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 Google Accounts for Your Website’s Downtime

google-76517_640Google continues to dominate the search market, claiming somewhere in the neighborhood of two-thirds of all search traffic on the web (with Bing/Yahoo coming in at a distant second). This is great news for the company that spends its time and money on innovations like the self-driving car and a loony project to create a literal sky-net of balloons floating in the stratosphere to relay satellite signals and provide internet access to the entire planet (like a benevolent Big Brother).

For businesses trying to make an impact in the online arena, this merely means pandering to Google’s every whim and algorithm update. It wasn’t that long ago, really, that monthly indexing by search bots sent webmasters into paroxysms of fear. If a web crawler found a site unavailable, the reaction was immediate and difficult to reverse.

Eventually Google realized the unfair demand being placed on businesses…or maybe they changed their algorithms and practices for an entirely different reason and the result was a happy byproduct for online businesses. Either way, an increase in Google’s web crawling activity a couple of years back gave websites a little more latitude concerning downtime.

So what can businesses expect these days? How does Google now account for website downtime? Here are a few things you should know.

Google’s Perspective

If you want to know how Google will react to website downtime you need to try to look at it from their point of view. They don’t know why your site is down, and they don’t care. To them it doesn’t matter if you’re practicing regular maintenance, you’re having server issues, or you picked a subpar web host.

Google is running a business, like you, and they want to provide the best possible service to their customers. To this end they’ve set up complex algorithms designed to reward the highest-quality content by placing it at the top of the list for related search queries.

If your website is unavailable, by definition you cannot be the best option for customers seeking information or access to goods and services. This is the perspective Google has to adopt in order to keep their own customers happy.

How Much Downtime is Too Much?

According to a 2014 missive from Google’s preeminent engineer, Matt Cutts, websites will no longer be penalized for short periods of downtime. Being down for a few hours or a day when web crawlers come to call is okay. Letting your website take a 2-week vacation – not so much.

Of course, there’s a pretty wide gray area between one day and two weeks. Here’s what happens. When one of Google’s bots checks your site and finds it down, the crawler will return within 24 hours to check back, and continue checking. If you’re having sporadic downtime and the bot finds you up and running the second time around, you won’t be penalized.

If, on the other hand, your site remains unavailable after repeated attempts, the bots will be unable to index your site, which will produce increasingly negative consequences for your rankings.

Possible Repercussions

When your website is down and Google’s bots can’t access it, you’re going to find that a couple of things happen in short order. First, you’ll get a notice from Google telling you that your site is inaccessible. Then your rankings will plummet as repeated attempts to access your website fail.

This could be temporary. If you’re able to get your site back up and running in short order, say within a couple of days, you should be able to rebound rather quickly. Google is not trying to penalize legitimately good websites that are suffering temporary issues with downtime.

On the other hand, extended or repeated bouts of downtime can have cumulative results that ultimately end with your website being delisted. Coming back from that snafu is no picnic.

Regaining Your Footing

If you have proper monitoring software in place you’ll recover from unplanned downtime pretty quickly, and if you are able to pinpoint and address the issue promptly you’ll suffer no consequences where Google is concerned. Extended downtime is another matter. So what can you do if Google strips you of your ranking and ultimately ousts you from the index?

Unfortunately, you may be stuck clawing your way back to the top of the heap. Regaining your former rankings after extensive downtime could take months of work, especially if Google has gone so far as to remove your site from their index. If the worst comes to pass and your site is de-listed, you’ll simply have to roll up your sleeves and virtually start over.

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.

Ensuring Your E-Commerce Site Stays Up over the Holidays

The holidays herald an uptick in traffic, and not just on the highways and in the airport. With more and more people avoiding Black Friday crowds and electing to do their holiday shopping from the comfort of home, many e-commerce sites are being bombarded by traffic from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. If your site suffers downtime during this crucial sales season, you could miss out on major opportunities to make sales and impress prospective customers.

There’s no denying that website downtime can cost you. While you might not suffer the same losses as a mega-corporation like Best Buy, Amazon, or Macy’s, you could still see prospective losses numbering in the thousands of dollars should your e-commerce site crash for any length of time. You’ll not only lose sales, but you could also irreparably damage relationships with customers. Online shoppers can be fickle, and it only takes one blackout on your site to send them running to competitors.

The good news is that you can take steps to decrease the potential for downtime, catch problems early, and plan accordingly so that you’re back up and running before anyone has noticed a service interruption on your site. Here are some tips and tricks to ensure a hassle-free holiday season where your e-commerce site is concerned.

Assess Your Hosting Service

If you’ve had trouble with downtime in the past, now may be the time to consider switching to a more reliable hosting service. You’re probably not going to find a web host that guarantees up time, but you should be able to find vendors that offer some kind of plan to deal with unscheduled downtime, and possibly even reparations should you suffer excessive downtime.

It’s also a good idea to consider a vendor that offers managed hosting services. These professionals can not only host your website, but they can also offer you cloud storage and off-site data back-up, as well as system maintenance, network monitoring, and management. You’ll pay for these additional services, but it might be worth it to avoid downtime and keep consumers happy during the busiest shopping season of the year.

Scale Up

Most businesses plan to increase products and sales during the holiday season when consumers are spending like crazy. This could mean adding more pages to your website and/or your online store, as well as fielding requests for new memberships. As a result, you may need more storage space than you currently have.

In addition, you need to prepare for an increase in traffic and online sales, which could mean increasing your bandwidth to accommodate more customers. The right web host will offer the scalable solutions your business needs to account for a bump in holiday traffic and sales.

Beef Up Security

Nothing will affect your uptime more than hackers sneaking in and wreaking havoc with your website, so it’s best to examine your security to determine if you need an upgrade. There are several steps you can take to increase security.

You probably already have basics like a web application firewall and some kind of encryption in place, as well as a password system for employees and customers to log in securely. However, you may be able to do more.

For example, you could require strong passwords and prompt users to change passwords periodically to reduce the chance of hackers cracking passwords. You should also implement a system that wipes out all fields if a username or password is entered incorrectly (instead of leaving a correct username in place and making a hacker’s job that much easier).

You can also ask your managed services provider to monitor and report back on usage as a way to ensure that you know immediately when improper usage is occurring, signaling a breach.

Hire a Monitoring Service

Comprehensive managed services providers can be expensive – too expensive for some businesses. There is an equally appealing option, though, that will save you some money and help you to minimize downtime. You can hire a monitoring service to let you know immediately when your site is down.

An appropriate service can monitor several different aspects of your online operations, alert you when downtime occurs, and provide you with detailed reports to help you avoid downtime in the future. All of this is designed to minimize downtime and help you better manage your website during the holidays, and throughout the year.

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.

Cloud Services and Your Site’s Uptime: What You Need to Know

If your website struggles with server lags or occasional downtime issues, it can hinder your biz. But if your site becomes inaccessible without your knowledge, you may end up facing a much harsher set of consequences: lost revenue, disappearing data, angry customers – or worse. Moreover, nothing gives a website a bad rep in an industry like frequent outages and server slowdowns.

These are all great reasons to employ a website uptime monitoring service. However, you should also stay on top of the actual factors that could potentially lead to website downtime. Of course, there’s the obvious stuff: keeping an eye out for traffic spikes, staying up-to-date with your server status, and routinely checking for errors or other on-site issues.

Here’s what most webmasters don’t know: cloud services have the unique ability to disrupt a website’s otherwise smooth uptime track record. It’s a newer problem, so it’s been largely ignored. Recently, however, a few well-known websites have done an excellent job of bringing some much-needed attention to the matter.

Cloud Services: Risky for Your Website

Read Write recently published an excellent write-up about cloud services, and the author expertly laid out the mechanics of their effect on website uptime. He pointed out that a great many websites rely heavily upon external (cloud) services. Think apps such as social media feeds, advertising plugins, or even third-party analytics. If any one of these cloud services happen to punk out, your website could pay dearly in the form of slow loading speeds, empty pages, or even by going offline.

The article pointed to the recent (and now infamous) Amazon and GoDaddy site downtime incidents that triggered a wave of panic and lost revenue following the blackout last year. Sites such as these are considered “too big to fail,” but at the end of the day, they’re just websites like yours. As their unexpected downtime proved, outages can happen to the big guns, too. It doesn’t matter how well known the company behind the cloud service on your site may be – if it crashes, you could still go down with the ship.

In the piece, readers were also reminded about an incident back in May that stemmed from the widespread use of a defective Facebook “Like” button. When webmasters attempted to add the button to one of their pages, it would prevent the entire page from loading for visitors.

Don’t Shortchange Your Customers

Over at Modernize, Ryan Hughes recently mused about where exactly the blame should fall for massive cloud service outages like these. He suggests that webmasters may be lured into a false sense of security by the brand names behind all those questionable cloud apps. Many make the mistake of failing to properly investigate the mechanics of the tools before plugging them into their sites.

Further, he wonders whether webmasters themselves seek to use free services simply to cut costs and have someone to blame when the lights go out. This, he notes, would be much simpler (and cheaper!) than creating and implementing their own apps for their own websites.

Key Takeaways for Your Site

According to Read Write’s article, the bottom line is this: as a webmaster, you should always have your finger on the pulse of your website. This means understanding all the moving parts – including third-party plugins and cloud services. What’s more, you should know where these services originate from and put in the hard work of investigating the source’s security strength and operational fortitude.

Hughes, on the other hand, says your primary concern should be your responsibility to your customers. For him, that translates to investing in your own original apps and services that you’ll be able to monitor and control internally.

No matter which route you choose, remember this: if GoDaddy, Facebook, and Amazon taught us anything last year, it’s that keeping a close eye on your website uptime is especially vital when you’re using cloud apps and services. However, when you’re a busy webmaster, constant uptime monitoring doesn’t exactly fit into your schedule.

That’s exactly why Site Uptime offers 24/7 website uptime monitoring and instant SMS alerts for webmasters. When you implement our monitoring service, you protect the investment you worked so hard to build.

SiteUptime Steps Up in Wake of Major September GoDaddy Outage

Here’s a little proof positive that services like SiteUptime are vital to protecting your website’s online reputation. On September 11, 2012, the worst kind of outage imaginable took place: GoDaddy itself came tumbling down.

Yup, you read that right.

GoDaddy’s website tumbled right off the grid and remained out of service for a period of hours that Monday in an attack of unprecedented proportions. That meant that many of the 10.5 million webmasters using the Internet mega-company to host their sites were rendered impotent as they waited (impatiently) for the lights to come back on at GoDaddy HQ. GoDaddy’s official website was also unreachable during the attack.

What Happened, in a Nutshell

The legendary Internet hacking group Anonymous initially took credit for the alleged Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. The security leader of the group, who goes by “Anonymous Own3r” on Twitter, took sole credit for the takedown.

During the chaos, when questioned whether the group was responsible for the attack, Anonymous Own3r tweeted this response:

“@wordwhacker nah it’s not Anonymous coletive the attack is coming just from me.”

After things were restored to (relative) normalcy, GoDaddy released a statement in which it claimed that the outage was in fact not an attack by Anonymous after all:

“Yesterday, GoDaddy.com and many of our customers experienced intermittent service outages starting shortly after 10 a.m. PDT. Service was fully restored by 4 p.m. PDT.

The service outage was not caused by external influences. It was not a “hack” and it was not a denial of service attack (DDoS). We have determined the service outage was due to a series of internal network events that corrupted router data tables. Once the issues were identified, we took corrective actions to restore services for our customers and GoDaddy.com. We have implemented measures to prevent this from occurring again.”

Keeping Watch Over Your Website’s Uptime

Was the attack indeed instigated by Anonymous, or was it simply a result of the “internal issues” that GoDaddy claimed? We may never know, but one thing is certain: outages can happen for a variety of reasons – at any time. Even to the heaviest hitters on the Web like GoDaddy.

That’s why it’s vital to keep watch over your website’s uptime… constantly. Unfortunately, you likely don’t have that kind of time. After all, you’ve got a website to run. That’s why using a service like SiteUptime is critical to protecting your bottom line when future catastrophes like GoDaddy’s inevitably rear their ugly heads.

Site owners using SiteUptime were aware of the problem before their unfortunate peers got wind of things, so they were able to warn customers, take appropriate precautions, and make arrangements before it was too late. The advanced notice likely saved thousands of dollars for those who played it smart and chose to monitor their websites for potential downtime.

Disasters like this will continue to plague the Web for years to come, which is why it’s vital to protect your investment by heading bad guys off at the pass with monitoring services like SiteUptime.