Business Continuity Planning for Your Web Presence

Maintaining your online business continuity requires advance planning.

Business continuity planning is the concept of preparing for disaster – getting ready for the worst scenarios to protect your business. One thing that often gets overlooked in the process is protecting a company’s valuable web presence – its websites and social outlets. In the midst of thinking about insurance coverage, keeping your employees and your properties safe and all the other details, it’s worth taking some time to also consider how you’ll proceed in the case of an internet disaster.

Last week, Amazon Web Services (AWS) went down, according to most reports due to a small mistake in typing by an engineer. The massive outage affected much of the East Coast and will force Amazon to make procedural changes on their end to prevent issues in the future. For the thousands of businesses depending on AWS for their livelihood, however, the 5 hour outage had a huge impact on their ability to serve their customers. The ripple of a small mistake hurt them, hurt their customers using their services and cost them vital business. But there are steps organizations can and should take to protect themselves – and all of them should be lined up long before the crisis hits.

The first step is to prepare long in advance an operations plan. Figuring out what you’re going to do after the crisis has hit is a recipe for panic – preparation is the key to successfully navigating through the downtime. If you sell products through your site, how will you continue to sell even if the site is down? If you book appointments through your site, how will you do it when clients can’t access you online? If your product or service only exists online, do you have a rollover provider who can pick up the service until operations are restored?

The second step is to get a communications plan in place – identify how you will communicate with customers, vendors, partners and employees about major downtime. This is a good step even for normal business operations, but essential when systems are down. If your service provider is down, get the word out through social channels and email as soon as you know things are serious. Prepare your phone systems – including the people who answer them – to acknowledge the situation, apologize for delays and reassure customers that you’re still in business. Perception is reality in these circumstances and the sooner you acknowledge and calm the waters the better your company will appear despite the issues.

The rollover question is a big one, and a complicated dance to work through when sites and online tools are built and modified. You may be spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to host your service on someone else’s platform. Keeping that service up and running in two places is prohibitively expensive and risks confusion over keeping your code up to date in both places. There’s no simple solution when dealing with the largest provider out there, but consider reaching out to another provider to find out about calling on them in an emergency on a temporary basis.

You should absolutely be backing up your key technical assets in places other than the primary service provider – if they go down, you want to be sure you can restore operations from an alternate source. This means keeping your backups up to date is essential – you want to get back as much recent data (especially customer data) as possible, so daily backups at a minimum are critical.

There’s so much more to consider, and the planning won’t matter if you’re not following what you’ve laid out. Give me a call and let’s review your online operations and your crisis preparations.