What to do When Your WordPress Website Gets Shut Down

Imagine my surprise when I returned to my office a few days ago and picked up a voice message from HostGator, the company that hosts this WordPress website, informing me they had shut down my site because it was “putting a strain on their server.” What!? I quickly went to my computer, typed in my URL and saw this scary message:

Hostgator Forbidden message WordPress

What Did I Do Wrong?

The phone message also told me to look for an email, which I did, and this is what it told me, “Unfortunately, we were forced to disable the script “/home/xxxxxx/public_html/” as it was causing high loading issues on the server. Due to this affecting all of the other accounts on the system, we had to take immediate action for the health of the server. ”

I’m just a small company — not a Fortune 500 Goliath with a hugely dense website — so how could this be possible? The email also told me that they noticed I had a WordPress blog, which is true but not quite accurate. As I’ve written before, a WordPress blog IS a website.

But maybe that’s nitpicking when you’re essentially out of business and your visitors find they are Forbidden to access the server  — and your website. They didn’t do anything wrong. Why was HostGator being so nasty? Couldn’t they have given me 24 hours advance notice with instructions how to fix the problem and then shut me down if I didn’t?

Hostgator logoI immediately called HostGator tech support, which happens to be excellent. It seems the main problem is that I had disabled the cache plugin. A cache is an archive of files that can slow down the load time of a site.

A plugin, for those who don’t know, is a piece of software that adds functionality to a website. Think of buying a car. You decide you want to install air conditioning and a GPS system. They’re like plugins because they add more functions to your car.

My webmaster and I had decided a while back to disable the cache plugin because it was causing other problems — like the GPS lady who keeps telling you to turn right when you know a shortcut to the left. Plugins can be finicky sometimes. Everything was running smoothly without this plugin until — wham, I was shut down.

How to Fix the Problem

First, I immediately installed HostGator’s recommended cache plugin WP Super Cache. Next, the tech support representative suggested I delete other plugins I wasn’t using, another potential source of the problem.

In HostGator’s email to me they specifically mentioned several plugins, none of which I had installed. If you own a WordPress website and have installed the plugins listed below and use HostGator, beware.

This is the message I received:

  • All related posts plugins (WordPress Related Posts, YARPP) can cause significantly high load in most cases.WPRobot3 and other auto-posters can also cause high load issues, and should be disabled if they are causing issues.
  • StatPress and other WordPress statistics software should also be disabled, as these too can consume too much CPU in certain cases. Use Google Analytics instead for statistics as well as Awstats which already comes by default on your account.
  • WP Post Views is also a plugin that you’ll want to avoid as it causes significant resource usage.
  • Any other plugins that are not vital to your WordPress should be disabled.

The HostGator customer service rep reactivated my site on our call. Technically, HostGator won’t let your site go live again unless you respond to their email explaining how you fixed the problem, i.e., installing a cache plugin and deleting unnecessary plugins. I wrote to them anyway after I did that just to be on the safe side.

My webmaster and I think that HostgGator over-reacted in shutting down my site. He claims that as soon as they see it’s a WordPress website they get all in a snit anticipating problems that may never happen. Who knows? I’ve been otherwise satisfied with HostGator’s service which is used by thousands of bloggers.

Maybe their tagline, “we eat up the competition” should be changed to “we eat up our customers” when they summarily shut down your website without so much as giving you a moment’s notice.

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Comments

  1. What a nightmare, Jeannette. Glad you managed to fix it. Maybe it would be a good idea to move your hosting to another company?:-)

    Frankly think what they did is ludicrous and the explanation leaves a lot to be desired.

    • Thanks, Catarina. HostGator has an excellent reputation and I’ve found their technical support to be excellent. Maybe there is an automatic trigger in these situations but I also think it was a big over-reaction.

  2. I understand that you like HostGator. But I cannot tell you how many people I hear about who have issues with them. Everything from poor customer service to way too much down time for their sites. I think I would have to agree with Catarina.

    • Cheryl — Interesting. I haven’t heard about or experienced these issues with HostGator. But I’m going to do a little more research right now to see if their are reports of their service declining. Thanks.

    • You’re welcome, Dolores. I wrote this post because I hoped it would serve as a warning to others about the things that might get their sites shut down — like having some of the WordPress plugins that Hostgator discourages and not having a cache plugin.

  3. That’s really disheartening. Advance warning should be given, and not having a caching plug-in up and running doesn’t seem sufficient reason to shut you down. It would be interesting to see how your “strain on the server” compares to larger companies. At least HostGator has good tech support. I left GoDaddy a couple of month’s ago because all of their servers are apparently on overload all the time, and my website suffered. Now I’m using BlueHost.

    • Jeri – I’ve heard bad things about GoDaddy and my webmaster and others who told me to steer clear of them when I was setting up my host. I’ve heard very good things about BlueHost, too. If I continue to have problems with HostGator I may consider changing.

      • I went with GoDaddy because they had the most commercials on TV. I didn’t know any better, and then realized their service isn’t so great, and the commercials are sexist, so I’m more than glad I took my business elsewhere. Leora Wenger helped me with switching web hosts.

        • GoDaddy’s Super Bowl commercial was absolutely appalling. I had forgotten that until you mentioned it.

  4. I can totally relate to your situation Jeannette! I experienced a very similar situation last December with my hosting vendor (which at the time was RochenHost). At least RochenHost gave me a 14-day window to resolve the issue (and they actually gave me a short extension after pleading my case with them).

    Although my experience was not as stressful as yours, it did occur around Christmas and it was not a pleasant situation. After resolving the issue as much as I could (with the help of a “WP” guru), RochenHost was still not happy with my site performance. I ended up moving my site to BlueHost and so far – so good. (I think I may have reached the point with Rochen that they just wanted me to upgrade my hosting plan.)

    As I write this, I am dealing with 3 different hosting vendors. (I still have client sites with RochenHost and I have other client sites on HostGator.) At one point, HostGator did unexpectedly shut down a client site without warning. It seems that is a common practice with them. I have yet to see how BlueHost would react. As for RochenHost, they are not cheap which is probably why they were more accommodating.

    • Sherryl — What was so bothersome is HostGator not giving me any time to fix the problem before they shut me down. It’s impossible to believe that my site — which is quite simple with not a ton of pages — could cause problems with their entire system. To their credit, they did leave a phone message and sent an email. As soon as I got on the phone with the customer service rep she reactivated the site after I installed the plugin with her specifications, but before I deleted any plugins. So once I became aware of the problem they responded promptly in getting me back up. I can’t imagine what visitors thought when they saw that big black message “Forbidden.” May have scared them off forever!

  5. Yikes! That’s pretty scary, especially with no warning before shutting you down. Imagine the audience you may have lost once they encountered the Forbidden window? A fair warning beforehand would serve both parties much better. Hopefully HostGator will figure that out.

    • Thanks for visiting, Edwina. Yes, I thought an advance warning would have been appropriate, too.

  6. WOW, I would have freaked. I don’t use HostGator but it still bears watching. I have done much of what was mentioned already because of my web guy. He watches this stuff like a hawk. 🙂

    • Susan — well, I did freak! Imagine coming to my website and seeing FORBIDDEN in big black letters. That’s enough to hop off the the site — possibly forever. I hope that isn’t the case. And my webmaster is always asking to me to remove plugins I don’t use. That I did post-haste.

  7. I can understand your situation Jeannette as earlier this year my host (Blue Host) decided I was taking up too much server space so they throttled backed my site. This meant it was so slow to load. They didn’t tell me and I found out by accident as they throttle back automatically. The problem was a spike in traffic. I eventually found a solution and fingers crossed it doesn’t happen again.

    • Susan — I just had another problem with HostGator – strike 2. I know several bloggers who use Blue Host and I was actually thinking of taking a look at the company as my host. But I guess with the exponential growth of blogs and websites that all hosts are having problems with the volume. I hope the problems don’t start to occur more frequently because of this.

  8. Wow Jeannette, I’m so sorry you had to go through this. I’ve never read about this issue and yet a great number of websites use WP. Good to know so we can ask web hosting companies and designers. Thanks for sharing!

    • Nancy — thanks for visiting. You make a good point. Might be good to do some research on host companies to find out what people are saying about them and their ability to handle the increasing load of information they need to store.

  9. I’m sorry I didn’t read this sooner! I’m glad the ultimate problem is solved. I’ve been working on two separate sites with load issues. In neither case did the host company shut down the site. On one, deleting a faulty plugin helped a lot of the issues. On the other, we are still working to optimize the database and to eliminate old plugins and plugin issues.

    Any site that grows and grows will eventually have issues – it’s not just WordPress.

    “And my webmaster is always asking to me to remove plugins I don’t use. ” – SMART! And I try to convince people not to use so many in general – find another solution than a plugin. Sometimes some simple code can be a better approach.

    • Leora — plugins are wonderful for functionality but can be a big pain in the butt. I have removed a number of plugins since this incident. But another problem is that some developers don’t update their plugins for years. They become outdated and become potential back doors for hackers.

  10. I am going through this right now! There is no notice they just disable your website. I have the Cache plugin installed and I have none of the plugins installed that they reference. Looking for some more info….

    • Thomas — things didn’t get better with Hostgator. They’ve been acquired by EIG, which has also taken over BlueHost and a number of other hosts. Hostgator’s service just went down the drain so, on the advice of my webmaster, I switched a couple of months ago to A2 Hosting. I’ve been very satisfied with their service thus far. My advice is to drop Hostgator. It’s sad because they were very good for the four years I used them before the acquisition.

      • I was not aware they were bought out. Jeez now the quality is going to go down in the name of the Almighty dollar! I have a buddy too who is having Hostgator problems.

        My site is very small and only gets about a thousand visits per month so I cannot see it taking up many resources. I will look into A2 hosting if the problem cannot be resolved.

        It may just be the designer used some large art files for the background or something.