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Downtime City: Florida Gulf Coast University & The Reason Uptime Is Always Important

Florida Gulf Coast University Basketball

“Guys, this is just like Dyn’s DNS Load Balancing!”

If you’re a fairly plugged in sports fan, you must be aware of what’s going on in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament with Florida Gulf Coast University. A 12,000-student school based in Fort Myers, FL, FGCU isn’t exactly known for being a national sports power. One of their most famous alumni is a monster truck driver.

But they’ve done an amazing job in the tournament, a lowly 15 seed that has managed to knock off 2 seed Georgetown and 7 seed San Diego State en route to a 10 PM EST date with their state neighbors Florida in the Sweet Sixteen. They are undoubtedly known more now on a national level than at any point during their school’s history.

Unfortunately, their website wasn’t ready and went down after their latest win Sunday. As those who talk uptime everyday, it’s a story that we’ve heard before. We’re not sure how this still happens in 2013, but here’s a few reminders on why you need to be ready for the big surge…and what’s at stake if you are not.

Awareness

I had never heard of FGCU before and I guarantee you probably hadn’t either. Like most Internet-savvy people, the first thing I do is a web search and then click around. This is likely what happened in the university’s case, creating that surge that overwhelmed their servers. Colleges often don’t get huge traffic spikes unless there’s a big news event (check out the search chart on this unbelievable story happening now) where they’d need to prepare for that. But as they say, life happens and it happened in a big way to FGCU. They just weren’t ready.

Merchandise Sales

I remember what a big deal it was when David Beckham came to the U.S. to play soccer for the L.A. Galaxy. I wasn’t even a soccer fan, but I decided to buy a Beckham t-shirt jersey because I thought it was unique. Impulse buys are the best, and a big reason Amazon does so well with their 1-click purchase button.

Flashback to Sunday. You have some disposable income and you want to buy an FGCU Eagles t-shirt or hat to show off at the office. No else will have this! I’ll be unique! Then you go to the site and get the dreaded Site Not Available error. Fail! Now your hard-earned coin will go toward something boring like diapers or some new undershirts.

I don’t know how much in potential merchandise sales FGCU lost due to downtime, but they can’t get that back. I will guarantee you that it’s a fraction of what it cost to use a managed DNS provider. This is a lesson any online merchant can appreciate. Always be available, because you just never know.

Donations

(Thanks for the suggestion from former college football star Kyle York!)

I don’t know about you, but every school has an aggressive fundraising department — both for the school and for the athletic department. Every school needs money and usually big rallying cries are the best way to get alumni to open up their wallets and give back. What better rallying cry than what’s happening right now? I shudder to think of how many donation attempts were thwarted by the site being unavailable. I’d be furious if I headed up those efforts. See how far the effects of downtime can spread?

Florida State Gulf Coast University - NCAA

“U-P-T-I-M-E! Goooo Uptime!”

Applications/Inquiries Of Interest

As someone that was shopping around for graduate schools and just started a program at SNHU, I can tell you that it’s an aggressive market out there. With more online programs than ever, it’s never been a better time to be in the higher education business IF you know what you’re doing.

Now think about the undergraduate approach. Florida is kinda populated with a lot of people and I assume is a destination for those kids trying to get out of the cold weather. If Student A is on the fence and then sees a lot of buzz for this school in Fort Myers, the normal course of action is to check out the site and ask for more info. At the height of interest in their school’s history, they couldn’t provide an answer to that inquiry. What if there were people who were waiting for that moment to submit an application after weeks of thinking? Opportunity lost.

Your Key Takeaway

Be prepared now, not scrambling when a huge news story sends people to your website. When we preach on the availability pulpit about what could happen if you don’t, stories like what happened to the FGCU website are exactly what we’re talking about.

As I write this, tipoff for this battle is in less than 12 hours and that means even more people will be hearing about the little engine that could. I just hope FGCU’s IT team is as ready for Friday as their basketball team.


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Whois: Josh Nason

Josh Nason is an Email Reputation Manager for Dyn, the world leader in Internet performance solutions. After nearly four years with the Marketing team, Josh moved to email full-time in order to help Dyn’s clients achieve better inbox success through their Email Reputation Management service. Follow Josh on Twitter.