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 Site Downtime Affects SEO Efforts

Every website is going to have some downtime. Hopefully this downtime is anticipated and planned for, such as when you or your web host performs scheduled maintenance and updates. In such instances, you have the opportunity to warn users in advance and even put up temporary placeholders to let visitors know when you’ll be back up and running.

Unfortunately, some amount of unscheduled downtime is also inevitable. You can take steps to avoid common issues like hardware and software failure, as well as human error, and the average business is unlikely to be the target of DoS (denial of service) attacks, but some things are out of your hands. When power outages, natural disasters, and other catastrophes occur, there’s not a lot you can do.

Of course, other issues may be at play. For example, your web hosting could be spotty, resulting in frequent, unscheduled downtime. Or you may not have adequate bandwidth to support the number of visitors to your site.

The good news is that with proper monitoring you can become aware of downtime and the issues causing it so that changes can be made. This is important not only so that visitors and patrons can access your site, but because downtime can have a marked impact on the efficacy of your SEO efforts.

If you’re going to bother spending time and money optimizing, you want to make sure there’s a return on investment. Here are a few ways in which network downtime could affect your SEO efforts.

Loss of Patronage

What is the point of search engine optimization? You want to take steps to ensure that consumers interested in your products or services are able to find you, that they’re able to find you before your competitors, and that they are not only directed your way, but compelled to visit your site, make purchases, and become loyal patrons.

In other words, SEO efforts are intended to increase visibility and encourage patronage. So you’re busily finding ways to funnel customers to your website. Now what if your website isn’t there?

As an online user yourself, you are no doubt familiar with the frustration of trying to visit a website and instead receiving error messages or extended loading screens. What is your response? You may try back again later, especially if you’re a loyal customer; but if this is your first visit, chances are you’ll navigate back to your search query and try the next result.

The point is that site downtime can be extremely damaging when it comes to impressing prospective customers and keeping loyal patrons happy. Your SEO efforts will be for naught if your site is often unavailable to users.

Inaccessibility

Customers aren’t the only ones looking at your website, which is why SEO is so important. If you want to be found by search users, you must first be found by search engines, or more specifically, crawlers that seek information for indexing purposes.

SEO is really designed to make sure you are found by web crawlers. There are complicated algorithms designed to determine how websites are ranked for search purposes. The more information web crawlers can gather on you, the better chance you have to boost your rankings, in a very simplistic sense.

So what happens when your website is inaccessible due to site downtime? If web crawlers look for your site and find it down once in a while, it probably won’t damage your SEO efforts. Search engines realize that site downtime happens and that it’s not always within your control.

What can be damaging is frequent or prolonged downtime. Web crawlers are programmed to recrawl, or check back with pages that are inaccessible. Where you get into trouble is if recrawls result in further inaccessibility.

When this occurs, especially over a prolonged period of time, your page rank will suffer as a result. It’s no surprise – search engines want to make sure they’re promoting the best results in order to keep their own users happy.

Site Speed

Another potential problem area is site speed, which Google admitted plays a role in their algorithms and rankings. With a subpar web host you could not only suffer downtime, but issues with loading speed as well.

It’s important to be aware of both of these factors and take steps to correct them. If you want to see the best results from your SEO efforts, it’s imperative that both web crawlers and consumers are able to access your site in a reliable and expedient manner.

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.

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.

Looking Ahead – Emerging Trends in Web Security for 2016

Thanks to the advent of the Information Age, our lives have been made a lot easier when it comes to compiling, aggregating, and analyzing data. Unfortunately, with that great privilege comes the great responsibility of ensuring that information systems are secure enough to withstand an attack from unethical hackers who seek to cause mayhem, steal data, and/or commit industrial espionage.

In 2016, there will be noticeable trends emerging in web security. Here are a few of them.

Mobile Security Will Gain More Focus

Thanks to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) concept, many employers are allowing employees to connect their own mobile devices to company servers. That makes life easier for the employee, because one device can be used for everything. It also boosts the company’s bottom line because it reduces expenses related to equipment purchases.

However, there’s a trade-off with BYOD. Many people don’t secure their mobile devices as well as they should. As a result, people who gain access to an employee’s mobile device might also gain access to company resources.

In 2016, look for the emergence of companies that specialize in BYOD security for businesses. It’s likely that many of those companies are going to set financial records in the new year.

Multi-Factor Authentication Will Gain Traction

Although your password might be very secure because it’s 14 characters long, includes three symbols, two numbers, and a mix of upper- and lower-case characters, your employer might still not be satisfied. That’s especially true if you work remote.

In 2016, expect to see an increased adoption of multi-factor authentication. That’s a method of logging on to secure systems that requires not just a password, but also some other security measure.

For example, some mutli-factor logons require a digital token to be used in addition to the password. A digital token is typically a number generated by a device that fits on your key chain. You press the button and it gives you a number that expires in 30 seconds or so. You’ll need to use that number in addition to your password to logon to the system. That way, a hacker who has your password can’t logon unless he or she has the token generator from your key chain.

Some multi-factor logins will go the extra mile from there and require biometric identification in addition to the other two factors. We’ve officially become a science fiction movie.

Concerns About Outsourced Code

With the threat of data breaches becoming ever more prevalent, some CIOs might start to consider the possibility that some custom-made software has a back door that can be exploited for hacking purposes.

Remember, companies often outsource their development efforts to save money. However, those outsourced companies could employ unscrupulous individuals as easily as any home-grown shop. The problem is even worse when outsourced contractors have produced software with thousands or tens of thousands of lines of code.

Look for IT management to recommend an “overview” of outsourced code in 2016 to ensure, as much as possible, that it’s free of back door threats.

Big Data Is a Big Headache

IT professionals everywhere love the concept of “big data.” That’s an industry buzz-phrase for a huge database that’s holds massive amounts of data and is used for decision making purposes.

Unfortunately, all that data is a treasure trove of information for unethical hackers. It was unsettling to a lot of American consumers when a hacker gained access to Anthem’s database and the information it held on as many as 80 million Americans. That data repository is what hackers would call a “target-rich environment.”

Look for CIOs to pay special attention to big data security in 2016 as they attempt to minimize threats of a data breach.

A High Demand for Information Security Professionals

If you’re contemplating a career change in IT, give serious thought to becoming an information security professional. It’s very likely that the demand for people who know how to minimize IT risks and put in place proactive measures to offset attacks will be in high demand in 2016 and the years following.

Data security will continue to be a high priority item for upper management in 2016. Too many companies have received bad press because they allowed hackers to gain access to their systems. Now, executives realize that cyber security is just one of many costs of doing business.

What Can You Learn From the Latest Starwood Hotels Data Breach?

Data breaches are a dime a dozen these days. You can’t open a paper or check a newsfeed without coming across some kind of scandal involving a hack in which sensitive user data was stolen. In the last year alone, mega corporations, banks, health insurance providers, and government entities have all been breached by hackers, malware, or other online threats. The climate has become one of “if, not when” a hack will occur, and no one is entirely safe.

The most recent data breach to make headlines involved upscale hotel chain Starwood Hotels, a company that includes Sheraton, Westin, W Hotels, and other luxury brands. Starwood isn’t even the only hotel chain to be hacked this year – both the Mandarin Oriental and The Trump Hotel Collection suffered similar breaches.

So how was Starwood Hotels hacked? The chain admitted that malware had infiltrated point of sale (POS) systems, including payment systems in their gift shops, bars, and other retail areas, and that 54 of their hotels had been subject to attack. Luckily, the malware was not found in the guest registration system, so sensitive personal data related to reservations and Preferred Guest Memberships was not compromised, but the breach may still affect some portion of customers who used debit and credit cards at these locations during a certain date range.

Starwood Hotels announced that the malware discovered could have infected some systems as early as November of 2014. During that time, names, credit card numbers, security codes, and expiration dates (the data on a debit or credit card) were exposed, although PINs and contact information were not. In light of the incident, Starwood has taken steps to rectify the situation and make reparations.

When the breach was discovered, Starwood claims the malware was immediately removed and efforts were made to mitigate damage, including contacting authorities and coordinating with credit and debit organizations. Further, identity protection was offered to affected parties, along with credit monitoring services. Of course, Starwood Hotels has also vowed to increase security.

The problem is that many companies are doing exactly the same dance as Starwood Hotels. They’re waiting until a major data breach occurs to beef up their security and monitoring. Starwood is big enough that this black eye won’t cost them too much – their deal to merge with Marriott International Inc. (for a reported $12.2 billion) looks as though it will proceed. But could a smaller company recover from such a breach? Maybe not.

Companies large and small remain under-protected when it comes to digital security, a point that the Starwood Hotels breach (and other recent incidents) aptly demonstrates. Consumers and credit providers are taking steps to protect their interests, most recently through the use of EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) chips that store and protect user information, as well as create unique transaction codes for every payment.

However, businesses can certainly do more to protect user data, not to mention their own reputations. Starwood may be big enough to weather the storm caused by a data breach, but smaller competitors might not be so lucky. Data breaches can cost companies untold revenue, not only from known costs like security upgrades and reparations, but also from unknown losses related to unsatisfied customers and poor public opinion.

Looking on the bright side, data breaches can force businesses to make necessary changes and upgrades to outdated or subpar security systems. However, companies suffering from such attacks will have to first survive the fallout associated with legally mandated notifications and restitution, not to mention potential lawsuits.

The good news is that businesses can take a lesson from the Starwoods of the world. Starwood Hotels, in particular, could have benefited from some kind of security monitoring. If their admissions are to be believed, their system was infested with malware for approximately a year before they even noticed. Proper monitoring software would likely have caught the breach immediately.

Naturally, there are other steps businesses can take to protect themselves as well, including firewalls, encryptions, strong password policies and programs, and the assistance of a managed services provider, just for example. Hackers can get through a lot, but they’re likely to go for easy targets. Businesses that take preemptive steps on the security front can not only decrease the likelihood of attack, but also reduce the damage done should a data breach occur.

5 Things You Should Be Doing to Keep Your Website Secure

lock-keyIt’s practically impossible to run a business these days without a website. The time when people found you via the Yellow Pages is long gone. Nowadays, the first interaction customers have with businesses is in the online arena, and if they can’t find you online, chances are they’ll find your competitors. Your website acts as the hub of your online operation, providing consumers not only with your location and contact information, but also valuable information about your brand, your products, and your company as a whole.

You can optimize your website to increase your online presence and your chances of driving targeted traffic; and it can act as the base of operations from which to launch a blog, social media profiles, and even an online store. Of course, you need to take steps to secure your website against hackers, malicious code, spyware, and other threats that could be detrimental to your business and even harm your clientele. To this end, there are several precautions you should take.

  1. Start at the beginning. Protecting your website begins with implementing basic strategies intended to build layers of defense. For example, you should start by utilizing a web application firewall, and there are several options to consider. Although you can purchase dedicated hardware and software for this task, many modern business owners are electing to use cloud-based web application firewalls from security as a service (SECaaS) providers that offer security through hosted servers. This is both a convenient and affordable option that allows businesses to benefit from the most up-to-date website security options without having to keep appropriate hardware on site or hire security professionals to maintain the system.
  2. Update regularly. Many programs allow you the option to institute automatic updates, alleviating you of the responsibility to do so. However, this won’t work for every program or piece of equipment you utilize for your business. If you want to ensure security for your website and associated systems, you need to take the necessary steps to remain current with all appropriate software and firmware updates. Otherwise you could miss out on vital fixes needed to protect against new threats.
  3. Utilize passwords. Anyone who accesses your system, from administrators, to employees, to customers, should not only have a username and password, but should be made to utilize the best possible practices where passwords are concerned. This means instituting restrictions that call for strong passwords (i.e. those of 8 or more characters, including alphanumeric characters, upper and lower case, and even symbols), as well as forcing users to create new passwords regularly – say every 2-3 months. Since many hacks and malicious attacks are the result of automated code looking to infiltrate websites via dictionary (or similar) attacks in order to take advantage of mailing lists or engage in identity theft, strong passwords are an essential line of defense. You should also warn users to create different passwords for every site they visit so that if their accounts are hacked elsewhere your website will not be compromised. In addition, you can help to increase protections by not giving away too much information. For example, when a username or password is wrong, don’t display an error message that says which one is wrong. Cancel both fields so that hackers and malicious programs don’t know which one is correct.
  4. Test security. If you’re not testing your security, you won’t know if it’s faulty until you’re hacked. Unless you have a background in IT and the ability to dedicate time to ensuring website security, your best bet here might be to hire a third party to undertake this testing for you. Plenty of reputable IT service providers can accommodate you and even make recommendations for ways to upgrade your security measures. You could also hire in-house IT staff for this purpose and for ongoing maintenance and monitoring.
  5. Get professional help. The average business owner isn’t likely to have a strong background in online security. The good news is that you can hire qualified professionals to provide you with the diagnosis, advice, and services needed to put appropriate security measures in place. Your website is a tool that can help you connect with and serve your customers; you don’t want it to turn into a liability. Hiring experts to meet all of your security needs will help to ensure that you never have to deal with the fallout from a website security breach.

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.

Website Uptime Monitoring – Critical During the Holidays

If you’re an online retailer, then you’re probably acutely aware that holiday sales will make or break your biz. The month-long time span between late November and December is a money machine for many retailers – in fact, most merchants earn up to a third of their sales during this short window of time each year.

Now, imagine you’re the webmaster of a slow site (or one that experiences downtime) this season. It may not seem like a big deal at the outset – but you should definitely consider moving it to the top of your list of business concerns. Luckily, you don’t have to take time out of your busy schedule to keep an eye on your site. SiteUptime offers 24/7 website monitoring – the best in the biz – so you can rest easy and focus on bringing in the sales.

Holiday Downtime Can Cripple Online Retailers

According to a recent stat from Shop.org, $96 billion in sales will take place online this year, and that’s a 12 percent increase from the previous year. Online shopping is on the rise, a fact that should cause brick-and-mortar shops to sit up and take notice right alongside their online counterparts.

A Monitis survey was just released that revealed another shocking stat. 56% of shoppers who spend more than two hours online each week will cancel an order if they run into slow websites, sites dealing with downtime, or sites with internal server errors. They simply abandon their shopping carts and click away. If your website is one of the unfortunate few that experience these issues during the holidays, you may not find out about the glitch until it’s too late. If you don’t correct the issue immediately, you may wind up missing out on your holiday sales bump altogether, and this could wreak havoc on your bottom line.

Monitoring Your Website: Vital for Your Biz

A major issue for online retailers during the holidays is unexpected traffic spikes. Shoppers are prowling the ‘net in droves during the holidays, and if a deal you’re promoting happens to go viral or you have an unusually large response to an email you’ve sent, you may just find yourself hit with a jolt in traffic that your servers can’t contain.

Keeping a dedicated employee on staff during the holiday season is a great way to prep for an increase in resource usage following a promotional sales event. But what about external factors; things you can’t control?

That’s where a third-party website monitoring service come in, and it’s worth its weight in gold during the unpredictable holiday shopping rush. SiteUptime is dedicated to making sure your customers can reach your website every second of every day.

How?

Simple. SiteUptime provides both free and advanced remote monitoring services for your website. Plus, if your website experiences downtime, SiteUptime will alert you by email or text the second it happens. The stats above prove how critical response time is during the holidays. SiteUptime even goes a step further – the service will furnish you with detailed reports about your website’s blips and response times so you can keep an eye on things at a glance.

Don’t let the holiday crowds pass you by. Do the smart thing and invest in SiteUptime’s website monitoring service. It will pay dividends by protecting your bottom line. Start your free trial now.