If you are (or maybe were by this point) a GoDaddy customer this week, life sucked for you because your site was down. Yeah sure, you got a free month’s credit for the downtime, but the point is your site was down for the count and there wasn’t a damned thing you could do about it.
Or was there?
Most small-biz people who run business web sites have no DRP (Disaster Recovery Plan) whatsoever. You would think that if you’re running a business, selling product and depend on your site to stay up that you’d have something ready in case it went down. Well, a whole bunch of people had no such DRP and when their sites went down, all they could do is sit it out and wait. And as any business owner knows, time is money.
There are a few things you can do for DRP purposes, should you run a business web site now. Some of these are simple, some not.
1. Do you know your web host’s Twitter account?
If your web host goes down, better web host providers will make an announcement of it on their Twitter account, because at the time of the site outage there’s no way for them to alert the customer base otherwise.
Whenever your web site has any problems, and you can’t load up your web host’s web site itself, go to their Twitter account.
Example: On my personal blog I use Fluid Hosting, and I have their Twitter account bookmarked. As with any web host provider, outages sometimes happen. Whenever my site has slow performance, I go to that Twitter account even before I submit a support ticket, because if it’s something system-wide on their end, it will be announced there and I know in an hour or so it will be resolved, so submitting a ticket won’t be necessary.
2. Do YOU have a Twitter account?
Love or hate Twitter, it’s a great way to alert the masses if your site is having trouble because it operates independently of your site. This means even if your site is down, Twitter is up, and you can make announcements there. Hey, it’s better than nothing.
3. As a general rule of thumb, hosting your site at the same place your registered your domain is a bad idea.
When you “put all your eggs in one basket”, so to speak, that’s a recipe for disaster as far as hosting a business web site is concerned. The domain registrar and where your site is hosted should be separate, else you’re putting yourself in line for an outage domino effect (one part goes down, everything goes down).
I’ll give you an example of why this separation is important.
If my personal blog went down, and I mean really went down so bad that it would take several days before it went back online, I could login to my domain registrar and point the domain to a temporary site such as a Twitter account while my primary site gets fixed up. Once fixed I can switch it back.
4. It is always good to have backup email address at a free webmail provider for DRP purposes.
Proper business is conducted using email addresses such as you@your_business_site.com, but if your site is down, your email is down as well.
For emergency purposes, having a Gmail or Hotmail or whatever-mail account hosted elsewhere can suffice until the primary mail is back up.
You can also broadcast this email address on your business Twitter account, should you need to do so.
Gmail is the best option here because once your primary mail is back up, you can login to your Gmail account and forward all the mail back to your primary so you’re not missing out on any messages. Other providers (like Hotmail) offer similar functionality, but Gmail does have the most control over where your mail goes and how it gets there.
5. You should know how to “jump ship” if you absolutely have to.
As I (or Dave) can tell you, switching to another domain registrar and/or web host is a huge pain in the ass. There is no easy way to do it no matter what anyone tells you. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn how to do it.
Switching from one domain registrar to another (such as from GoDaddy to NameCheap) is not a same-day thing, and it takes roughly three to ten business days to complete the process.
Switching from one web host to another.. hoo boy, yeah that’s the truly hard part. It’s probably true your existing site is running a content engine like WordPress or Drupal where the whole thing is using a MySQL database backend using very specific server addresses and ports, and the engine itself is using very specific server paths. If all of that scares the hell out of you, it should.
While Dave and I have the know-how to move sites where everything is migrated properly (only because both of us have been doing site adminisrtation since the late 1990s and pretty much had to learn it the old-school way), you probably don’t. All I can say is not to rule out paying someone to move your site properly for you. It is worth spending the money to have a proper migration performed from one site to another.
If you run a business site now, I hope you never have to actually move the thing because it’s not pretty. For DRP purposes however, if you have to jump ship between registrars and/or hosts, either learn how to migrate or know how to find someone to do it for you. This stuff is absolutely nothing like working with files on your home PC or laptop where you just copy things from one place to the other and eveything works fine. Web sites using content engines that work on a dynamic level are a totally different ball game.
If you’re serious about your business, then you should be serious about your web site DRP
Most small-biz owners don’t learn anything about the importance of a DRP until something really bad happens, such as what happened to a whole ton of GoDaddy customers.
You, as the business web site owner, should have something to fall back on, even if it’s just a Twitter account and a Gmail email address. Self-hosted web sites are always subject to Murphy’s Law, so you should prepare for it.
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