This error (also frequently seen as "503 Service Unavailable" or "The requested website is temporarily not available due to a resource limitation.") means there are too many total simultaneous non-cacheable HTTP requests in progress for your site. This is an extremely rare condition, but the causes, in order of decreasing likelihood, are:
- For sites like CMS or blog sites that generate content dynamically, a spammer, email address harvester, or lousy web spider attempts to hit all or a large number of the site's dynamic pages at once. Our system will throw up this error to dissuade the spammer and stop them from dragging the whole server down. In this case, the message will typically only appear for a few seconds to a couple of minutes; as soon as they start getting errors, they usually move on.
- This message can also occur if requests for your site content hang or take an inordinately long time to complete. In such cases, they can backlog to the point where the server feels that allowing more of them to build up would just cause a death spiral. (I.e. more requests taking longer causing more requests to take even longer, wash-rinse-repeat until nothing happens at all).
- Under exceptionally rare circumstances, this message can indicate that the server that hosts your site is having severe problems. Such conditions are automatically detected and we are notified, so they tend not to persist for very long.
- If your site has several hundred simultaneous visitors for sustained periods of time, it's remotely possible to hit this limit even if your connections complete very quickly. In this case, and only in this case, we will raise the limit, because this limit provides your site with important protection against all the other cases.
Please be aware that while almost everyone starts out thinking #4 is the reason that applies to their situation, the cause almost inevitably turns out to be something else. A good rule of thumb is that each possible explanation above is about ten times less likely than the one above it, so the top one is 90% likely and the bottom one is about 0.09% likely.
If this message persists long enough to cause problems, the explanation is most likely the second one. In that case, the way to troubleshoot it is to identify and resolve the cause. Coding problems that can cause this include, but aren't limited to:
- unconditional long sleeps
- infinite loops
- issuing blocking system calls that can hang indefinitely
- poorly-optimized MySQL queries
- anything that serializes requests (causes them to have to wait in line and get handled one at a time)
- doing too much work to process a request -- CPUs are only so fast
- making network connections (e.g. DNS or HTTP) to other sites or services that are down or unreachable without a reasonable timeout
Some poorly-written WordPress and Drupal plugins have been known to cause these sorts of problems under heavy loads, particularly ones that deal with statistics or running periodic scheduled tasks.
If you have a subscription membership and open a support issue while the problem is occurring, we can typically identify the problem URLs for you, and may be able to give you some insight as to what they are waiting for. After the fact, it may be possible for you to get some idea of what happened by looking at your site's access logs, if they were enabled.
Please keep in mind that this limit is not some nuisance we put in at random to cause problems for our members. It is a crucial protection that keeps your site (and others') safe and available. When someone says they want it removed, we hear: "My car would go a lot faster through the mountains if it didn't skid along the guardrail every time I go around those hairpin curves! Take that guardrail out!" We know from experience that if we take out the guardrails, the car won't go faster; it will fly off the side of the mountain and end in a fiery crash. You may be willing to take that risk with your site, but since ours is a shared hosting service, we can't risk letting you take others down with you. If you want the limit raised, be prepared to show us ample concrete evidence documenting both your sustained high traffic levels and the excellent performance of your highly-optimized code.