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.

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.

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.

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.