I can remember in the early days of computer-aided marketing when our power went out, we had to shut our doors. No electricity meant our computers didn’t work so we couldn’t work since everything we did was through our computers: our telemarketing scripts, our direct mail lists, and our analytics ability. Today things are even worse. Technical issues with a company’s network, software, or equipment can shut your business down. And, that means more today than it did years ago because it’s no longer just a frustration with losing a day’s sales but a potentially crippling event. When visitors come to your website to find it doesn’t work due to such a problem, they no longer trust your business. Customers and prospects will take their business to a competitor resulting in not just a lost sale but a lost customer. Ensuring your business is always online is the minimum standard used by most customers and prospects in making a purchase decision. As you can see in the image below, failing to ensure your company is always online translates to an increasing amount of sales.
When your company isn’t always online, whether a function of your IT infrastructure or the failure of your hosting company, you also incur increased costs. That’s because you could more effectively utilize the time spent on resolving these issues or waiting for technical support on more productive tasks. According to a survey, companies lose over $1 million per hour due to downtime of their internal IT infrastructure and small businesses lose between $137 and $427 per MINUTE when their website isn’t always online. To mitigate these risks and ensure a smooth operation at an optimal level, here are some effective strategies you should consider.
How to ensure your business is always online
1. Invest in reliable hosting
As a small business, it’s tempting to put your e-commerce and other online business operations in the hands of an inexpensive hosting company or even a website builder like Wix or Squarespace. Quality hosting costs a few dollars more but guarantees 99.99% uptime for your website and responds to problems with lightning speed. In contrast, a cheap web host may deliver 99.5% uptime, and that’s just not good enough in the digital world today, where users expect your website to be always online.
For example, my website went down a few months ago due to a criminal effort to hack my website. The host took my site down to protect the integrity of my content and design. They notified me within seconds of taking this action and we resolved it within minutes. That’s where it pays to have a website host that offers fast, reliable customer support to help you overcome problems.
These types of actions by cybercriminals are unavoidable by even the biggest companies. This summer, hackers took down websites including Amazon’s AWS (which took down most fast food apps), Twitter, Dish Network (an outage lasting several days), and others. Denial of service shutdowns also affected major companies, including many social media sites including Facebook.
2. Consistently update your hardware and software
In the world of information technology, the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may not always hold true. Staying up-to-date with the latest updates for applications on your mobile devices and workstations is an efficient way of reducing the risk of downtime while ensuring a smooth and uninterrupted operation. As a tip, consider automating your updates, especially if you have other tasks that could take your time and attention.
The same goes for your website CMS (content management system), themes, and plugins. I once attended a WordPress (the CMS that fuels about half of all websites) meeting where those responsible for updating the open-source software. They discovered about half of the small businesses asking for help were running old versions of the software.
Software updates often fill newly discovered vulnerabilities so by keeping your software up-to-date, you reduce your exposure to hackers.
3. Invest in effective IT management
Although downtime is bound to happen, you can still ensure that your business stays productive during those periods by investing in effective IT management. Maintaining an in-house team can be costly, especially for small businesses, which is why it’s essential to work with third-party professionals who can resolve issues efficiently while saving you money in the process. Look for one that offers fast resolution to your problems and has staff trained in a variety of issues across a broad spectrum of devices.
In addition to this, you can move your relevant operations to the cloud, which often necessitates the use of cloud migration services. This is generally viewed as a secure and efficient way of managing operations. Companies that wish to leverage the benefits of cloud computing are increasingly leaving behind outdated and inefficient legacy systems, such as old servers or unreliable firewall appliances.
4. Purchase reliable equipment
Opting for lower-priced equipment, just like cheap web hosting, might seem appealing, but it can significantly increase the risk of system downtime. Investing in high-quality options is a simple and effective step to avoid system errors. Not only do they last longer, but they also perform at a more productive level. Although low-quality equipment may seem cheaper initially, it requires additional maintenance and has a shorter lifespan, making it a less cost-effective solution in the long run.
5. Educate your workforce
Ransomware and other cyberattacks are serious issues when it comes to keeping your business online and your local IT operations functioning properly. They’re also a major threat to your customers and your private data. Hence, companies must ensure proper operations that reduce the threat reflected by these criminals.
A common way that cybercriminals gain access to your network is through social engineering tactics or phishing scams. These scams work by tricking employees into clicking on harmful links or downloading infected files. Sometimes the link requests passwords to give the criminal access to your computer system, where they can create havoc that leads to significant downtime and loss of productivity. Downloaded files might lock your data and require a significant ransom to return access to your staff.
It’s essential to educate your staff so they know how to avoid cyber threats and encourage them to be cautious while opening emails to prevent such incidents. For instance, you should require staff to ALWAYS use their company email for official purposes and NEVER use it for personal reasons. Then, train your staff to always investigate if the message is legitimate before opening it. Strange email addresses that purport to come from internal email addresses are a dead giveaway that the message is fake.
Require your staff to change their passwords regularly and train them on how to select a secure password. Additionally, installing effective email filters and cybersecurity measures can help safeguard your network. Finally, it’s crucial to establish a protocol for employees to report potential threats quickly to your IT team for prompt action.
Downtime is quite unpleasant, as it can cause you to waste time and lose money. But they can be prevented once you know what to do. The key is being proactive, so keep this in mind. Hopefully, you’ll leverage the tips discussed above for the best results.
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.