Technology is imperfect. Of course, I’m not telling you
anything you didn’t already know, as surely everyone who works on the Web has,
at one time or another, had to deal with some sort of technological blunder. Undoubtedly,
one of the biggest problems that websites of all shapes and sizes fear the most
occurs when a network or server goes offline or becomes unavailable for a
period of time as a result of a hardware, software, equipment or transmission
failure, or when a system reaches capacity unexpectedly. Frequently, this results
in a website (or sites) temporarily going offline. As we all know, time is
money, and downtime can often wind up being very costly for a Web business.
At other times, it
is necessary for a Web hosting service to induce downtime for maintenance
and/or updates, but unfortunately this also leads to websites being temporarily
inaccessible. On the upside, there are some precautionary measures that site
owners can take to avoid, or at least dramatically minimize, downtime and the
negative effects it can have on a business.
The most common
method many website owners use for avoiding downtime is website monitoring, a
process that tests (and verifies) a website or Web application to ensure that
it is fully functioning for the end user. These services will alert site owners
anytime a problem occurs, allowing them to take the necessary steps to get it
resolved in a timely manner.
These services will
check on a website at predetermined intervals (usually 30 minutes or an hour)
to see if everything is working properly. Best of all, they can act as visitors
from various geographic locations and Internet connections; so owners can feel
comfortable knowing everyone has
access to their site.
In the name of
simplicity, site owners can simply make sure that they choose a Web hosting
provider that also offers website monitoring services as part of their package.
However, there are also plenty of third-party services around the Web that will
conduct website monitoring practices for a reasonable price (and often times
totally free of charge). Some of these services include SiteUptime, WatchMouse,
Observu, Site24x7 and Montastic, among many others.
One other thing that
site owners can do to circumvent the issue of downtime is simply to choose
wisely when selecting a Web hosting provider. Many services will offer specific
uptime guarantees, and by simply doing some research, owners can find out which
of these companies live up to their promises.
Switching Hosting Providers
precautions, many website owners could face sever downtime issues when they
switch hosting providers. This is an easy problem to avoid. The
biggest concern is making sure you’ve transferred all of your website
information over to the new server before you change and point your domain name
server (DNS). Only go to your registrar and initiate the name change after
successfully moving your information. Also, make sure you monitor the domain
name change by staying in contact with your registrar, and be aware of any
problems that may occur.
Minimizing the Impact of Downtime
No matter how much
we may not like it, the fact is that sometimes downtime happens, despite all of
the preventative measures that site owners and hosting providers may take. This
is why it is important for all parties involved to have a plan in place for
minimizing the impact this downtime will have the businesses of the site
owners. If you run a
website, this means staying informed about the situation and relaying the
information to your customer base.
As soon as a problem
occurs (or, more accurately, as soon as an owner hears about it), the first
step is to get in contact with the hosting provider. They should find out the
cause of the downtime and get an estimate on how long it will take to
correct the problem.
After that, they
have a responsibility to their customers to inform them of the situation, and
doing so will show them that businesses are taking an active role in
trying to improve the situation and concerned with their user experience. This
can be difficult to do, but it is much easier these days than in years past.
One effective way to
share this information with an audience is for a company to send out an email to
all of its email lists with information about why the site is down and how long
it may be before it will be back up. In addition, posting updates about the
site during downtime on social networks like Facebook and Twitter is another
great way to keep users informed.
Another option is to
create a maintenance window, which shows up when users try to visit your site
during downtime, which is a special page that explains the situaton in a friendlier, more informative way than a typical error message. Not all hosting services offer these, and they’re much easier to pull
off during planned downtimes because they can be prepared in advance, but they’re
very useful for those visitors who aren’t on a company’s email lists or
involved with them on social media.
Of course, with
enough proper planning, a company could utilize all of these methods to help
quell any problems that may arise during downtime.
For now, downtime is still and issue that many website owners will have to
deal with, but thankfully a little forethought and gumption can ease the negative effects
of downtime and make life much easier for Web workers.