your site — and probably thousands of others — up and running again.
Technology is fun, right? Sometimes, I wonder why I didn’t just go into print…