Don’t Get Caught in the Dark: Contingency Plans


On Monday we took a look at what small and medium sized businesses can learn from the Super Bowl, and more specifically the advertisements. However, there is another lesson to be taken from Super Bowl XLVII: always have a contingency plan.

Even if you did not watch the game on Sunday, by now you have probably heard about the blackout in the Superdome that halted play for 34 minutes. Though the 49ers comeback in the second half rekindled the interest of many viewers, the final live-plus-same-day ratings reveal that the average audience of this year’s Super Bowl dropped 2% from last year to 108.4 million viewers. 2013 is the first year since 2005 that has not seen year-over-year growth. Though a number of factors may have contributed to the decline, the blackout is the clear standout.

If the Super Bowl viewership declined due to a blackout, what would happen to your business if your website went down? We take all the precautionary measures that we can to prevent our websites from being down; still, unforeseen incidents can occur and it’s critical to have a contingency plan in place for when they do.

Reasons that cause a website to be down:
  • Your website has a virus
  • Your domain name has expired
  • Your web hosting company is having a technical issue

Since viruses are such a complex topic in and of themselves, we’ll focus on the latter issues today and return to viruses at a later date.

Below are some tips to keep your website up and avoid a blackout.

Tips Related to Domain Names:
  • Make sure you know who your registrar is.

    Your registrar is who you purchase your domain name from. While many registrars – like Go Daddy – also host websites, you do not have to host with your registrar. Make note of where you purchased your domain. Also it is a good idea to stay with one registrar for all domain purchases to ensure you do not lose domains.

  • Use an external email account not associated with your domain name on your registrar account.

    Using a separate email address not associated with your domain name will ensure that you can still access your registrar account if your domain name expires or if something is down. Believe us, the process of accessing your account if you can’t even access your email is lengthy and frustrating. Using a separate email allows you to save yourself from a lot of stress and get your site back up quicker.

  • Have a credit card associated with your registrar account and set it to auto renew.

    This measure will prevent your domain name from expiring. If you don’t have this set up, your registrar should notify you 30 to 60 days prior to expiration. Should you miss these notifications and your domain name expires, contact your registrar immediately and they should be able to assist you in buying back your domain name. Remember, this is highly time sensitive as each registrar has a different grace period in place before domain names go back on the market. Setting your account to auto-renew will eliminate this issue entirely.

Tips Related to Hosting Companies:
  • Make sure you know who your hosting company is.

    Your hosting company hosts your site on their server. As we mentioned above, many hosting companies – like Network Solutions – also act as registrars. Make sure you are aware if they are the same or different. Be sure you have access to your hosting company login information if it is separate.

  • Call your hosting company.

    If you’re getting some sort of error on your entire site and your domain name has not expired, it is possible your hosting company is having some sort of technical issue. They could be doing a server upgrade or they could be experiencing a power outage. Give your hosting company a call to see what the problem is and how soon you can expect it to be resolved. Depending upon the issue the time will vary.

  • Check the hosting social tools.

    If the issue is with your hosting company, there are a lot of other businesses in your shoes trying to contact them. Their phone lines could be nearly impossible to get through. If you’re having trouble contacting them by phone, check their Twitter feed or Facebook posts; they will often post outages or other wide spread issues on these mediums. A lot of tech companies post live updates on Twitter and Facebook when glitches like this occur because they can reach broad audiences, and their site is likely down as well.

What To Do If Your Website is Down & It’s Out of Your Control:
  • If possible, clarify outage length.

    Though this is not something many companies can often provide, it is still a good idea to see if you can get an idea of the expected length of the outage. If the outage is going to be an hour or two, you may decide to only send out an update via social media; if it is going to be longer you may want to add on an eblast to notify your clients.

  • Leverage social media.

    Just like the technology companies provide updates via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, so should your organization. You may even have your staff post an update to their personal LinkedIn accounts to notify clients.

  • Send an eblast to clients.

    If you use any type of third-party eblast system like Constant Contact or a cloud CRM like Infusionsoft you should email your clients and let them know you are experiencing a technical issue. Be sure to share details of how they can reach you and any details you may have on the issue. If your email is on the same server as your website, use the alternate email we mentioned above as a way to have clients connect with you during this issue.

Let’s face it, we can’t predict when something will go down, but we can plan for what to do if it does!

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