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Website downtime: the cost, the impact, and the solution

cost of downtime

Planned website downtime Vs. unplanned website downtime

Unplanned downtime is the hardest situation to prepare for as it could happen at any time. The only way that you can plan for that eventuality is by having a website monitoring solution in place that can alert you as soon as your website goes down. If you’re the first to know, then it makes it easier for you to do something about it before your customers start reacting, especially on social media. 

Internally, it’s important to have someone on call to handle the situation (a developer/product manager/customer support manager), and the hope is that the problem itself has been experienced before, which makes it an easier problem to fix.

Planning for website downtime

The best way to prepare for planned downtime is to put up a maintenance notice to customers as soon as possible to let them know of any inconveniences they might suffer from during the downtime. Update your public status page to let your customers know in real-time what is happening with the downtime and the times in which the website should be down and when it is estimated to be back up. 

Internally, ensure you and your team have a ‘run-through’ of the work that needs to be carried out before the downtime on a sandbox so you know that it will work on a live system. It’s also important to have a support team on standby to handle any queries that customers may have during the downtime. Getting every department on the “same page” for the messaging is also important – you want one aligned message with the same tone through all communications whether that’s on the public status page or in an email. 

The cost of website downtime

The major cost is from the loss of customers (and therefore revenue) that are unforgiving to the downtime event. If it’s for a long period of time, especially. Similar costs around marketing, and potentially tech costs for over-working servers, or services you might use within your solution. 

The solution to this: have a set plan, and checklist of the work that needs to be carried out should unplanned downtime arise. Ensure your team are aware of the plan and is all able to do it themselves if needed. It almost has to become second nature to your team so that they are aware of how to fix any issues during a downtime event. 

Budgeting for website downtime

Having any sort of reserve, whether that’s a resource of internal staff or ability to outsource means of fixing the downtime, that can be used towards any periods of downtime would be advisable. Budgets for downtime are very much dependent on the state of the system in question that perhaps might experience downtime. As a technical person in a company, you’d have to tally up the weak points of the architecture in order to best judge the costs that might arise due to downtime.

Developers, especially, sometimes consider a problem to be a lot simpler to solve before getting stuck in. With that mindset, you often end up in situations where you’ll attempt a change during the downtime phase. This can elongate the length of that downtime, and often lead to panic-led decisions because the overall plan was not well planned. 

Preventing the cost of website downtime 

The number one way to mitigate downtime expenses is by having website monitoring in place to alert you to downtime as soon as it happens. This reduces the risk of lost revenue and customers, alongside any customer complaints and/or social media backlash. The common misconception is that it will be easy to notice when your website is down, however, this doesn’t account for the fact that downtime isn’t binary – if you’re up in the UK, this doesn’t mean your website is up across the 30 other locations you’re supposed to be live in.

Having an architecture that is able to support itself during downtime is also a huge way to mitigate downtime. If there is a way in which you can have a failover in place to carry on business functions as usual then this is strongly advised. On top of a well-structured architecture, having a team that is competent, and able to return systems to working health is a great advantage to have. They are the very people who engineer the system in the first place thus making them best suited for the role of the maintainer. 

A lack of proper setup, contingencies, and people who know how to solve any issues that arise are often the case for unplanned downtime. If there are not enough people on the team that know how to best address an issue, the downtime can last a lot longer as you’re waiting on the right people to solve the issues being faced. Bad architectural choices in your system can also make this worse as it complicates how easy a downtime event might be to fix. Trying to follow practices and standards known globally throughout the technology industry helps keep complexity in check regardless of the service you’re offering, which can lead to better fix times. The ultimate solution? Dare we say it – StatusCake.

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