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For many companies, the web has become a cornerstone, if not the heart, of their business. So what would happen if your site went down for a significant length of time? Or even for just a few minutes?

For a company with a static page it may not mean much, but for an online retailer trading in the run up to Christmas or a bookie on the day of the Grand National, the effects on the bottom line could be catastrophic.

Are you prepared for the unexpected?

There are many reasons for a website to go down. It could be that something happens to drive a lot of unexpected traffic to your site. For example, Heathrow airport’s website had some problems just before Christmas when the weather caused havoc for flights and holidaymakers flocked to the site to find out more. 

It might be that your web host has problems and this has taken your site down. Perhaps it is a technical problem with a new version of the site you just uploaded. Or your site might be targeted by hackers who try and send so much traffic to the site that it goes down.

Regardless of the reasons, the repercussions could be significant.

Here are some actions you can take now to make sure your website is prepared for the unexpected:

Predict worst-case scenarios 

While it is impossible to predict every eventuality, there are some scenarios that you will be able to envisage and prepare for. Make a list of these and discuss how you would react were they to happen.

Record your conclusions and put a plan that can be checked quickly if needed. This should include a contingency plan that will ensure downtime is minimised. Get buy-in for the plan from your hosting company. 

Invest in monitoring technology 

If your site does go down, you want to make sure you are the first to know about it, so deploy an early warning system that will notify key individuals in the business as quickly as possible so action can be taken before too much damage is done.

Talk to your web host 

Get in touch and see what they can do to help. Understand how they would cope with sudden traffic surges and what their contingency plans are if their network goes down.

They should be able to help you. For a business critical site, you will want to investigate the possibility of having your site distributed across separate servers that are independent of each other.

Create an emergency website or landing page 

If you do suddenly get an influx of traffic, one of the ways to counteract this is to drop your normal site and put up a temporary landing page in its place that has as small a page size as possible. This could give important information about the outage and alternative contact information.

Sort out internal communication plans 

If your site goes down, it will likely impact other parts of your business too. For example, will your contact centre suddenly get more calls or emails?

Communicating what has happened to the rest of the business and what they should do about it is an important first step. Keep key stakeholders in the loop as things develop and set expectations.

Work out how to contact your customers or clients 

Your customers or clients will also want to know why your site is down, especially if it is a site they depend on to access information or conduct business. Think about the other channels you could use, from email and phone to social media and have a contingency plan so that the channels are always accessible.

Back up your site on a regular basis 

It might be an obvious one, but don’t forget to back up your site. If everything goes wrong and you lose your site, make sure you have another copy somewhere safe!

Hopefully this will never happen to your business but, just in case it does, these tips will hopefully save you from what could be an embarrassing and potentially damaging situation!

Maria Wasing

Published 1 March, 2011 by Maria Wasing

Maria Wasing is VP of Marketing Europe at EPiServer and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

24 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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Nick Barker

Hi Maria,

Great post - Very helpful!

They say ' prevention is better than cure'. Going beyond contingency planning, it is also worth using monitoring technologies to trend performance. This can help to identify the early warning signs of issues and therefore avoid them.

Nick Barker

over 5 years ago

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Khach san sai gon

I posted an ad on newspaper, on my blog, my company site, all any possible online site for candidate to be a webmaster. Lot of thing for him to carry out, and this gonna make big difference for me do it on my own. Thanks very much Maria for this posting.

over 5 years ago

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Maria Wasing

@ Nick Barker - Agree, monitoring technologies are vital to detect early warning signs. Speaking to many of EPiServers customers, ensuring that the website is avialable and functional is of course key and on the agenda, but how to get started and what delivers the best results is not something that most marketers have expereince with. That is the main reason I wrote the bloggpost, to provide some insight into which areas you can look at that to get good results and ensure that you are in control.

@khach san sai gon - thanks, glad that it helped.Good luck with the recruitment!

over 5 years ago

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dat phong khach san

Thankfully I found your article read. It helped me very much in the ad. Thanks for this article Nhe maria

about 4 years ago

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khach san Phu Quoc

wow. thanks Maria. it useful with me

almost 4 years ago

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bao hiem y te

thanks, glad that it helped.Good luck with the recruitment!

almost 4 years ago

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