Learn How to Resolve the 503 Error

If you use the Internet frequently, you’ve no doubt already seen the 503 error, a notification about an unavailable service. 

Pages throw errors constantly and for various reasons: unexpected maintenance, a bug that went undetected, a page invasion, or a flow of connections that caused the server to go down.

Servers that host web pages receive requests from web browsers or devices, known as clients. 

The server uses different status codes to communicate.

If your website is experiencing a 503 service unavailable error, there is no immediate solution. 

The first step is to investigate what is causing the problem because while this type of failure indicates what happened on your site, it doesn’t tell why it happened.

However, if you are a website user, there is not much you can do as this error refers to server issues. 

Now, if the site is yours, it is essential that you correct the error as soon as possible so as not to lose potential customers and not affect the user experience.

In this article, you’ll learn what the 503 error means and some possible ways to resolve it, both for a website you’re trying to visit and for your own web page.

What is the 503 error?

Page errors, or status codes, are organized into different classes. 

In turn, first of all, the status code number is indicated:

  • 1xx: Info: The server is still processing the request.
  • 2xx – Success – The request was successful and the server responded with the page or resource.
  • 3xx – Redirect – The page or resource has been moved and the server will reply with its new location.
  • 4xx: Client Error: There is an error in the browser or device request.
  • 5xx: Server Error – There is an error with the server.

The last two digits of each HTTP status code represent a more specific status for each class. 

But what does the 503 error mean? 

This is an HTTP status code which means that the website’s server is simply not available at the moment.

Most of the time, it is because the server is too busy or maintenance is running. 

When your site experiences a 503 error, visitors will be directed to an error page, as shown below.

This error can appear in different ways, the main ones are:

  • 503 service not available
  • 503 service is not available at the moment
  • HTTP server error 503
  • HTTP Error 503
  • Error 503 service unavailable
  • The server cannot fulfill your request

Why does the 503 error occur?

As mentioned above, 5xx status codes mean there is a problem with the server. 

There are many reasons why a server might come back with a 503 error, but the most common are maintenance, a bug in the server’s code, or a sudden increase in traffic, causing the server to become overloaded.

The good news is that whatever the reason for the 503 error, it is usually temporary. 

The server can be restarted or the traffic will drop and the problem will be resolved.

How to fix error 503?

The process of how to resolve the 503 error will depend on whether you are a user or the owner of a site. 

Whether you’re the owner or part of the marketing and development team, there’s a little more you can do to diagnose and resolve the issue.

With that in mind, there are some common places to start looking for a problem. 

Start by understanding the message: did something go wrong? 

Restart any running processes and see if that helps. 

Below you can find some methods on how to fix the 503 error as a site owner.

Restart the Server

Development is difficult, even a simple static page can have so many moving parts that it’s hard to pinpoint the cause of the 503 error.

In such cases, the best thing to do is to restart the server and see if that fixes the problem.

The exact method of rebooting the server will vary, but you can usually access it from the provider’s panel or by SSH into the server by running a reboot command.

The server should reboot after a few minutes. 

If it’s set to run automatically at startup, you can visit your website and see if it’s working.

Check Server Logs

If the server restart didn’t work, you can check the logs. 

The registry has a series of files created and maintained by software. 

The location of the server logs can vary depending on the service you are running, but they are usually located in /var/log/.

So check the directory and look for any unusual activity. 

Otherwise, consult the manual for your programs by running man program_name.

Check Ongoing Automated Maintenance

Many times, the 503 occurs due to scheduled maintenance sessions by service providers. 

Automatic updates occur during downtime and help ensure everything is running on the latest version. 

While this is good news, it’s worth checking with your service provider if the 503 error is caused by scheduled maintenance.

Check Your Server’s Firewall Settings

The service unavailable error can also be caused by a misconfigured firewall. 

In this case, the connection can “go through”, but it cannot return to the client. 

The exact method of adjusting your firewall settings depends on several factors. 

Take a look at your pipeline and your service provider’s dashboards to see how you can configure your firewall.

Check the Code

Bugs are common in the Internet world. 

Even if you test frequently and have a strategy for bug fixes, it’s impossible to get them all.

From time to time, one can escape and cause a 503 error.

If you’ve tried everything and your site is still showing a 503 error, the cause may be in the code. 

To fix this, check any server-side code and pay special attention to regular expressions.

Since the 5xx status codes mean the error is server-side, there isn’t much you can do directly as a user. 

However, you can run some tests while you wait.

Refresh the Page

Sometimes the bug is so temporary that a simple update is enough. 

With the page open, press Ctrl-R, on Windows and Linux, or Cmd-R, on macOS, to refresh the page. 

You can also repeat the URL in the address bar again, by clicking the “reload/refresh” button.

But be careful: if you get the service unavailable error message while paying for an online purchase, keep in mind that multiple payment attempts may end up creating multiple orders and multiple charges.

Restart Your Router

The 503 error can be related to a failure in the DNS server, which acts as a “translator” between IP addresses and human-readable URLs. 

The DNS is usually hosted on a server, which handles all of this behind the scenes.

This means that many routers cache responses from DNS servers (www.google.com <==> and this can sometimes get corrupted and cause errors. 

An easy way to reset or “clear” the cache is to reboot the router. 

You just unplug it for 5 seconds and plug it back in.

How to Avoid Error 503?

Imagine someone searches for a topic and finds your site on the first page of Google. 

However, when he clicks on your website, he is met with a bland web page that says “service unavailable”. 

Frustrating, right? 

If the user searches for an answer on your website, he promises to have it but does not deliver it because something is wrong, it is likely that he loses trust in your brand.

Now that you know how to fix the 503 error, know that there are ways to prevent the service unavailable error from happening: check your connection limits, bandwidth throttling, general system resources, and security. 

Are you prepared for traffic spikes?

Sites have resource limitations regarding processing and memory. 

PHP memory is limited according to the plan and the number of defined processes (PHP requests), so make sure that this is not the time to increase the processing capacity and memory of the site.

Also, no matter what the cause, the appearance of a 503 error is an indication that you need a fault management tool to help you automatically detect these problems in the future.

The best tools can even alert you and your team immediately when an error occurs. 

How about implementing some of these tips into your digital strategy?

Thanks for Reading.

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