Common Causes of Website Crashes

website crashes

When your website goes down, it’s a big deal.  Your website is often your showcase, your sales floor, your point of contact, your resume, and so much more.

An extended website outage at the wrong time is no different than a business locking their doors during open hours.

That’s probably why one of our most popular blog posts has become our “Why websites crash and what to do about it” post.  It provides a general overview of the how, why, and what to do of website crashes.

Today, we’re going to dive a little deeper in the why.  There are a lot of reasons why your website experiences an outage, but here are some of the most common ones.

Most Common Causes of Website Outages and Crashes:

Plugin Error

Plugins (often used interchangeably with extensions) are additional pieces of code and software that, wait for it, plug in to your website, giving it additional functions or features.  This can range from a simple contact form to an event calendar to an entire social networking system.

As great as they are, however, because plugins are typically made by third-parties (and quite often, individuals sitting in some basement halfway across the word), they’re not always the most stably built.


Additionally, some plugins might have been great at one point but their creators abandoned them, leaving them to become outdated and buggy.  In the case of a WordPress website especially, it’s not uncommon to install and activate a plugin, online to have it cause or a crash.  Or you might update your WordPress install to a version your plugin is incompatible with, causing a crash.

Code Breaking/Errors

Similar to the plugin error, this one involves web code being broken.  However, it’s usually the fault of someone working directly on the website.  If you or your website providers were making an update to the website and it broke shortly after, this is most likely the cause.


Server/Hosting Provider Error

These are a very common, yet frustrating cause of website crashes because they’re generally out of your hands, both in terms of causing them and fixing them.  Your website is being hosted somewhere, and that host provider may be experiencing server troubles.  They might be running scheduled maintenance.  They might be experiencing severe weather that’s affecting their hosting facilities (it’s happened to us before).

The good news is they’ll get it fixed eventually.  The bad news is, you have to sit and wait while they do.

You Need More Hosting

There are different hosting plans based on the size of your website and how much traffic you get.  If you’re on a small, shared host plan and your website starts to grow, don’t be surprised if your website suddenly locks up.

Massive Traffic Spike

Traffic to your website is awesome, right?  Well, yes, but if the sudden influx of traffic is too large, it could crash your site.


Think of your website’s hosting environment as one of those old-fashioned rope bridges.  People come from the internet to your site and it carries them over no problem.  You’ve got a good, solid bridge that people can walk across, one or two at a time, see your site, and then head out.

Now take that bridge that’s built to handle a few people at a time and send a mob of 100 people sprinting across it and jumping up and down.  There’s a good chance that bridge is going to snap in half.

If you have a post that goes viral or you make the news and suddenly your website crashes, there’s a good chance it’s because of the traffic spike.

Brute Force Attacks

This is someone similar to the traffic spike except for two key differences:

  • The traffic you’re receiving are spam bots and virus software
  • They’re trying to break into the backend of your website

All across the internet, there are endless little bots crawling through different websites, trying to find vulnerable ones they can break into.  If there’s something about your website that attracts them, it’s like blood in the water and all the sharks come swimming.

Enough of these fake programs try to break into the admin area of your website, and the whole thing will come crashing down.   Even if they don’t actually break into the site!

Even if the attack misses, it can break your site.

Even if the attack misses, it can break your site.

Expired Domain

In case you didn’t know, your domain hosting is separate from your website hosting.  If the hosting for you domain expires (which happens quite often without people realizing it), your website will stop showing up.

Don’t let your domain expire.  This is something that should never happen.

What Do I Do About It?

For more information about that, check out our original post here.  And if you’re looking for better service and support in your website, contact us today.

What has caused your website to crash?  Any horror stories you’d like to share of your site going out?

Written by Timothy Snyder
on September 16, 2015