Our Short Answer: There are a bunch of reasons your site can go down without any warning, a few common causes can be too many plugins, outdated hosting servers, getting hacked, and sometimes, accidentally giving out too many permissions.
WordPress started as a blog app in 2003, today it’s a flexible platform that is used to create content rich websites. It is packed with multiple themes, plugins, widgets and more. It also is one of most widely used platforms for making websites in the entire world.
However, no systems are perfect and WordPress sites can sometimes break because of that. If your website keeps going down, you’re not alone, there are some pretty common reasons why this can happen.
Here are the most common reasons websites can break:
- More plugins, more problems.
- Getting Hacked.
- Bad configured user access.
- Old Server Software
Too Many Plugins
WordPress plugins are pieces of software you upload which "extends and expands the functionality of your WordPress website.” WordPress users have an enormous number of plugins to choose from.
On one hand, plugins are great! They can let you do things on your site that you couldn't do on your own. There's no specific number of plugins that you need. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that each plugin you upload affects your site. The two may not get along well. But, what tells you if a plugin would be good or harmful for your site’s health?
Here are three things that could spell problems:
- If the plugin is loading PHP code - the programming language that the majority of WordPress is written in - it should be ok. However, if the code is not written properly, or is insecure, this could be an issue.
- If the plugin needs updates either for functionality or security, this could also be problematic.
Every plugin that you add increases the chances of issues with your site. It also means there is more potential risk for one of them to 'brick' your site.
It’s like heavy clay bricks on a construction site, one brick on its own doesn’t have much use, apart from acting as a door stop. Using too many plugins brick your site meaning "it loses the functionality it was built to perform".
Recommendations For Plugins
- Try not to install a load of plugins at the same time, while expecting that they will work optimally, because they won’t. Instead download one at a time, to see if any conflict with others.
- Don’t keep too many plugins. If 5 do the job for you, why install 10 or 20? However, there is an exception to every rule. In some cases you may have plugs that do specific jobs, so you’ll need more. But, it’s best to keep plugins to a minimum.
- It’s best to download WordPress themes or plugins from WordPress.org or at the very least from trustworthy, reputable websites. It’s very common that the ones on less reputable sites to have malicious or negligent coding which can lead to errors.
When Someone Hacks Your Site
WordPress is the most popular website software used in the world today. Because of this, there are almost a limitless range of plugins to add on to that software. But, there’s always the other side of the coin. Due to Its popularity, it attracts the unwanted attention of hackers.
Everyday, between every update there are plugin vulnerabilities. However, if you’re a skilled developer, this is not too much of a problem. You can patch them up, and they are back to as good as new.
The problem is if you don’t keep our site updated and monitored all the time, it can put a target on you for hackers. Even if your website doesn’t generate a lot of traffic, it can still be a target for hackers.
Advanced hackers can develop bots to hack into your site. This technology automates the whole process for them. If someone can find your website on Google, or on any other search engine - they can target it.
As you may imagine, when everyone downloads a host of plugins, it makes things less secure for their site. The best way of locking all the doors and making sure hackers don’t come through the back window is to use a robust security solution.
Poor Configuration For User Access
If your website has an open door allowing large numbers of users to add and edit content, you’re increasing the risk of site breakdown. If you give too many permissions to too many team members at work, it will be only a matter of time before someone makes a mistake that leads to problems.
If you are a website owner, you don’t want to give everyone an administrator-level license to access your site. There is more of chance that someone will:
- Make an alteration to your website code.
- Install and update more plugins.
- Make changes to your theme.
- Create or delete web site pages, posts, products, or other post types
- Gain access to data you want to remain confidential (this could be financial or other information that should remain for your eyes only).
Outdated Server Software
Your website server includes an operating system and software that makes it work, exactly like your computer. Like the majority of software, you need to keep updating it. A lot of people won’t realize when an update occurs, because they have a website host that does that job for them without them knowing.
The problem becomes when your website host isn’t making updates quickly enough. Many websites operate with PHP 5.6, the problem is that it no longer gets any security updates.
There are a number of issues with an out of date server
- There are many more security problems: older versions of software may have more vulnerabilities.
- Speed: The newer version of PHP (7.3) is much quicker than previous versions.
- Compatibility: Some PHP functions are available for newer PHP functions (PHP 7.3), but aren’t available for older ones (5.6). If you download a plugin which only supports PHP 7.3, and you are running a 5.6 operating system, this creates problems.
Other Common Everyday Problems For Users:
WordPress Admin Login Issues
We’re mentioning admin login issues because although they don’t necessarily break a site, they make it potentially impossible to fix it.
If you ever have been locked out of your WordPress account, this can be as frustrating as losing your car or house keys. This happens more often that you might expect, despite it being a simple problem.
Sometimes, people may forget their password, or perhaps they also forget their password manager/ vault. It could also be that they don’t have access to their recovery email. Afterall, if you write something on a piece of paper or in your notebook, it is easy to lose.
404 Or Page Not Found Errors
404 page errors come up when someone types a URL into the address bar and they get a 404 or Page Not Found Error.
There are ALOT of reasons why this happens. It could simply be that they have made an error when they type your address into the address bar, or it could be due to faulty/broken links. It could be as simple as a slip on the keyboard, or as complex as a code problem on the page itself.
If you cannot view the entire content on your site, it’s most likely to be an issue with your *permalinks. If you find a 404 error on some of the pages of your site, it is likely that you changed a content’s slug (piece of the URL) without setting up a *redirect.
*Permalinks could either be a domain name or what we call a slug, basically a piece of the URL that comes after the domain name. This could include a date or category. Permalinks purpose is to make a URL readable and shareable.
“A redirect is when a web page is visited at a certain URL, it changes to a different URL. For instance, a person visits “website.com/page-a” in their browser and they are redirected to “website.com/page-b” instead”
Server error message often look something like this:
“The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request. Please contact the server administrator and inform of the time this error occurred and the actions performed just before this error.”
Server errors are often difficult to resolve on your own, and are best handled by a professional or by your website hosting platform if they offer support or back up.
They are most common when someone working on a website tries editing the code directly or alters the code of the theme. It’s similar to working on tuning up a car and losing a single bolt, and now your car won’t start.
Perhaps one of the users who manage your site was adding a piece of code, and it slipped their mind to close an HTML tag or add an extra closing div- which can often break your WordPress themes layout.
*A server is a piece of software or hardware that enables other services or programs to work. This can be anything from your email server to your web servers.
Our Bottom-line: By paying attention to problems like downloading too many plugins, poorly set up user configuration, giving too many people access to your site, you'll avoid your WordPress website breaking.
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Jonathan Gordon is the chief writer and PR liaison for an HR firm. His passions are creating inspiring and engaging content. Jonathan has a love for learning about new industries and acquiring new skills. Jonathan is also a trained classical and jazz pianist and loves meeting new people and is open to new experiences.