What Does a Server Connection Timeout Mean?

By Mark Stansberry

A server time out hangs up the network connection.
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A server connection timeout error is a common error that almost everybody runs into when surfing the Internet. Web programmers also must contend with server connection timeout errors when they write programs that access Web-based databases and applications. If you are just trying to access a Web page, resolving the error is typically straightforward. On the other hand, if you are accessing a Web-based application or database that requires that your client application talk to the server-based application, resolving the error can require a detailed analysis of your client and server-side application program.

Overloaded Server

When accessing a website that contains just simple text or pictures, a server timeout error often means that the server is busy. In these cases it could be that the server has a high volume of traffic and can not respond to your request within the time that is set in your browser. Resolving this error could require that you change the timeout setting of your browser or visit the website at another less busy time, like in the very early morning or on the weekend.

Client Side Inactivity

When you visit a Web page, the server does not maintain a connection indefinitely to your computer. The server is set up to maintain a connection only for a preset amount of time after the client side -- your end of the connection -- becomes inactive. This time is often set to a long time -- several hours in some cases. No matter how long the time is though, the server disconnects and issues a server timeout error when the set time is exceeded.

Web Programming Timeout Errors

Server timeout errors also occur when client- and server-based programs must talk to each other. In these cases, either the client-based or server-based program could be the culprit. A programming error within either program could result in the client or the server not responding within the set timeout limits of the browser or server. In some cases, the server or client program might not have actually finished an intended process. In these cases, you need to lengthen the browser timeout period or the server-side timeout period to resolve the problem.

Other Timeout Error Sources

The source of a timeout error can also be a virus or just a shared server that has improperly allocated too many customers to the server. A virus could be programmed to maliciously and falsely send server timeout errors to anybody that accessed a specific Web page or service.