Standard Operating Procedures for Website Downtime

For any online business, it is typical to experience disruption in online activity due to planned or unplanned website outages. The risk of downtime can come in many forms which can be frustrating to both customers and business owners. One of the options to stay on top of such occurrences is to have support services like site monitoring service that can alert with notifications when the site is down. Yet, the question is 'what is the business's tolerance for website downtime?'. Some businesses follow standard operating procedures in the recovery planning to reduce the downtime impact to a minimum. The standard procedures have to be formulated based on the business impact analysis so that it can reduce the affect of outage to a large extent.

Include Monitoring Website in your Plan of Action

Determining the reason for website downtime is somewhat not easy because it may involve testing and analyzing many things. With a quality monitoring service it is easy to track the instances of site performance degradation and plan the steps to improve its performance. Also, monitoring websites will help you to get the right information on various site components which can help you to recover quickly from downtime events through thoughtful anticipation and advanced preparations.

Work with Hosting Provider to Define Recovery Targets

It is essential to work on the lost revenues and come to an understanding on how to customize the hosting resources to meet the requirements. Check if the hosting infrastructure is robust & scalable and will be able to support if traffic spike occurs. If you are running an e-commerce website dealing with sensitive customer transactions, then security should be the high priority. Look for what kind of security the hosting service is providing. Do they have good security features to protect your site from DDoS & hacking? Also, check if you can configure automatic backups for critical data in case if unexpected outage happens. You may also need to clarify with them to get a clear understanding on how they will help you out when server issues arises. 

Redirect Site to Backup Hosting

When the primary host goes down causing website outage, you don't want to keep your customers disconnected with website service. Have a backup hosting to which you can redirect your site DNS to a different server. This will ensure that when you receive an alert regarding your server going down, the DNS will be redirected to secondary hosting account which can keep up the services of your website up & running until the primary host resolves the server issue.

Have Right HTTP Status Codes

Having a right HTTP status code during website downtime can help the site save its search engine rankings. This will help the search engine know that the downtime is of temporary nature and the site will be back once the issue is resolved. There are different HTTP status codes for each type of website downtime. Planned outages which are scheduled for maintenance likely have less negative impact on site rankings and reputation. Hence by indicating the search engine with the right HTTP status code, one can avoid the negative impact of downtime on search engine rankings. However, it is better not to display error codes for long because the customers may think that your site is suffering permanent outage. 

Use Right Channel to Communicate

Many businesses would probably react to the situation only when they get notified by the site monitor service about the server or site outage. This is not a well organized recovery plan because it may confuse you at the time of outage. Keep all the communication channels ready and have a right plan ahead how you are going to put across the message to your audience. If you are planning to use social media channels then establish the customer following on social media sites right from the beginning. This way it becomes easy to communicate the message when the website is down. It is essential to handle the inquiries and keep customers informed about the progress to avoid frustration and keep them calm during the events of downtime.

Don't let the Scheduled Maintenance or Upgrades Lead to Unplanned Outages

Planned outages occur when hosting provider takes the website services down to implement scheduled maintenance, upgrades and repairs. These outages are typically planned during off peak hours to lessen the impact of downtime. Since the site owners are informed beforehand, it gives them the opportunity to be prepared for it and plan the activities during outage. Unfortunately, things could go wrong with the hosting service during maintenance and the website services may not work as anticipated. Or, sometimes websites do not respond when there is a compatibility problem with the upgraded software. This will lead to extended outages and the site will become inaccessible to users until the issue gets resolved with the hosting service provider. To minimize the downtime risk, it is better to ensure with the hosting service if they have roll back procedures in case if things go wrong during maintenance.