When Your Site Goes Down: 3 Tips To Minimize Negative Effects

posted by Archie @ 18:52 PM
September 23, 2010

3 Tips To Minimize Negative Effects When Your Site Goes DownEveryone is searching for reliable hosting. Stability and reliability are actually the key features of any services offered on the market, but what makes those features so crucial when it comes to hosting? The trust and respect of the visitors, of course! If your website or online store goes down all the time, your visitors will not be interested in dealing with it. Nor will they care if it’s the store owner’s fault or the fault of their hosting provider. They will simply start purchasing products from a different online shop, which does not experience such issues. However, one should understand that 100% uptime is not possible and that different server side issues can take place. This primarily concerns small business websites using budget solutions. Thus, if you own some web service and cannot cover the server side aspect of hosting (e.g. if you use not a VPS or a dedicated server but a shared hosting package) you may need to use some recovery tips. Those are not actually aimed at downtime minimization, but they can lessen the impact on your customers and might help decrease their irritation.

1. Report on the Issue If you try to open your website in the browser while it’s down or experiencing serious issues, you will receive either the Server not found or the Internal Server Error (Error 500) message. The other visitors will receive one of those, too and will definitely close this browser tab. However some of them – featured customers, clients, your partners, etc. will be interested to find out what is going on. And you need to let them know. Sure, the best solution is to put a correspondent notification on your corporate forum or blog… but you need this forum or blog to be hosted on a separate server, otherwise those won’t be accessible as well. Thus, another solution – notify your customers/partners via social media – Twitter or Facebook (if your business still doesn’t have an account there, you should definitely consider registering one).

2. Use a Backup Communication Means

Some issues get resolved in less than half an hour. Some may take up to a day. No matter how long your site is going to be offline, you need to be available for your customers – this is very important since you are responsible for keeping them updated on the current state of your website. They may be waiting for pending transactions or activation of their services – you need to be able to provide at least the ETA and some urgent assistance (if the resolution of the issue does not require access to the website). Apart from using social media you will need some more reinforcements there. In order to provide maximum availability you should first of all let your customers know the mailbox for temporary contact. Since it is not advisable to provide your personal address, the best option is to create an account at some public mail server which username would correlate with your company name (e.g. mycompany@gmail.com). Instant messaging may also come in handy, so creating and sharing a backup AIM, ICQ or Google Talk ID is also recommended. If you have a landline, you can forward your customers and partners there, but if you provide phone support, established via VOIP – it may be reasonable to create a backup Skype user (also associated with your company name).

3. Prepare Some Predefined Replies

Once your website goes back online you will see a bulk of messages dropping into the mailbox at your company domain. No matter whether you managed to communicate with some of the senders during the outage, all of those emails need to be replied. Thus, you need to create some standard predefined reply which would contain an apology and official explanation. The latter should include the root cause of the issue and the description of the taken recovery and preventive measures. Those details should be obtained from your hosting provider, of course.

The risk of downtime is always present. Unfortunately, this is one of a few things in web hosting which cannot be always predicted, controlled and easily and quickly fixed. Even the most reliable hosts experience downtime and make their clients (and their clients in turn) suffer from that. In order to minimize this suffering and take as much care of the affected customers as possible, the tips mentioned above might come in handy. Stronger I hope, however that you will simply not experience anything like that ever.