common server-side 5xx http error codes

Guide to Common Server-Side 5xx Error Codes

Running into HTTP error codes while navigating your way through the online maze can be annoying, especially if you don’t know what they mean or what caused them. Fortunately for you, we’ve compiled a list of the most common server-side error codes (5xx), what they mean, and how you can patch them up them.


Contents

  1. Client-side versus server-side error codes
  2. Error code 500: Internal Server Error
  3. Error code 501: Not Implemented
  4. Error code 502: Bad Gateway
  5. Error code 503: Service Unavailable
  6. Error code 504: Gateway Timeout

If you’re looking for some of the more common client-side error codes (4xx), head over to our blog post covering those HTTP errors and what you can do to fix them. Generally, you’ll find that the solution is ensuring the URL is typed in correctly or clearing the cache or cookies. Pretty straight forward fixes for someone skimming the headlines at 8 blog posts per minute.


Client-side versus server-side error codes

The key difference between these two, aside from client error codes starting with 4xx and server errors starting with 5xx, is pretty self-explanatory.

The 5xx error codes indicate that the server failed to fulfil the request of a client (usually a web browser). It also tells us that the server is aware that it is unable to fulfil the request, which is better than most of the issues with which we go to tech support. Looking at specific “I don’t know what I did, it just stopped working” culprits.

The 4xx error codes tell us that it’s likely the client that failed to follow the correct protocols. This can be via a bad request or incorrect URL. Whatever the diagnosed problem, the server has deduced the cause as something on the client’s end (which is you, if you are browsing the internet).

As with all things, sometimes exceptions can exist but generally when you encounter a 5xx or 4xx error code, you can assume the error was diagnosed correctly.


Error code 500: Internal Server Error

Suspect numero uno when it comes to 5xx error codes, and the most common of the bunch as well. Starting our list of server-side error codes is our exception to the specificity that these HTTP messages usually give us. An internal server error can point to quite a few things being out of place, namely:

  • If you or the host upgraded software where the upgrade failed and needs to be refreshed or the installation of new software failed
  • New plugins on your website that may be causing conflict with existing plugins
  • New or upgraded software that are incompatible with the new upgrade or software.

Those don’t exactly narrow the options down so the best way to identify the problem when looking at your own site, is to rollback plugins, installations, or updates one at a time and test to see if it was the problem.

It’s likely a recurring issue so trying to recreate the issue itself can also point you in the right direction, like if the error code pops up after someone uses the search function. You can then take this information to your web hosting support team or developers, so they know where to start looking.

Fix

From a browsing perspective, simply repeat the old reliable tactics:

  • Reload the browser
  • Clear your cache
  • Delete browser cookies
  • Restarting the browser

Error code 501: Not Implemented

One of the rarer server errors you may encounter (especially with HOSTAFRICA). The name implies that what you are searching for is not yet there, but this, contrary to what you may think, has nothing to do with the content of a website. The 501-error code actually points to the server not having the ability to implement the request.

Think of it as going to a circus and asking a clown to juggle five green apples. A feat relatively easy for the jocular character, but if you were to ask said clown to juggle three chainsaws while doing backflips, you’d be disappointed. This is because even though the clown would like to oblige, they just don’t have the ability to do that (does anybody?).

It could also be that the server is offline for some reason. This often shows a 500-error code, but sometimes you get lucky.

Fix

You can get past this hurdle with the usual clearing cache, cookies, and reloading. Malware is also a possible culprit for this issue so a thorough scan won’t hurt (except for the malware, if they are present).

If none of the standard fix’s work contacting your web host should be your next go to since they wield the power on 5xx errors.


Error code 502: Bad Gateway

Error code 502 is essentially a middleman problem. The server from which you’re requesting information acts as a proxy (middleman) for the server that has the actual information you want. The problem arises when the server with the information returns a bad response, and the middleman ends up shot. Apparently, messengers do get killed on the internet.

As with most error codes, there could be a number of things causing it. Usually, however, the server might be overloaded, or there was a network error between the two servers. It could also be an issue with your firewall.

Fix

Proceed with the usual fix’s, reloading the page or restarting your browser, clearing your cache and cookies. You may want to check that your firewall is configured properly as well since it may be reading standard traffic as malicious attacks. If nothing works, your web hosting company should have the answer for you.


Error code 503: Service Unavailable

As the name infers, the server that you’re trying to access is unavailable. This error code usually pops up when the server is down for maintenance, or the traffic is too much for the ol’ boy to handle. The excess traffic makes it so that the server cannot fulfil all requests properly.

The server being down doesn’t necessarily correlate to it being crashed either. When a server is in maintenance, it’s set to a mode where it cannot process normal requests, so it shows the 503-error code. Administrators will likely still have access to the server until the job is done.

Fix

Your best bet is to get in contact with your web hosting company and find out whatever details they can give you about the status of the server.


Error code 504: Gateway Timeout

Similar to the 502-error code, the 504 Gateway Timeout is the server telling us that the line of communication was dropped along the way. More specifically, a server upstream of the server you are connecting to did not send a response in a timely manner.

Fix

Essentially, the middleman being left out in the rain once again. The issue could be presented by a change in DNS (Domain Name System) that routes your request through different servers to reach the specific site you are looking for.

It could also be a connectivity issue, which would be something you can fix on your end either with a reset or some patience as it sorts itself out.

If you’re unfamiliar with web hosting jargon check out our glossary blog on the common definitions


Conclusion

Those are the most common server-side error codes you’ll run into while browsing the web. More often than not if it’s not your website then your best bet, beyond the standard checks and resets, is to wait for the admin staff to resolve the issue on their side.

If it’s your website, you should get in contact with them and find out what you can do from your side to fix the problem beyond the basic solutions we provided, assuming it’s not entirely on the server.


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