The phrase business continuity seems to be thrown around quite a bit as a set of corporate buzzwords. Aside from being a fancier way of saying “be prepared”, business continuity is just making sure that if something were to happen (be it a natural disaster or a cyber attack), business can continue on as normal or with little to no interruptions to customers.
If the Internet is a key revenue driver for your business, having a proper business continuity plan is incredibly important. Even if your website does get brought down in an unforeseen circumstance, you need to make sure that you don’t go completely dark. Not only would that outage cost you in lost potential sales during the time period that your website is down, but having no communication with your customers could keep them from ever returning.
The first thing you should create as part of your business continuity plan is a status page for when your website is unavailable. Just communicating with your customers what is going on right away can keep the experience positive rather than greeting them with an error page. For an example, you can check out Dyn’s status page which communicates more than just outages.
Second, host this status page on a provider separate from where you normally host your website because what good is a status page that goes down with the rest of your site? If your site goes down, you can easily failover to this status page (with the help of some handy DNS) and alert your customers of, well, your status.
Finally, be prepared to communicate with your customers via other communication channels. Some companies do a “social failover”, which means that they failover directly to their Twitter or Facebook feed. If you’d prefer to provide a more deliberate explanation of the situation, simply referencing your social pages on your status page may be a good solution. For example, when Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, many of the affected websites went to their social channels to remain in contact with their customers and fans.
A plan like this doesn’t have to cost you much at all. If you host your page with a hosting provider, like HostGator, your out of pocket costs per month would be less than what you pay for one large latte. There are also even some services that charge you based on bandwidth, and with a status page, that would be a very low price.
Not having a continuity plan is what will cost you in the end. Think about what the cost of being down would be for your business. How much revenue would you lose in an hour, 8 hours, or even your busiest day of the year? Include in that the cost of your personnel working on fixing the issue plus the cost of customers who will never return to your website. Is it really worth the risk?