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!