5 Consequences to Reacting to Site Downtime Without a Plan

disaster plan keyboard buttonAs a business owner, you try your best to plan for the future. You start by creating a business plan that spells out your corporate goals, the products or services you’ll offer, how they fit in the marketplace and appeal to consumers, and how you plan to market them.

While you can’t plan for every contingency in business, there are a lot of potential ups and downs you can prepare for.  A flexible attitude complete with a backup plan can help you to weather most unexpected setbacks. Of course, it’s always better to anticipate the things that could go wrong to mitigate any potential damage to your company.

When it comes to site downtime, your best option is to move forward under the assumption that, at some point, you will suffer loss of service. At the very least you’re going to have to shut down your website on occasion for maintenance and repairs.

Unexpected downtime can occur for a variety of reasons. You may end up with a web host that provides spotty service. Or perhaps you didn’t anticipate the bandwidth you’d need and your site overloads as a result (one can only hope for such problems).

It’s also possible that you could come under attack from hackers looking to steal sensitive customer data or wreak havoc on your company. Regardless of what causes your site downtime, you’ll be better equipped to deal with it and get back up and running if you have a plan in place to recover from unanticipated downtime.

Failure to plan for this potential threat could lead to several undesirable consequences. Here are just a few reasons why reacting to site downtime without a plan is detrimental to your business.

1. Extended Downtime

Suppose your car breaks down on the highway. If you’ve planned ahead, you probably have a roadside assistance service in place. All you have to do is call the service for a free tow and the time you spend marooned on the road will be short.

If you failed to plan ahead, you’ll have to find phone numbers for towing services, call around to check rates and availability, and potentially spend a lot more time and money rectifying the situation. A proper plan can significantly reduce your hassle.

The same is true when your website experiences unscheduled downtime. Planning ahead might mean hiring a monitoring service to immediately alert you when downtime occurs. This way you don’t have to wait for customer complaints to start flooding in to know that your site is down.

It could also mean having software solutions or service providers in place. These services can pinpoint the problem and help you to correct it so you can get back up and running as quickly as possible. It might also mean having a system backup in place to revert to just in case you can’t access needed files.

Your plan will determine your response to unscheduled downtime. This way you can minimize damage and get your online operation back in business.

2. Wasted Money

With no plan in place when downtime occurs, your employees may have to spring into action and work overtime to find and solve the problem. This could result in paying some employees to sit idle because they can do nothing while your website is down.  Or you might end up paying some employees overtime to get your site back up – or both.

3. Lost Revenue

In addition to the added expense for labor, you are likely to lose revenue when your website experiences unexpected downtime. This could happen in a couple of ways.

If you provide an online shopping cart for patrons, they will not be able to access accounts and make purchases while your site is down. Also, new visitors to your site, upon finding it non-responsive, may elect to go to competitors, never to return. Both outcomes bode ill for your business.

4. Declined Morale

Employees may lose confidence if they see the company scrambling to solve a problem for which a plan of action should have already been in place. In addition, having to do extra work to rectify the situation because of the company’s poor planning could result in a decline in morale.

5. Damaged Reputation

If you suffer extensive or ongoing downtime issues, your professional reputation will begin to suffer. Customers may not see your company as reliable. They may complain in online reviews.

This can cause further lost revenue, loss of employees, and other problems that spell disaster for your company over time. Having a plan in place to deal with unscheduled downtime can make a world of difference.

How to Perform Site Upgrades With Minimal Downtime

Every website has downtime. Ideally, you won’t have to deal with unscheduled downtime due to power outages, natural disasters, or subpar hosting services. It’s much better if your downtime can be scheduled and prepared for.

That said, even scheduled downtime for maintenance, upgrades, and other necessities should be kept to a minimum so as not to disrupt traffic, make a negative impression on visitors, or raise the ire of search engine web crawlers that determine your rankings. Here are a few tips to help you perform site upgrades with minimal downtime.

Proper Planning

This is step number one. You may not be able to make every site upgrade seamless, but with proper planning and execution you can definitely minimize downtime, or at least minimize the impact of scheduled downtime.

When you start the upgrade process, well before you’re ready to implement changes, you should be thinking about how you’re going to create processes that minimize downtime. This means having proper infrastructure in place to make the transitions as seamless as possible, as well as building upgrades that can be implemented with expedience in mind.

Waiting to address this concern until the last minute could leave you with unavoidable downtime – or the prospect of wasting time reconfiguring your strategy for implementation. Neither is a desirable outcome, which is why the planning process is so important.

Frequent Updates

It’s inevitable that you’re going to have to make changes to your website, whether you’re updating product pages, adding new blog entries, completely revamping your site, or even undertaking a server migration. Some updates will require little or no downtime while others could entail extensive downtime, even with proper planning.

Aside from having resources available to limit downtime during transitions and upgrades, you need to think about how frequently you want to upgrade your site. With regular updates, you may be able to limit downtime to just a few minutes spread out here and there, rather than several hours at a stretch to complete a backlog of updates.

This is important not necessarily because it reduces downtime, but because it decreases the impact of your downtime. This could also be accomplished by scheduling planned downtime during low-traffic periods. However, limiting downtime to several small chunks in a given month or year could increase availability to both visitors and search bots.

Suppose a consumer tries to visit your site and finds it unavailable due to downtime. If downtime is brief, they may hit the refresh button once or twice and find that your site is now available. And search bots may not even notice your downtime, or not as they would with extended periods of inaccessibility.

This is all part of weighing the risks of downtime and scheduling appropriately to not only reduce downtime, but the impact it has as well.

Backups

There is always the possibility of the worst case scenario – that something should go wrong during upgrades and you lose data needed to get back up and running. You need to be prepared for this possibility by creating a virtual save point for your online operations.

This means creating a backup of your website and all related data before your planned downtime begins. This way if something goes wrong during upgrades/downtime, you can always revert to your most recent backup without losing data or experiencing further downtime as you attempt to fix the problem.

Dual Servers

Okay, this is a bit extreme for most small companies, but it is does provide for a virtually seamless solution to the problem of downtime during upgrades. If you’re planning a full-scale server migration, this step is absolutely essential, but for your average upgrade it might be overkill.

The idea here is to keep your site up and running on one server while you perform upgrades on a mirror server. When the upgrades are complete, you switch over to the upgraded site. If all goes as planned, you should experience zero downtime by this method.

The biggest problem, naturally, is cost. Hosting two servers simultaneously can be pretty expensive and it’s probably not feasible for most businesses. However, for major moves that will require extensive downtime, it could be a good temporary solution.

Smaller businesses working with tight budgets may want to consider lower-cost alternatives like using multiple IP addresses or virtualizing their servers. With a little finagling, these methods could produce similar results at less cost.

Comparing Internal Vs. External Website Monitoring

Any business that relies on the power of its website knows that monitoring is often the difference between minimal downtime and an extended outage. Neither is good in today’s fast-paced marketplace, but the former is definitely preferable over the latter.

Website monitoring ensures that your site or application is running at peak performance by auditing connectivity, DNS records, bandwidth speeds, and load testing under various traffic conditions along with other important metrics. Monitoring is focused on keeping your site or application operating without interruption by detecting problems before they arise and addressing them quickly when they do.

Many of these services will also rate the efficiency of your site against others to track things like memory use, page load time, processing speeds, and so on, so your site is working just as quickly and effectively as possible. That’s one of the many reasons monitoring is important; it helps you maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Like any important decision involving the success of your enterprise, you have options that you’ll want to consider when selecting the right type of service for your particular needs. You have two choices, internal or external monitoring. Both will work hard to keep your site running properly 24/7, but each has distinct advantages that are well-suited for certain types of sites and server capabilities. Let’s take a look at the two different types that are available.

Internal Monitoring

This version is done from within your server. It runs inside your company firewall and offers real time updates of the strength and well-being of your system. The service tracks all of your pertinent metrics like memory usage, disk space, CPU load, page load times, and all related processes. It will let you know when you’re running out of available memory and monitor network traffic on your server.

One of the biggest advantages of internal monitoring is having a clear picture of the health of your system. The service can keep a running tally for all the statistics of your server’s performance, giving you the ability to look ahead and see the problems that might arise before they happen. These can include issues like needing to add extra disk capacity or run necessary maintenance protocols, so you can schedule that vital upkeep with enough early warning to your customers that there will be some short yet necessary downtime on your site. Being able to get ahead of things such as these are a smart way to operating a successful website.

There are some drawbacks however, the main one being the nature of an “internal” service. Everything contained in the software of your server is running together, so when the server goes down guess what happens to your monitoring capability? That’s right, you won’t know there’s an outage until you realize it yourself, which leaves you vulnerable to experiencing significant downtime during peak hours.

External Monitoring

Think of external monitoring as a safety net. This type of service is done outside of your corporate firewall and offers all of the same tracking capabilities of your memory, load times, usage, and so forth. In addition, external services can check a whole range of other areas such as the operational integrity of various ports along the network, URL content, response times and behavioral patterns.

Perhaps the most advantageous element of external monitoring over internal is the ability to keep working even when the server goes down. If a problem is detected, no matter how small or catastrophic, the service will continue to monitor the system and remain able to diagnose the reason for an interruption. Then it will contact you in whatever method you have arranged, text message, phone call, email, all of them if you like, and you’ll know the second when something has gone awry. That way you can get started on fixing the problem immediately and minimize your downtime as much as possible.

Some external monitors will even work to solve the issue for you, which can be a relief since the very service that has been made aware of the interruption is now on the job to eliminate it and get your server running at peak performance once again. This means peace of mind for you and less downtime for your business website.

Mitigating the Effects of Website Downtime

Website downtime can be a real momentum killer for your business. When your website isn’t working properly it can mean lost revenue, decreased productivity, brand damage, and might even result in your Google rankings being adversely affected. Downtime of any duration is bad, unfortunately, it’s also inevitable. It can hit the big guy and little guy alike, major companies like Amazon, Facebook, even Google, are prone to outages. The difference is found in how these companies mitigate the problem to make the unavoidable less detrimental to the success of their enterprise.

The first thing to keep in mind is the cost of downtime and accepting that it will happen to you at some point in the future. The business owner who doesn’t prepare accordingly is only asking for trouble; sticking your head in the sand ready only to “cross that bridge if you come to it” is a recipe for disaster.

If you know it’s coming then there are some important steps that should be taken now, so the extent of your imminent outage is minimized to the least amount of downtime possible.

Know the Risks

Accepting the inevitable means knowing the risks that exist with respect to downtime. There are a number of reasons why a website or server can stop working. Hardware fails, software stops working, routers get reconfigured, files can become corrupted and viruses that invade your system can all cause your site to go offline. Then you have the scheduled maintenance that comes with any server or hosting service.

You can’t avoid that downtime if you want your site working at peak performance. When it comes to the components that comprise your network, take precautions with redundancy, security management, data backup and any other pertinent safeguards that might be exclusive to the size and needs of your system.

Human Error

It’s a fact of life, the human element can and will manage to muck up the works in some capacity. That’s just who we are, folks. But you can mitigate our involvement by taking steps to make sure the people who are working in close proximity to your server are well trained and fully knowledgeable of that system.

This could mean hiring a service that has excellent standing in the marketplace to run the operation and keeping your own employees fully apprised of how your server(s) works, especially if everything is done internally.

Good Monitoring

Website monitoring is a valuable component to mitigating the effects of downtime. Not only do these services track and audit all of the necessary processes and elements of a properly working server but they can alert you to any potential problems that could threaten to interrupt the network.

You have the choice of internal monitoring, which is done behind your corporate firewall and works within the system, or external monitoring, which involves a third-party keeping your network fully operational.

The drawback with internal monitoring is that if your server fails the monitoring often fails with it, so it’s no longer working to alert you if there’s a problem. External doesn’t have that issue, the company safeguarding the integrity of your network is on-call at all times and will contact you if there’s an interruption.

Get Insured

Most forms of risk have some type of insurance associated with them to minimize your exposure in the event of calamity. The same goes for IT downtime. These insurance policies can vary in coverage necessity depending upon the nature of the company and the importance of a website or similar portal to the success of that business. A website that plays a vital role in generating revenue of any kind will likely be a strong candidate for coverage.

Devise a Plan

You know that downtime is inevitable and you’ve taken all the necessary precautions and preparatory actions to mitigate the potential damage. But what about after that downtime has occurred? Devising a plan for recovery can be just as important as making plans to deal with the downtime itself.

Detecting the problem and fixing it is only part of the story; contacting all of the affected parties such as vendors, company personnel, and customers, repairing the issues to avoid similar problems from repeating themselves, and securing all sensitive data are just a few portions of any good recovery operation. Make sure you have one in place so your business is back on its feet quickly.

Top 5 Reasons Why Your Website Could Experience Downtime

In business, downtime is unavoidable. Even restaurants have to close occasionally to fumigate or deep clean, so it’s no great shock that websites sometimes suffer from downtime as well. However, it’s important to differentiate between planned downtime and service blackouts.

When you plan downtime for maintenance or upgrades to your website, you have the opportunity to inform users well in advance and even post a redirect page for visitors that explains why your website is temporarily out of service. With service blackouts, there is no warning and no explanation – users are simply unable to access your website.

While there are certainly times when such downtime is faultless, there are also occasions when service outages could have been avoided. By understanding why downtime occurs, you have the opportunity to prevent it.

As a responsible business owner, you should always use a web monitoring service that will notify you when your site goes down so you can respond immediately, as well as provide reports that help you to pinpoint the problems. However, you should also be aware of the most common causes of downtime so that you can try to avoid them. Here are a few you should know about.

1. Unreliable Web Hosting Service

Many web hosts realize the concern their clients have about downtime. When you’re searching for a suitable web host, you’re likely to find all kinds of claims about how little downtime users experience. A common promise is that you’ll have service 99% of the time.

This sounds pretty reliable until you start crunching some numbers. 99% uptime equates to about seven hours of downtime each month, which equals about three and a half days each year that your site won’t have service. If you’re running a business, this number is unacceptable.

It’s like randomly closing the doors to a retail store three days a year without informing customers. Can you imagine how upset you’d be if you went to your grocery store during business hours and the store was closed with no explanation? What if it was a store you were visiting for the first time? You’d probably never go back.

You don’t want this situation with your website, which means you need a reliable web host. In all honesty, a site that actually delivers service 99.9% of the time is about the best you’re going to get. There’s just no getting around the fact that things happen that even a solid web host cannot anticipate or combat.

2. DNS Issues

DNS stands for Domain Name Server and the easiest way to explain it is to equate it to a phone call. When someone dials a phone number, the signal is routed to the appropriate receiver and the person you’re tying to reach hears their phone ring.

DNS is the system that recognizes website names and then identifies corresponding IP addresses and routes to them, ensuring that people typing in your web domain or clicking links to your site are directed to the appropriate landing page. So what can go wrong?

A lot, as it turns out. DNS issues are not at all uncommon. When you register your domain, the vendor you purchase it from should configure your DNS.

However, when you make changes to your website, there’s always the possibility that you could accidentally enter incorrect information or use incorrect settings, potentially messing with the DNS and causing problems for users.

3. Software Compatibility Issues

Building and maintaining a website requires a variety of software solutions. Even if they’re purported to be compatible, there could still be issues with programs fighting for dominance. Or the plug-ins you use could end up being incompatible, just for example.

The result could be pages that don’t load or even complete website failure. Either way, you need to correct the conflict or you could suffer ongoing issues with downtime.

4. Hackers

Hackers may attack you in various ways, by insinuating viruses or malware into your system to wreak havoc, by using spyware to steal information, or by outright breaking in. The result could be damage to your website, punctuated by downtime.

Hackers may go after any business, large or small. Luckily, you can protect against hackers with a proper web application firewall and antivirus/anti-spyware/anti-malware programs.

5. Natural Disasters

Okay, this is not as likely as, say, an unreliable web host, but natural disasters definitely occur and they can knock out service to particular regions or even take down the servers that are hosting your website. The best bet to avoid this is to select a web host that has back-up servers in another location just for such occurrences.

How to Proactively Monitor Your Site Uptime

Traditionally, businesses have relied on customers visiting stores in order to purchase goods or services. This meant having posted business hours and ensuring that the store was open on time to welcome customers.

These days the internet has significantly changed the way many companies conduct their business operations. Certainly brick-and-mortar stores are still popular, but many businesses have also embraced the 24/7 access offered by the internet.

Your business can make sales at all hours of the day and service consumers across the globe thanks to websites and secure online shopping carts. Of course, this system does require your site to be available, and for this you will have to rely on a web hosting service.

Unfortunately, these services are not always reliable. As a business owner, you need to know when downtime occurs and how long it lasts so that you can assess the impact to your business and find out if you need to switch to a more reliable service provider.

How can you be proactive when it comes to monitoring website uptime? Here are a few steps every business owner should take.

Visit Frequently

How often do you look at your own website? Unless you’re making changes, the answer could be infrequently. If you want to have any idea of what your customers are complaining about, it behooves you to visit your website at least daily to make sure it’s up and running and note loading times.

You should also ask employees to check in periodically throughout the day, both on computers and mobile devices. With input from a variety of sources you can gain at least some idea of what’s going on with your website and whether it might be suffering from frequent or prolonged episodes of downtime and inaccessibility.

Know When Scheduled Downtime Will Occur

This is an important factor. For one thing, you’re likely to schedule your own downtime for maintenance and updates, preferably during the slowest times of the day, and you should inform subscribers in advance and post a redirect to an explanation page while the site is down. You don’t want to alienate visitors or else they may never visit your website again.

At times, your web hosting service may also schedule downtime for similar reasons (maintenance, upgrades, etc.). A good host will inform you well in advance so that you, in turn, can make appropriate preparations to inform your customers. You can even schedule your maintenance to coincide with your web host.

Hire a Monitoring Service

There are steps you can take on your own to monitor website uptime, but if you really want to know what’s going on around the clock you need to hire some outside help. The good news is that it’s not hard to find reliable monitoring services to do the heavy lifting for you.

What do these professional services provide? Not only do they offer consistent monitoring of your website with frequent check-ins to make sure your site is up and running, but they also check it from several different geographic locations to ensure that it is accessible not only locally, but also via domestic and international portals.

In addition, these tests may be synchronized to allow for verification across multiple locations and provide further data about where and when downtime is occurring. The resulting data can help you to determine whether the problem lies with your web host or with specific portals.

Some services are free and some offer paid subscriptions that include additional features. Most monitoring companies offer both options as a means of providing solutions for businesses large and small.

Request Reporting and Alerts

Although there are many options to choose from when you’re interested in hiring a service to monitor your website uptime, you need to look for a vendor that provides two main things: reporting and alerts. For starters, you need regular feedback that includes actionable data.

Ideally, your site will suffer from little or no downtime, but if it does occur, you need to know the particulars, the when and why, so that you can take appropriate corrective action. Alerts are also a must.

A good monitoring service will provide you with immediate alerts concerning downtime via email, or text, for example, so that you can respond in record time. This service is essential to making the most of your third-party website monitoring service.

The True Cost to Your Business When Your Server Goes Down

It’s happened. You just received a call from one of your IT employees that a server has gone down. It’s non-responsive and nobody knows what caused the problem. What is that down time going to cost you?

The answer is: it depends.

To calculate how much it costs you when your server goes down, you’re going to need to put on your bean counter’s hat, open up a spreadsheet, and calculate the figures based on a number of factors.

What Kind of Server Went Down?

The first thing you need to know is what kind of server went down. Was it an email server and nothing else? If that’s the case, then your email communications were interrupted. That could be a big problem, though, if you run a support shop that relies heavily on email communication.

Was it a web server that went down? If so, then your website might have been unavailable for a while. That’s almost always a huge a problem, but it’s even worse if you’re running an e-commerce company with no retail outlet.

Was it an analytics server that went down? If so, then your employees can’t crunch numbers to provide you with business-driven intelligence that feed your overall company strategy.

Regardless of which type server was disrupted and down, you will immediately feel the pain in lost opportunity cost as well as employee efficiency. The calculations for determining the exact cost of a down time vary significantly depending on the server’s primary use.

How Long Was the Server Down?

The next question you need to ask before you can calculate the cost of the down time is: how long was the server down? If it was down for just a few minutes, then maybe it’s not even worth calculating the cost of the down time at all. However, if it was down for an hour, three hours, or eight hours, you probably want to know the very painful truth about how much that down time has cost your business.

Calculating the Cost

Once you know the nature of the server and the length of the down time, you can begin to calculate the cost.

If it was a server that employees used, then you want to know how much you paid your employees to essentially do nothing. If the combined salaries of the three people who use that server amount to $300,000 per year and the server was down for two hours and no one could do their jobs, then the calculation is fairly straightforward. Let’s assume that the employees each work 2,000 hours per year. This effectively means that you’re paying each employee $50 per hour. The server was down for two hours, so you lost six “man-hours” because there were three employees who couldn’t do their jobs. At $50 per hour, you lost $300.

If the server was an e-commerce server, then you need to calculate the number of orders lost during the period that the server was down. The best way to do that is to use comparable sales figures from similar time periods. For example, if the server went down on Tuesday from 2PM to 3PM, then look at how much sales your company typically earns on Tuesdays that aren’t holidays between 2PM and 3PM. That’s the cost of the lost business.

If you lost an email server for a while and your company relies heavily on email traffic for customer relations and support, then the cost is a little harder to quantify. In that case, you’ve certainly lost some good will because customers are angry that they didn’t receive prompt replies to their emails. If you know for sure how many customers you’ve lost because of the down time, calculate the income that you would have received if they had remained loyal customers. It will not be a pretty figure.

Keep in mind that all of these calculations don’t even include the cost to fix the server, if any was incurred. You’ll need to include that cost as well.

There is a reason why redundancy is a great idea in engineering. Technical problems can and will occur. In many cases, those problems can be very costly. While it’s great to know what it costs your business when a server goes down, it’s even better to take proactive steps to ensure that you have proper backups.

Best Practices to Avoid Online Data Breaches

data-breachIT and cyber security are growing fields for one main reason: the prevalence of data breaches. Even large companies aren’t immune – you need only look at mega-corporations like Sony and Target, health insurance providers like Anthem Blue Cross, and even the U.S. government to see that data security is a universal issue. For small businesses the problem is even worse. Although larger, more prestigious companies are more likely to have a target on their back for data breaches, malicious mischief, and identity theft, smaller businesses definitely make for easier pickings because they don’t have the same level of security that larger corporations can afford. In addition, many small businesses are woefully uninformed about how to protect their online interests. Fortunately, there is no shortage of resources available to help business owners learn about cyber security and find the best means of securing their online operations. Considering a data breach could result in any number of undesirable outcomes, including theft of sensitive employee or client data, destruction or corruption of data, government penalties, and ultimately, loss of reputation and clientele, you want to do all you can to protect your company from outside attacks. Here are some of the best practices to enact if you want to avoid online data breaches.

Properly Destroy Hard Copies

When it comes to protecting your company in the online arena, your first thoughts may not be of the data on paper copies floating around your office. However, it’s not uncommon for industrious thieves to go dumpster diving in search of that very information. After all, your paper waste can be a lot easier to access than a well-protected network. Even if you shred your documents in-office, thieves could still grab the leftovers and piece them back together. Your best bet here is to hire a mobile shredding service that offers locking bins for your office, on-site shredding while you watch, and removal and recycling of paper waste. This will provide you with the most secure means of hard copy destruction.

Web Application Firewall

Just like you have a firewall and antivirus/anti-spyware programs in place to protect your internal network, you need to take steps to protect your website as well. This is most easily accomplished by starting with a web application firewall designed to identify and block attacks on your website. There are several ways to implement this system, such as through dedicated hardware, server plugins, and so on. But these days many businesses are electing to use a cloud hosted service for the task in order to save time, money, and space.

Password Protection

Whether you’re creating a system of passwords for consumers to use when accessing your website and their online accounts or you’re working to protect your internal network and database, unique username and password combinations are a great way to prevent data breaches. Of course, you need to make sure that you exercise due diligence when it comes to creating the most effective system. For example, passwords need to be strong enough to withstand attack, and they may need to be changed frequently. In addition, you need to institute rules for employees concerning penalties for sharing passwords, as well as guidelines for customers about not using the same username and passwords that they’ve used for other websites.

Employee Training

Believe it or not, some of the biggest threats to your organization could come from within if you fail to train employees to behave appropriately when operating online. Training courses should include standard policies related to avoiding dangerous websites and suspicious emails and links, as well as sharing private information like passwords. However, you might want to take additional precautions, like utilizing web-filtering software to limit access to websites that are known threats.

Monitoring and Maintenance

These two activities are becoming more and more important. Not only do businesses need to make sure that hardware and software are updated regularly to feature the latest security measures, but they should also track usage, down time, and other aspects of online operations in order to spot potential threats and stop them before they result in disaster. While a dedicated IT staff can manage such tasks, small businesses might be more inclined to hire third-party service providers. This can actually cut costs and increase productivity because of the expertise and cutting-edge equipment and programs these vendors can provide.

Ways Your Site Downtime Can Be Costing Your Company Money

downtime-moneyYou don’t have to look far to find statistics related to the effects of website downtime – many claim that businesses lose tens of billions of dollars annually due to websites being unreachable. On a company-by-company basis, the numbers will differ, with larger businesses that suffer downtime having greater potential for loss. Unfortunately, downtime cannot be entirely avoided. For example, websites require some amount of scheduled downtime for maintenance and upgrades on a fairly regular basis. Even if you anticipate this occurrence and you take steps to inform users and minimize inconvenience, it will still cost you on some level.

As a small business owner it can be difficult to calculate the actual costs of website downtime since it is impossible to know what you’re missing out on when your site is offline and inaccessible to customers and potential visitors. However, with tracking you can get an idea of possible losses due to downtime during certain seasons or certain times of day. You first need to understand the ways in which you could be losing revenue and potential revenue when you suffer downtime, whether it is scheduled or unanticipated.

Sales

One of the easiest costs to calculate is lost sales due to downtime. While there is no way to know definitively the number of sales or amount of potential revenue lost when your website is inaccessible to customers, you can probably make a pretty close estimate for the time frame of the outage based on past sales data. This, of course, will not help you to measure the loss of potential future sales based on prospective customers finding (or not finding) your site for the first time, disgruntled patrons, and even word of mouth.

New Customers

Businesses that want to continue increasing earnings need to constantly work to expand their customer base and encourage repeat visits and purchases. This means catering to new customers. Think about this: how would you react if you were searching for goods or services online and stumbled across a website that wouldn’t load? Would you wait and try again or simply go back to your search query and click the next link for a competitor website? Internet shoppers are a fickle bunch, and they can afford to be with so many options to choose from. As a business, downtime can have a significant negative impact on your ability to bring in new clientele.

Customer Loyalty

Customers that have been satisfied with your products and services in the past are more likely to allow for a slipup when it comes to website accessibility. But if you suffer from frequent outages, you’re likely to lose even loyal customers in the process. Consumers want companies that offer convenience and reliability. They may only have to find your website down once or twice before they start seeking services elsewhere.

Reputation

It is extremely difficult to calculate the cost of a waning reputation. One thing is certain, though, when you suffer frequent and/or extended downtime, you’re likely to develop a bad reputation as a result, and users aren’t shy about voicing their displeasure via consumer review sites, directories, social media, and so on. If enough people post negative comments about your business, it could be the first thing prospective customers find when searching for you. This can definitely prevent sales and patronage, which could cost you an astonishing amount in lost revenue.

Morale

It’s easy to pinpoint the ways in which downtime affects consumers, and subsequently, sales. But what about losses related to productivity? When employees are constantly fielding emails, calls, and other correspondence related to downtime, staff morale can be affected. Everyone wants to work for a company that is beloved and that they can take pride in. As morale decreases, so too can productivity, which can equate to profit loss.

Disaster Recovery

Your reaction to downtime is likely to cost you. To some degree you’ll have to go into disaster recovery mode, mitigating losses by assuaging loyal customers, offering discounts and freebies, switching service providers or upgrading to more suitable service packages, and potentially hiring an online reputation management specialist to clean up your image.

Solutions

Finding the right web host can go a long way toward rectifying issues with downtime. You can also do your best to plan scheduled downtime when it will cause the least amount of potential loss, as well as providing ample warning to customers so they aren’t surprised when your site is offline for maintenance or upgrades. In addition, it’s probably best to hire a monitoring service to alert you immediately when your website is inaccessible, allowing you the opportunity to get up and running again before any damage can be done.

How Website Monitoring Can Improve Employee Productivity

website-monitoringMeasuring success and productivity within a business organization used to rely on end results. These days there is software to monitor everything from keystrokes to the amount of time a computer has been idle in order to generate reports for employers to gauge how much their employees really accomplish in a day. While small businesses might not necessarily be interested in becoming “Big Brother” and watching every move their employees make, you certainly need to consider the fact that certain programs and practices, such as website monitoring, can serve to increase security and make your employees more productive and your business more profitable.

What is website monitoring? Website monitoring is the examination of a company’s website performance, including uptime, outages, functionality, and usage, to ensure users have optimal and expected interaction with a site. Today businesses can take advantage of several different types of monitoring software or services. For example, you can hire a company to monitor and inform you of downtime on your own website, helping you to better serve customers that wish to access your website or their online accounts with your business. There are also a variety of tools that can track network usage by employees in order to spot dangerous or merely inappropriate behavior so that you can find ways to reduce threats and increase productivity.

You can implement such IT solutions yourself if you happen to have an in-house IT staff. If you can’t afford this pricy addition to your head count, however, it’s probably best to hire a third-party managed services provider that offers website monitoring, as well as web filtering (or content control). It’s not always enough to be aware of what your employees are doing on your network – you may also have to take steps to restrict their access so as to reduce the potential for data breaches, not to mention the many distractions the internet can provide.

How does website monitoring work? It starts with tracking network usage. With the appropriate software solutions, you can begin to see patterns in usage and pinpoint anomalies. You may, for example, find that you often experience lag and down time when using your network. A monitoring service could provide you with the data and analysis needed to realize that certain employees are hogging bandwidth during the day by streaming music or videos. When you are aware of such behavior you can put a stop to it, increasing the speed of your network and improving potential productivity.

Monitoring can also help you to spot outside attacks. Many systems and services offer alerts that let you know when your system is down or under attack, allowing you to more quickly put a stop to data breaches and the damage they can cause. In terms of productivity, there are few things worse than data breaches, not only because of theft, corruption, or destruction of files, but also due to the response activities that will follow, including investigation, increased security, cleanup, and notifications of the breach; all can slow your workflow to a crawl.

Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what monitoring software and services can help you accomplish. In addition to watching and reporting on employee activity, the right monitoring solutions can also help to curb wasteful habits. This is where web-filtering programs come into play. Such software is designed not only to track network usage, but to restrict or block access to sites that could pose a threat to security. Some produce a warning message when users are about to visit a dangerous website or click a spammy link. Others outright forbid such activity and stop the user from proceeding.

Such software can also be used to deny access to websites of your choosing. If you don’t want employees spending all day on Facebook and other social networking sites, all you have to do is block them. When you remove such temptations and time wasters, you stand to increase employee productivity by a significant margin. Although you want to trust your employees to behave responsibly while they’re on the clock, you also have to behave in a responsible manner if you want your business to be profitable. This could mean not only keeping an eye on network usage, but also implementing measures to ensure that your employees follow company policies regarding proper behavior on the company network and the company dime.