The Downtime

Website downtime can infuriate us. And according to some, downtime can do much worse. It can affect user confidence, loyalty and ultimately eat into your bottom line.

Things to do before your site crashes

Buy DNS backup service. A lot of downtime (and headaches) can be attributed to problems related to your DNS. DNS backup services constantly grab your DNS data and act as a backup if your primary DNS goes down.
Buy a monitoring service. You can purchase a service that pings your website every few minutes and notifies you (via text message, email, etc.) if it goes down.
Always backup your database. In addition to making regular backups of your website and databases, make sure you create an additional backup before tweaking the database itself.
Make sure your domain name registration is up to date. So many downtime fiascos could be solved by simply remembering to renew your domain name. Go ahead and set your domain name to auto renew. Or purchase your name for the next ten years and set the domain registrar lock.
Use Google Webmaster Tools (GWT). Using GWT is a no-brainer. It provides you with detailed reports about your pages’ visibility on Google and will notify you of any errors that are encountered while crawling it.
Use appropriate server downtime error codes. Be sure to use appropriate redirect server codes. Consult the internet or your IT team for proper use of server codes. Example: it’s generally better to tell crawlers that the downtime is temporary by returning a 503 HTTP result code (Service Unavailable) instead of returning an HTTP result code 404 (Not Found).

Zero downtime Over the long term, zero downtime is an impossibility. While it is possible to be close to zero unplanned downtime, sometimes you need to take your site offline in a controlled manner to keep it healthy in the long term. Planning for and scheduling downtime often helps to minimize unplanned downtime.
Even the organisations with the most expertise and resources, and the most to lose, can’t make zero downtime happen over the long term.
The price of downtime
While ten minutes means a lot of money to Google, and a lot of people heading off to competitor Bing (as Google themselves even suggested at the time), ten minutes downtime for a corporate blog is inconvenient, but not the end of the world.
Any website that can attribute a value to lost visits, whether from lost sales or advertising revenue, will fall somewhere on the scale. By understanding what you have to lose, it becomes possible to understand the expected savings (or return) on the money you spend to mitigate the risk of downtime (investment).
Working out lost revenue (or perceived value if your site is not directly commercial) is a difficult task, but should already be addressed to some extent in the justification for its existence. Lost advertising impressions might be easily evaluated, and similarly the average value of a visitor to an ecommerce website. But for a company blog, attribution is more difficult and requires assumptions and analysis of customer touchpoints and their effect on customer purchases and loyalty.
In any case, web applications can be assessed by how critical they are to your operations, and dealt with accordingly in terms of risk mitigation.

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