Patrick was recently interviewed for an article, in which we were providing tips for avoiding or minimizing downtime in an event similar to what happened with GoDaddy this week. The article was published last night here, and below is the full interview. Enjoy!
1. How common are issues like the GoDaddy outage? Where do outages like this rank, in terms of biggest risks to an online business?
Although it rarely happens on a scale like it did this week, hosting companies do experience outages from time to time. Regardless of the scale of the outage, they can prove to be catastrophic. It simply depends on the cause of the outage. For instance, if a server crashes, all the sites on that server can potentially loose all of their files and data. If it’s a DNS problem, you can be back up in a matter of minutes with no data loss.
2. Besides keeping backups, what are the top 2-3 things that small businesses should do to protect themselves? How much, on average, does prevention like this cost?
The first thing is to go with a hosting company with a solid reputation. I know it seems silly to say that in the wake of GoDaddy’s incident, but there are far more outages that don’t make the news and are commonplace with home servers or less-than-reputable companies. The next is definitely backups. We make it standard practice to set up a backup system on every site we build, just in case, that saves copies both on the hosting account and in a remote location. The third is to set up a caching solution, either through a plugin or an external service like CloudFlare. Having a cached version of your site online minimizes downtime.
3. If an online small business loses its website, what steps should it take to mitigate losses while waiting for it to come back up?
Always try to find out the severity and cause of the outage from the hosting company. With that information, you’ll know whether it’s temporary or if you need to make more long-term arrangements by loading your files onto another hosting account and forwarding your domain. This process usually takes a few hours – not something to bother with if you’re dealing with an hour of downtime.
4. What should an online small business do to get its website back on line as fast as possible? Are there options for the less technically savvy among us? Are there affordable ways to hire outside help?
Any web design firm can get a website back online within a couple hours, provided we can access the data. If the data is inaccessible, as it was in GoDaddy’s case, you’re pretty stranded. This would be the time you’d be glad you kept automated backups, and had a caching system in place.
Now, there are real-time failover solutions and DNS configurations that you can put in place to keep you online in the event of a crash, which can be set up for less than $200. In this case, there would be a backed-up replica of your site on another server, managed by a different company, and upon an outage, your domain would be automatically redirected to the replica site. The most downtime you’d experience would be around 15 minutes.
5. Can you name any specific tools, applications, or companies (including, but not limited to your own) that can help small businesses mitigate these types of disasters?
Obviously ours, since we take this kind of thing very seriously. Some other companies to research and consider are CloudFlare (www.cloudflare.com), Simple Failover (www.simplefailover.com), and if your site runs on a CMS like WordPress, Joomla or DotNetNuke, the plugin repositories to find new releases of backup software. We specialize in WordPress development and swear by BackupBuddy (www.ithemes.com/purchase/backupbuddy/).