As an ecommerce business owner who relies on the Shopify platform, it’s incredibly frustrating when Shopify is down — but it’s also important to understand why Shopify has downtime and how to respond effectively.
Like any website or web based service, Shopify runs on web servers — which are basically fancy computers. And just like any computer, all servers can go down from time to time for any number of reasons.
Servers also aren’t the only “link” in the chain that powers a particular website or web service.
Web servers are typically housed in data centers, which, in turn, rely on electricity, data lines and other utilities and services to stay up and running and connected to the web.
Shopify, like most tech companies, has engineered a highly robust server setup with built-in fail safes and redundancies — but as with anything complex, there’s always the chance for glitches that lead to downtime.
The first sign that something might be amiss is that you can’t see your Shopify store, log in to the Shopify admin or you find that either one is working slowly or erratically.
The ultimate sign that there is something wrong is the “We’ll be back soon” error page.
All of these signals are likely indications that there’s a problem — but the “official” word that something is amiss is typically found on the Shopify status page.
Like most status pages for services such as Shopify, the page “lives” on a separate server, so it typically won’t be down if Shopify is down as well.
You can even use a Shopify app like Uptime to automatically get alerted via email or Slack notifications the moment Shopify reports an issue on their status page. Uptime monitors the Shopify status page (and much more) in real-time so you're always aware of the current Shopify status.
However, there are some points to be aware of when checking the status page:
If you’re not seeing any updates on the status page (or can’t reach it), you can check Shopify’s official social media accounts or, as a last resort, reach out to Shopify support.
Keep in mind that if Shopify is experiencing an outage, there will likely be a longer than normal wait for assistance.
It’s worth noting that if you’re having trouble viewing the status page and social media pages, try checking a few random sites to see if you can view them. If not, there might be an issue with your computer or internet provider at the local level.
One thing that’s not effective: Sitting in front of your computer hitting the refresh button over and over.
Think of it this way: There are probably thousands of other store owners around the world doing the same thing — which not only amounts to a massive collective amount of frustration and wasted time — but could also actually hinder efforts that might be under way to resolve the issue.
There are also other reasons that Shopify can go “down.”
The air quotes in that sentence are there for a reason — because these issues aren’t technically “downtime” in the traditional sense of the word.
In regard to web servers and hosting technology, “downtime” typically refers to issues with the server itself.
However, because Shopify also contains a layer of both themes and apps that add or enhance online stores, these two components can also cause issues.
So, it’s possible for your store to start having major issues and essentially stop functioning completely or partially — even if Shopify isn’t down. Some common examples:
Unfortunately, these types of issues are most commonly caused by Shopify theme customizations or apps.
If you're looking for a tool to help you monitor outages across all the apps you use on your store, Uptime enables you to subscribe to the status pages of the apps you use so you can get alerted the moment they have downtime.
First, take a deep breath and relax.
While it’s true that online stores can lose sales due to Shopify outages, thankfully most outages are resolved fairly quickly, so hopefully you’ll be back up and taking orders soon.
It might be worth using the downtime as a “hint” to take a quick break. Take a walk, grab a bite to eat or grab some more coffee.
Then, come back after 10 or 15 minutes and see what’s what. You’ll likely either find that your store is back up and running or at least have more information about the issue so you can plan ahead.
If you're using Uptime, you'll also get notified when Shopify reports the issue as resolved.
Many users take to social media to vent frustration when a service is down — which is a natural reaction.
It’s also easy to “blame” Shopify for outages and its effects on your business.
However, keep in mind that outages are most definitely not something Shopify wants to happen — and they work very hard to avoid them.
Think about it: Downtime doesn’t benefit Shopify in any way. In fact, it actually creates challenges for Shopify just like it does for your business.
However, Shopify has wisely realized that issues are inevitable and while they have invested time and money into preventing them, they also have plans in place to solve them as quickly as possible.
Also keep in mind that, while it’s easy to get upset over downtime, there are numerous advantages to having Shopify handle the technical side of your business.
Tech companies like Shopify have experts working around the clock who actually proactively prevent a number of potential issues every day — most of which never result in any noticeable issues.
Assuming that Shopify isn’t working for you for any number of reasons, here’s a quick list of things you can do without Shopify (we’re also excluding anything that requires access to other web based services since outages often affect more than one tech company):
Unfortunately, you’ll likely never know who tried to place orders on your site during the downtime or how many sales you lost.
While this is certainly disappointing and can be a blow to your bottom line, keep these points in mind:
Definitely make sure to check out the apps we mentioned in this article, Theme Updater & Vault Backups and the Uptime app, to make sure you have a data backup and store monitoring system in place – that way you can detect issues early and resolve them quickly.