Many of us know what email spam is – unwanted junk mail that can fill up an email box with hundreds, or more, of advertisement messages. Some email spam can even contain malicious links.
This article isn’t about email spam. It’s about another equally annoying pest, website spammers. Website spammers can arrive in hordes and totally mess up your site. For sites that allow a log in and content posting, you can leave the site one night and log in the next morning to thousands of bad blogs, comments, threads from spammers that went to town ruining your nice site. In some cases, it can take hours or days to clean up the mess the spammers cause.
Have you ever noticed your website slowing to a crawl? Guess what? That can be spammers hitting your server en masse. When they do that, they eat up the server resources and it can even go down, giving you the dreaded 500 internal server error, white screen of death, or many other issues from crashing the server.
Contrary to what some hosts want you to believe, you don’t actually have “unlimited” anything with your hosting plan. It is impossible for a finite resource to be claimed as infinite (unlimited). All servers, just like your home computer, have a certain amount of resources. As such, you do have a limit as to what your server can handle. That limit is reached much more quickly on shared hosting.
When massive amounts of spammers visit your site at the same time, they are all claiming resources in order to deliver the pages of your site to each one of them. As the resource consumption climbs, the response of the server to deliver the site to users diminishes. It starts to take longer and longer for the pages to load. Eventually, the server reaches the end of available resources and it can crash.
When your database crashes, it can become corrupt. Once that happens, you can end up with missing data, site errors, and various other problems. Restoring a backup, in a worst case scenario, might need to be done but even backups are not 100% guaranteed and can also have issues. They are only for emergency repair issues and not to be used frivolously because there is a chance that data can be corrupted or missing from backups. It’s the nature of the beast.
What you can do to minimize your spam risk:
Avoiding the spammers with spam fighting techniques is your best option. It takes some work, but if you are serious about having a website, you need to put in some effort to protect it. That’s either by you doing the work yourself, or hiring someone such as BryZar to assist you.
There are some tools you can use to prevent spam. Most scripts such as WordPress, Vanilla Forums, phpFox, Social Engine, Drupal and others have various anti-spam plugins or built in features, such as reCAPTCHA. Those prevent spam on the site itself. Another tool we like is StopForumSpam. We use a plugin for our main ScriptTechs site and we use a built in feature of Vanilla Forums for our ScriptTechs forum.
However, it’s best to also employ techniques to prevent the spammers from even getting to the server as, once they are at the server they are already using resources.
Cloudflare is a great tool for preventing a high percent of spammers from even getting to your site. This is a basic Cloudflare tutorial that should help you set up Cloudflare for your site. We use the free version for our sites.
We also use a honeypot from Project Honeypot, which is the same company that made Cloudflare, to help catch spammers. The great thing with this is that it helps to catch spammers which in the end will help prevent them from hitting your site if you use Cloudflare or others we will mention soon.
Another tool we like is StopForumSpam. We use a plugin for our main ScriptTechs site and we use a built in feature of Vanilla Forums for our ScriptTechs forum.