Website Down - Major Website Downtime in 2016

Well, 2016 has been another banner year for major website crashes. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, such as the hugely disruptive one on Dyn, were on the rise, but many of these crashes were preventable. As in past years, the main culprit was inadequate preparation for an increase in traffic that was entirely predictable.

It is understandable that many new small businesses would not plan for traffic surges. However, just as in past years, large businesses and governmental agencies launched major campaigns that are guaranteed to generate huge increases in traffic and then found themselves the target of unrelenting negative publicity in the press and on social media when that increased traffic crashed their websites. As the late American baseball player Yogi Berra would say: “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Here are a just a few of the crashes that generated a lot of frustration.

Black Friday

Every major retailer knows that traffic on Black Friday will be off the charts as consumers chase the bargains that retailers had been previewing during the previous two weeks, so you would think they would be prepared. Unfortunately, some retailers were not. On Black Friday, the websites of the following companies crashed and/or experienced a severe degradation in service: Currys PC World, Macy’s, Quidco (a cashback site), and GAME.

The negative reaction on social media was overwhelming. Frustrated customers vowed never again to shop at some of these retailers, and some helpfully posted links to competitors’ websites that were holding up just fine under the Black Friday onslaught.

Their poor performance on Black Friday hurt these firms in two ways. They lost an undetermined amount of sales to their competitors on the day because customers were unable to complete their purchases. Their reputation also suffered, causing them to lose future sales as well, Black Friday certainly was “black” for those firms, but for the wrong reasons.

Cabinet Office website crash

Leading up to the voting on the EU referendum in June, voters were encouraged to register online. Traffic on gov.uk steadily increased during the week before the registration deadline and traffic eventually reached over 200,000 users per hour. The site could not handle the traffic spike and crashed on the registration deadline date, leaving many people unable to become eligible to vote.

Frustrated voters took to social media to vent their anger and demand an extension of the voting registration deadline. After the furore, the government agreed to extend the registration deadline by two days.

As you can see, when a website goes down, users of the site can get very frustrated. Websites can go down for many reasons, not just because of a traffic spike. Sometimes technical issues at your hosting company over which you have no control can be the cause. In any event, you need to know promptly if your site is down so you can take corrective action and keep customer dissatisfaction to a minimum; consider using a website monitoring service to get alerted fast.

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