How to digitally prepare for disaster

Hurricane Sandy demonstrated how even companies that depend on their websites for revenue can go down during natural disasters. Major websites that went down included The Huffington Post, Gawker, Jezebel, and Gizmodo. If large websites managed by skilled IT staff can’t stay up during natural disasters, are small businesses doomed? I say no. If they do a little planning first.

Find out where your web host is located

You can perform a network scan on The Network Whois record will give you the street address of your server. If that address is in a potential disaster area make sure your backups are current and you have picked out a secondary host you can move to.

Have a backup and restore plan

This is easy. Use a service that is independent of your main server. Make sure the backup data is far away from your web host. Test you restore plan before any actual to make sure it goes smoothly. Give people who visit your website somewhere else they can go, such as Twitter or Facebook in case the site goes down.

Monitor your uptime

Get email alerts if your site goes down. This should not be a common occurrance so do not worry about receiving an icreased volume of email. This is a good way to keep your web host honest. Everyone wants to claim 99.9% uptime, only a few can deliver. There are a number of tools out there that can watch your site to ensure it is still up. If your site goes down, these tools will send you an email describing the failure so you can quickly react. A fast and accurate paid service is Pingdom but I use a Google Document script detailed here.

Communicate with your customers/clients/users through social media

If your website does go down, tell your interested customers, clients, and users through social media like Twitter and Facebook. People expect your site to be functioning if their internet is functioning. Using social media is a great way to set expectations so people know you are quickly and professionally fixing the problem.


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