Do You Have a Crash Plan?

You build a great website.  Sales grow moderately.  Everything is going well.  Then, from out of the blue, a major celebrity begins to use your product.  A buzz is created… a really big buzz.  Your product is in high demand.  Suddenly, the world is beating a path to your website.  Sounds like the perfect scenario, doesn’t it?  Except, you weren’t ready for all of that extra traffic and your site crashes.  Now your dream turns into a nightmare as sales are lost forever while you wait for your website to come back online.

What’s a Crash Plan?

If your website goes down, do you have a crash plan?  Most small and mid-size businesses don’t.  And it probably won’t take a high profile movie star or talk show host to crash your server.  Many websites wouldn’t even survive a 200% traffic increase.

Let’s examine another scenario… You walk in on Monday morning, only to find a burst pipe has flooded your offices, ruining everything – including your computers.  Your employees start filing in, but there’s nothing you can have them do until they have access to your files.  Lost production time means wasted money.  Meanwhile, hundreds of your customers are calling, wondering what has happened to you.

If your business website crashed, how would it affect your business?  Even if you don’t make direct sales from your site, if your website is down – you’re effectively invisible to most of the world.  The worst thing is for your existing and potential customers to think you’ve closed your doors.  Like it or not, if people can’t find you easily on the web, that’s what they’ll think.

You’ve spent years creating your brand, but a crashed website could put you out of business faster than you think.  It’s something most small businesses never think about – but you should.  Disaster could be only a few cyber-beats away.  It’s already happened to way too many businesses.  Don’t let it happen to yours!

Let’s face it, crazy things happen.  Files get accidentally deleted.  Disgruntled employees can steal computers or erase valuable data.  Lightning strikes can wipe out hard drives.  Murphy’s Law and computers go hand-in-hand like peanut butter and chocolate.

Know your “Time to Live”!

One phrase you’ll need to keep in mind is ‘Time-to-Live’ (TTL) or how long your servers take to retrieve the data to get you back to where you were before the crash.  The TTL time is expressed in seconds.  So if your TTL time is 86, 400, it’ll be 24 hours before your data is back, which could be disastrous for many businesses.

We’ve seen businesses with several unconnected computers, each with key files on them.  If any of those computers fail, the data will be lost forever.  That’s a risk any type of business can’t afford to gamble with.

We’ve also seen many businesses rely solely on back-up tapes.  Unfortunately, this back-up system can be unreliable.  While widely used, they also have an approximately 60% failure rate.  That’s way too high of a percentage to trust your important files to.  Plus tapes usually provide a snapshot every 24 hours, so if you had to use the back-up tapes, you’re going to have anywhere from 24 to 48 hours of lost productivity before you’re back to where you were before the crash.  For most businesses, that can spell doom.

What is a Server Cluster?

The other type of back-up system is a server cluster.  This is when a group of independent servers work together to provide a high availability of applications to their clients (also called failover cluster).  If a failure happens on one computer, the information is redirected to another computer within the cluster, so that clients always have access to their server-based data.

Server clustering is highly scalable, so your servers can grow with your business.  Server clustering also makes it easier to manage the servers as well as perform maintenance on one of the servers because the other computers can carry the work load.  However, there are disadvantages to server clustering which usually keep them out of the reach of most small to mid-size businesses – the biggest one being cost.  Not only would a business need to invest in several servers, but a good server design is needed too, and these can be out of the budget range of most companies.

If you want your files really safe, think redundancy.  In other words, back up your back-up – and not just data, but equipment as well.  You should have duplicate copies of files, both on and off site.  These files should also be on more than one computer, because hard drives can and will fail.

What is Network-Attached Storage?

Another alternative that has been gaining popularity in just the last couple of years is Network-Attached Storage (NAS).  Rather than being attached to a department computer, NAS is hard disk storage set in its own network address.  This way, application programming and files can be served faster because the storage access and management has been removed from the department server – so they are not competing for the same capabilities of the processor.  The NAS is attached to a local area network and assigned its own IP address.

NAS systems are a safe and reliable way to protect your data, 24/7.  Your data can be backed-up, virtually every minute of every hour, and then that back-up is backed up too for redundancy.

If you’re looking for a system that fits your situation as well as your budget, please contact one of our friendly Captivation representatives and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction.

Being prepared for a website crash is the only way to survive one.  Thinking it will never happen to you is like walking a tightrope without a net.  Sure you may make it across most of the time, but even the best high wire artists fall now and then.  But if you don’t secure a safety net, the people in the first few rows are gonna find themselves in a splash zone.  Make sure your business stays in one piece and you’re flying high again in a matter of minutes… not days or weeks.

Questions?

What type of back-up plan does your business have?  Are you confident that your website can be up and running again should your server crash?  Are you still using back-up tapes to secure your important files?  We want to hear from you!  Let us know about your crash plan.

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