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TOPIC: Error 500 on my Joomla website

Error 500 on my Joomla website 1 week 1 day ago #8449

  • robertf
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Hi all,

Yesterday was a frustrating day. Over the weekend I'd had a couple of intermittent connection issues with my websites (front and backend):

www.robertfairhead.com (my WordPress based blog and profile)
www.tallandtrue.com.au (my Joomla based online magazine, forum and blog for writers, readers and publishers)

I managed to get around the issues by refreshing the pages or selecting a previous option and clicking on the page link again. I use a "subdomain structure" in my shared hosting environment, with robertfairhead.com at the top, and tallandtrue.com.au and other websites sitting under it. I also use Cloudflare for robertfairhead.com and tallandtrue.com.au.

Although I was able to refresh and reload pages, I lodged a support ticket with my hosting provider, VentraIP, with a screenshot of one of the errors as displayed by Cloudflare. VentraIP admitted they'd had some problems late last week with Cloudflare. While they were resolved, I should keep an eye on my websites.

And that's when my day got VERY frustrating! I refreshed tallandtrue.com.au and got: Error. That's all, just that word, unformatted at the top left of the screen. robertfairhead.com was fine. I checked a Joomla staging website I have on the same web server (sits under the primary domain, too) and got the same Error!

I called VentraIP. They did some digging, there were emails and a few more calls back and forth and it was determined to be an Error 500 - the error_log for both Joomla websites was full of entries like the following:

11-Jun-2018 14:06:49 Australia/Sydney] PHP Warning: session_start(): Failed to read session data: user (path: /opt/alt/php71/var/lib/php/session) in /home/robertfa/public_html/tallandtrue.com.au/libraries/joomla/session/handler/native.php on line 260

I do have another live Joomla website under the subdomain structure and it was working fine (it is running on a slightly older version of Joomla).

VentraIP queried if I'd made any changes in the morning to the Joomla or PHP configuration. The answer was no. I had updated Joomla on both websites to 3.8.8 and a number of extensions on Friday (staging first), but everything was working fine. The only updates I'd done in the morning were to my live tallandtrue.com.au where I'd published a new blog post. (And this cut me the most because I'd promoted the post via social media and now the website was effectively dead!)

To cut a long (sob) story short, in the evening with no solution on offer from VentraIP (other than, "Hire a Joomla web developer"!) I resorted to restoring a backup of my live website to staging (thankfully I'd taken an Akeeba Backup in the morning before the Errors started!) and the website came back online. It was the same with the live tallandtrue.com.au. (Thank you, thank you, thank you, Nicholas!)

Again, I stress, I had changed nothing with the Joomla or PHP configuration. I quizzed VentraIP whether they had rolled out any changes to the server environment. They said no, and no one else had reported the Errors I was getting with my websites.

A Google search of "Error 500 Joomla" returns a lot of results, typically to do with upgrades to Joomla versions, many in the 3.8 series. There are mentions of PHP incompatibility and/or of poorly configured web servers.

I have two question for the Joomla community:

1. Have you encountered these Error 500s before? If so, did you work out what caused them and is restore from backup the only option?

2. Although they've been great in the past, I was disappointed by VentraIP's response yesterday and I'm thinking of moving my Joomla websites to another hosting provider. I notice SiteGround are positioning themselves as WordPress experts (as VentraIP does, too). Does SiteGround still offer a good Joomla hosting service? Or should I look at another provider?

TIA for your feedback.

Regards,
Robertf

PS. Don't forget to backup your websites REGULARLY!
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Error 500 on my Joomla website 1 week 22 hours ago #8450

  • ozneilau
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Hi Robert,

Unfortunately, "Error 500" can be caused by many different hosting issues and can be especially hard to fix when it only happens intermittently. Setting error reporting to maximum or development in Global Configuration may show additional error messages to help narrow down the problem.

Given the "Failed to read session data" part of the message, and that you and VentraIP apparently have made no recent significant changes, could the problem be to do with corrupt session data? If you can log in to the back-end of the website (normally you can't when the session table is corrupted), you can try the "Purge Sessions" and "Repair and Optimise Tables" options in Akeeba Admin Tools. If you can't log in to the back-end you can use phpMyAdmin in cPanel or similar to clear the session table and run a repair and optimise on the database.

The professional version of Akeeba Admin Tools includes a plugin that can be enabled to schedule regular session optimising and cleaning (e.g. every hour) which may help reduce this kind of error especially on busy Joomla websites.

I moved my own websites from VentraIP to SiteGround a couple of years ago and am very happy with the service from SiteGround. I still have quite a few clients with VentraIP so I am able to keep an eye on the quality of their support.

I wouldn't expect VentraIP support to know (for example) how to clear the session table in Joomla but SiteGround do have Joomla specialists who would probably be aware of this type of problem and how to fix it.

I have a current unsolved issue where websites hosted on SiteGround are regularly being disconnected in myjoomla.com. SiteGround helped a little with some code in .htaccess to increase the timeout limit and Phil has also made some changes but ultimately the issue is not solved. I have no problem with my VentraIP sites holding their connections in myjoomla.com.

Note that if you go ahead with moving to SiteGround, purchase the "Grow Big" or better plan so you can enable Dynamic Cache. This shaves a second or two of page load times so website visitors in Australia still get good performance even though the nearest SiteGround data center is in Singapore.

I hope this helps,

Neil
Webilicious Web Design and Development
webilicious.com.au
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Error 500 on my Joomla website 1 week 21 hours ago #8451

  • Terry
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Hi,

given that you have got your Website(s) restored I would check in the Global Configuration to see if you have Session Settings->Session Handler set to PHP or Database. The error message you received suggests you have PHP.

If the problem happens again another option is to login to your cPanel and find your way to the configuration.php in your sites root folder, e.g. /home/robertfa/public_html/tallandtrue.com.au/ and change the session handler to Database, assuming it is PHP;

public $session_handler = 'database';

I agree with Neil in regards to VentraIP in that they are a Hosting company and Joomla support should not be expected, they determined the problem was not with their service and provided a pointer in the way of the error message to help you.. I am a VentraIp client for some years and it may not always be 100%, but their support is way above some others I have been with for hosting issues.

Regards,
Terry
Been working with Joomla for Fun and Work for 10 years.
Last Edit: 1 week 21 hours ago by Terry.
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Error 500 on my Joomla website 1 week 20 hours ago #8452

  • ozneilau
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Terry wrote:
I am a VentraIp client for some years and it may not always be 100%, but their support is way above some others I have been with for hosting issues.

Absolutely! I forgot to say VentraIP/Zuver are still my preferred local hosting company and their service and support are excellent especially once non-trivial support requests are escalated to second level support and beyond. :)
Webilicious Web Design and Development
webilicious.com.au
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Error 500 on my Joomla website 1 week 20 hours ago #8453

  • robertf
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Thanks, Neil. I'll have a look at the Akeeba Admin Tools options - I have it installed on my website. I'm loathed to move from VentraIP as they've provided a good service over many years (all the way back to when they were Unlimited-Space!). But I felt yesterday I needed more Joomla expertise than I or they have with the Error 500 problem. The shame of it is, I generally don't have issues with Joomla, which is partly why I chose it as a website platform. And where I have had problems, forums and admin extensions have been the solutions. Perhaps I should stick with VentraIP for now and check out the session table options in Admin Tools.

Again, thanks for your response. It's reassuring to know I'm not really alone with Joomla! :)

Regards,
Robertf
Last Edit: 1 week 19 hours ago by robertf.
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Error 500 on my Joomla website 1 week 19 hours ago #8454

  • robertf
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Thanks, Terry. I will look at the Global Configuration settings first thing tomorrow.

Your feedback on VentraIP is also reassuring. I have been very happy with their hosting service (stretching back to Unlimited-Space days), but I was VERY frustrated yesterday. I guess I wanted someone to blame, but sometimes with Joomla, it ain't anyone's fault!

Regards,
Robertf
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Error 500 on my Joomla website 1 week 8 hours ago #8455

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robertf wrote:
A Google search of "Error 500 Joomla" returns a lot of results, typically to do with upgrades to Joomla versions, many in the 3.8 series. There are mentions of PHP incompatibility and/or of poorly configured web servers.
There's no one-size-fits-all "solution" for HTTP 500 Internal Server Errors.

Even using Joomla's debug mode may not always provide some clues as why the PHP interpreter fails to handle the error condition.

Most HTTP 500 errors actually occur because of defective code—i.e. an error condition that the software developer(s) did not foresee—and, although a range of issues arise as the result of Joomla updates, they are more likely to be exposed because third-party extensions are incompatible with either (a) the version of J! that they're being used with or (b) they're incompatible with the version of PHP that is installed on the webhosting platform. And, to give this matter further cause for discomfort, there are buggy versions of PHP in the wild!

The fact that HTTP 500 errors may occur "intermittently" may be disquieting but there's usually a reason for them happening (and the symptoms can be consistently reproduced if you know the source of the problem). So, to begin with, when someone sees an "Error" (and there's no other information that may pinpoint what that error may be), the first thing to do is to enable Joomla's debug mode to see what other informaton may be available.

Your post describes several other issues that may, or may not, be the result of the webhosting platform that you're using. In any case, the performance of a website—like a building—relies on having a good foundation. If the webhosting provider is not doing the right thing by its customers then it's no use complaining on an internet-based discussion forum about that company. Vote with your feet: find a webhosting provider that delivers customer service. While it's true that some webhosts promote themselves as Joomla-friendly, the way I go about selecting a webhost is to marry the Joomla Technical Requirements against the services of a potential webhost and see if they're a good match; obviously there are other considerations (such as "local support" and whether they offer other facilities like add-on domains, generous quotas for filesystem and database storage, SSL support, etc.). These needs differ between different website owners.

The "session handler" issue has been discussed at length on the Joomla forum and it may be worth searching there for ideas that help.
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Last Edit: 1 week 8 hours ago by sozzled.
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Error 500 on my Joomla website 1 week 4 hours ago #8460

  • manuman
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Hey Robert,

Did you see github.com/joomla/joomla-cms/issues/16477

Cheers
Shayne
Co-Founder of Joomla!
CTO/Web Architect - Elastik Space elastik.space / Elastik Digital elastik.digital
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Error 500 on my Joomla website 1 week 4 hours ago #8461

  • robertf
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Thanks, Shayne. As suggested by Terry, I will have a look at the Global Configuration to see the Session Settings->Session Handler is set to PHP or Database. Your link suggests having it set to PHP may be the culprit.

The interesting thing is BOTH my live and staging Joomla websites went down. But then, the staging is a (slightly dated) copy of the live website, so it would have the same Session Handler setting. (And perhaps the other unrelated Joomla website that didn't go down has Session Handler set to Database?)

I'll update this post when I find out. At least the good news is the websites have been up again for 2 days! :)

Regards,
Robertf
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