E-Commerce Downtime: Causes, Consequences and Prevention

Jaryd Sage 13 July 2023

In an era where online shopping is the new normal, the smooth functioning of your e-commerce website is of paramount importance. However, like any other technology-driven platform, e-commerce websites are not immune to issues and interruptions: e-commerce downtime.

One of the most critical issues your website could face is downtime – the periods when your website is inaccessible to visitors. Every moment of downtime can equate to lost revenue and a dent in your brand’s reputation. Understanding e-commerce downtime is essential for any online business looking to achieve continuous growth and stability in today’s fast-paced digital world.

Common causes of e-commerce downtime

Server Overloads

Online retailers often experience a significant increase in website traffic during promotional events and holiday seasons. While the surge in visitors can boost sales, it can also strain servers beyond their capacity. When this happens, the server slows down, and if it cannot handle the load, it crashes, leading to website downtime.

Technical Glitches

A faulty component in the server hardware can cause the website to go offline. Similarly, software issues, like a bug in the website’s coding or a problem with third-party services (e.g. payment gateways), can disrupt website functionality, leading to website inaccessibility.


Cyber-attacks can range from DDoS attacks, which flood a website with traffic to overload its servers, to hackers exploiting vulnerabilities in the website’s security to take it offline. Malware infections can also lead to downtime if they disrupt website functionality or if the website needs to be taken offline to remove the malware.

Hosting Issues

Your choice of hosting service plays a significant role in your website’s uptime. A reliable hosting service will have safeguards in place to ensure maximum uptime. However, if the hosting provider experiences problems or lacks the necessary resources to handle peak traffic loads, it can lead to website downtime.

Human Error

Accidental mistakes made during system upgrades, website changes, or server maintenance can cause unexpected disruptions. Additionally, poor configuration of website infrastructure and security systems can leave a site vulnerable to downtime.

Consequences of e-commerce Downtime

Financial Loss

The most immediate and noticeable consequence of e-commerce downtime is financial loss. Every minute your site is down equates to lost sales. Retail giant Amazon had store downtime for 40 minutes in 2013, and it cost the company an estimated $5 million. Additionally, there are the costs associated with identifying, fixing, and recovering from the cause of the downtime.

Damaged Customer Trust and Reputation

When your website is down, customers can’t make purchases, access their accounts, or use your services. This can be incredibly frustrating, and if downtime is a recurring issue, it can significantly damage customer trust and loyalty. Customers have numerous options available online; if your website is consistently unavailable, they may opt for more reliable competitors.

Negative Impact on SEO Ranking

Search engine algorithms take website availability into account. If your site is frequently down when search engines try to index it, your site may be pushed lower in search results, affecting your site’s visibility and organic traffic, and damaging your earning potential.

Loss of Data

Depending on the cause of the downtime, there may be a risk of data loss. This could include customer data, order information, or any changes made to your website right before the downtime.

Wondering how else Realm Digital can help your e-commerce store thrive?

Minimising E-Commerce Downtime: Prevention is Key

Conduct Regular Load Testing

Regularly test your website’s performance and capacity to handle peak traffic loads. Load testing helps you identify potential bottlenecks and optimise your infrastructure accordingly.

Invest in Scalable Infrastructure

Ensure that your server infrastructure can handle increased traffic during peak periods, like cloud-based hosting services that can dynamically allocate resources based on demand.

Implement a Content Delivery Network

A CDN distributes your website’s content across multiple servers geographically, reducing latency and improving performance.

Implement Redundancy and Failover Systems

Redundancy involves duplicating critical systems and resources to ensure that if one fails, there’s a backup to take its place. Failover systems automatically switch to backup resources when an issue occurs, minimising downtime.

Monitor Website Performance

Continuously tracking your website’s performance and availability enables you to identify potential issues early on and take proactive preventative measures.

Regularly Update and Patch Software

Keep your website’s software and plugins up to date to ensure they are equipped with the latest security patches and bug fixes in order to minimise vulnerabilities.

Implement Robust Security Measures

Implement strong security measures and conduct regular security audits and penetration testing to identify and address any vulnerabilities.

Regularly Back up Data

Implement automated and regular data backup processes to ensure that even in the event of a catastrophic failure, you can quickly restore critical information and minimize data loss.

Develop a Comprehensive Disaster Recovery Plan

Outline the procedures to follow in the event of downtime, including data backup protocols, server recovery processes, and communication plans to keep stakeholders informed.

Managed Service Providers

Minimising e-commerce downtime and implementing effective prevention strategies requires expertise, resources, and continuous monitoring. While businesses can attempt to manage these tasks internally, partnering with a trusted MSP offers a more efficient and reliable solution.

MSPs bring specialised knowledge, the necessary tools and experience, and dedicated teams to handle crucial aspects associated with managing a successful e-commerce store. By entrusting these responsibilities to an MSP, businesses can free up internal resources, allowing their teams to focus on core functions, such as marketing and customer service. 

A strategic partnership not only provides peace of mind but also enhances efficiency, reduces the likelihood of human errors, and ensures that businesses benefit from the expertise of dedicated professionals. Ultimately, choosing an MSP is a cost-effective and reliable way to minimise downtime, prevent disruptions, and maintain a seamless and secure e-commerce operation.

In conclusion, e-commerce downtime poses significant risks to businesses, and it is crucial to consider these potentials if you are running an online business. It can be daunting to juggle all these responsibilities in-house, and it can also lead to large amounts of valuable time and energy expenditure in order to safeguard your store. If you’re looking for a smarter, more efficient way to manage your dynamic e-commerce business, Realm Digital will ensure your e-commerce success, one glitch-free sale at a time.

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