Ways Your Site Downtime Can Be Costing Your Company Money

downtime-moneyYou don’t have to look far to find statistics related to the effects of website downtime – many claim that businesses lose tens of billions of dollars annually due to websites being unreachable. On a company-by-company basis, the numbers will differ, with larger businesses that suffer downtime having greater potential for loss. Unfortunately, downtime cannot be entirely avoided. For example, websites require some amount of scheduled downtime for maintenance and upgrades on a fairly regular basis. Even if you anticipate this occurrence and you take steps to inform users and minimize inconvenience, it will still cost you on some level.

As a small business owner it can be difficult to calculate the actual costs of website downtime since it is impossible to know what you’re missing out on when your site is offline and inaccessible to customers and potential visitors. However, with tracking you can get an idea of possible losses due to downtime during certain seasons or certain times of day. You first need to understand the ways in which you could be losing revenue and potential revenue when you suffer downtime, whether it is scheduled or unanticipated.

Sales

One of the easiest costs to calculate is lost sales due to downtime. While there is no way to know definitively the number of sales or amount of potential revenue lost when your website is inaccessible to customers, you can probably make a pretty close estimate for the time frame of the outage based on past sales data. This, of course, will not help you to measure the loss of potential future sales based on prospective customers finding (or not finding) your site for the first time, disgruntled patrons, and even word of mouth.

New Customers

Businesses that want to continue increasing earnings need to constantly work to expand their customer base and encourage repeat visits and purchases. This means catering to new customers. Think about this: how would you react if you were searching for goods or services online and stumbled across a website that wouldn’t load? Would you wait and try again or simply go back to your search query and click the next link for a competitor website? Internet shoppers are a fickle bunch, and they can afford to be with so many options to choose from. As a business, downtime can have a significant negative impact on your ability to bring in new clientele.

Customer Loyalty

Customers that have been satisfied with your products and services in the past are more likely to allow for a slipup when it comes to website accessibility. But if you suffer from frequent outages, you’re likely to lose even loyal customers in the process. Consumers want companies that offer convenience and reliability. They may only have to find your website down once or twice before they start seeking services elsewhere.

Reputation

It is extremely difficult to calculate the cost of a waning reputation. One thing is certain, though, when you suffer frequent and/or extended downtime, you’re likely to develop a bad reputation as a result, and users aren’t shy about voicing their displeasure via consumer review sites, directories, social media, and so on. If enough people post negative comments about your business, it could be the first thing prospective customers find when searching for you. This can definitely prevent sales and patronage, which could cost you an astonishing amount in lost revenue.

Morale

It’s easy to pinpoint the ways in which downtime affects consumers, and subsequently, sales. But what about losses related to productivity? When employees are constantly fielding emails, calls, and other correspondence related to downtime, staff morale can be affected. Everyone wants to work for a company that is beloved and that they can take pride in. As morale decreases, so too can productivity, which can equate to profit loss.

Disaster Recovery

Your reaction to downtime is likely to cost you. To some degree you’ll have to go into disaster recovery mode, mitigating losses by assuaging loyal customers, offering discounts and freebies, switching service providers or upgrading to more suitable service packages, and potentially hiring an online reputation management specialist to clean up your image.

Solutions

Finding the right web host can go a long way toward rectifying issues with downtime. You can also do your best to plan scheduled downtime when it will cause the least amount of potential loss, as well as providing ample warning to customers so they aren’t surprised when your site is offline for maintenance or upgrades. In addition, it’s probably best to hire a monitoring service to alert you immediately when your website is inaccessible, allowing you the opportunity to get up and running again before any damage can be done.

5 Things You Should Be Doing to Keep Your Website Secure

lock-keyIt’s practically impossible to run a business these days without a website. The time when people found you via the Yellow Pages is long gone. Nowadays, the first interaction customers have with businesses is in the online arena, and if they can’t find you online, chances are they’ll find your competitors. Your website acts as the hub of your online operation, providing consumers not only with your location and contact information, but also valuable information about your brand, your products, and your company as a whole.

You can optimize your website to increase your online presence and your chances of driving targeted traffic; and it can act as the base of operations from which to launch a blog, social media profiles, and even an online store. Of course, you need to take steps to secure your website against hackers, malicious code, spyware, and other threats that could be detrimental to your business and even harm your clientele. To this end, there are several precautions you should take.

  1. Start at the beginning. Protecting your website begins with implementing basic strategies intended to build layers of defense. For example, you should start by utilizing a web application firewall, and there are several options to consider. Although you can purchase dedicated hardware and software for this task, many modern business owners are electing to use cloud-based web application firewalls from security as a service (SECaaS) providers that offer security through hosted servers. This is both a convenient and affordable option that allows businesses to benefit from the most up-to-date website security options without having to keep appropriate hardware on site or hire security professionals to maintain the system.
  2. Update regularly. Many programs allow you the option to institute automatic updates, alleviating you of the responsibility to do so. However, this won’t work for every program or piece of equipment you utilize for your business. If you want to ensure security for your website and associated systems, you need to take the necessary steps to remain current with all appropriate software and firmware updates. Otherwise you could miss out on vital fixes needed to protect against new threats.
  3. Utilize passwords. Anyone who accesses your system, from administrators, to employees, to customers, should not only have a username and password, but should be made to utilize the best possible practices where passwords are concerned. This means instituting restrictions that call for strong passwords (i.e. those of 8 or more characters, including alphanumeric characters, upper and lower case, and even symbols), as well as forcing users to create new passwords regularly – say every 2-3 months. Since many hacks and malicious attacks are the result of automated code looking to infiltrate websites via dictionary (or similar) attacks in order to take advantage of mailing lists or engage in identity theft, strong passwords are an essential line of defense. You should also warn users to create different passwords for every site they visit so that if their accounts are hacked elsewhere your website will not be compromised. In addition, you can help to increase protections by not giving away too much information. For example, when a username or password is wrong, don’t display an error message that says which one is wrong. Cancel both fields so that hackers and malicious programs don’t know which one is correct.
  4. Test security. If you’re not testing your security, you won’t know if it’s faulty until you’re hacked. Unless you have a background in IT and the ability to dedicate time to ensuring website security, your best bet here might be to hire a third party to undertake this testing for you. Plenty of reputable IT service providers can accommodate you and even make recommendations for ways to upgrade your security measures. You could also hire in-house IT staff for this purpose and for ongoing maintenance and monitoring.
  5. Get professional help. The average business owner isn’t likely to have a strong background in online security. The good news is that you can hire qualified professionals to provide you with the diagnosis, advice, and services needed to put appropriate security measures in place. Your website is a tool that can help you connect with and serve your customers; you don’t want it to turn into a liability. Hiring experts to meet all of your security needs will help to ensure that you never have to deal with the fallout from a website security breach.

How Website Monitoring Can Improve Employee Productivity

website-monitoringMeasuring success and productivity within a business organization used to rely on end results. These days there is software to monitor everything from keystrokes to the amount of time a computer has been idle in order to generate reports for employers to gauge how much their employees really accomplish in a day. While small businesses might not necessarily be interested in becoming “Big Brother” and watching every move their employees make, you certainly need to consider the fact that certain programs and practices, such as website monitoring, can serve to increase security and make your employees more productive and your business more profitable.

What is website monitoring? Website monitoring is the examination of a company’s website performance, including uptime, outages, functionality, and usage, to ensure users have optimal and expected interaction with a site. Today businesses can take advantage of several different types of monitoring software or services. For example, you can hire a company to monitor and inform you of downtime on your own website, helping you to better serve customers that wish to access your website or their online accounts with your business. There are also a variety of tools that can track network usage by employees in order to spot dangerous or merely inappropriate behavior so that you can find ways to reduce threats and increase productivity.

You can implement such IT solutions yourself if you happen to have an in-house IT staff. If you can’t afford this pricy addition to your head count, however, it’s probably best to hire a third-party managed services provider that offers website monitoring, as well as web filtering (or content control). It’s not always enough to be aware of what your employees are doing on your network – you may also have to take steps to restrict their access so as to reduce the potential for data breaches, not to mention the many distractions the internet can provide.

How does website monitoring work? It starts with tracking network usage. With the appropriate software solutions, you can begin to see patterns in usage and pinpoint anomalies. You may, for example, find that you often experience lag and down time when using your network. A monitoring service could provide you with the data and analysis needed to realize that certain employees are hogging bandwidth during the day by streaming music or videos. When you are aware of such behavior you can put a stop to it, increasing the speed of your network and improving potential productivity.

Monitoring can also help you to spot outside attacks. Many systems and services offer alerts that let you know when your system is down or under attack, allowing you to more quickly put a stop to data breaches and the damage they can cause. In terms of productivity, there are few things worse than data breaches, not only because of theft, corruption, or destruction of files, but also due to the response activities that will follow, including investigation, increased security, cleanup, and notifications of the breach; all can slow your workflow to a crawl.

Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what monitoring software and services can help you accomplish. In addition to watching and reporting on employee activity, the right monitoring solutions can also help to curb wasteful habits. This is where web-filtering programs come into play. Such software is designed not only to track network usage, but to restrict or block access to sites that could pose a threat to security. Some produce a warning message when users are about to visit a dangerous website or click a spammy link. Others outright forbid such activity and stop the user from proceeding.

Such software can also be used to deny access to websites of your choosing. If you don’t want employees spending all day on Facebook and other social networking sites, all you have to do is block them. When you remove such temptations and time wasters, you stand to increase employee productivity by a significant margin. Although you want to trust your employees to behave responsibly while they’re on the clock, you also have to behave in a responsible manner if you want your business to be profitable. This could mean not only keeping an eye on network usage, but also implementing measures to ensure that your employees follow company policies regarding proper behavior on the company network and the company dime.

Avoid Downtime Due to Hackers

As I learned with my personal blog, your site doesn’t have to be big and important in order to be a target of hackers. In fact, small business sites and personal blogs make great targets because they don’t normally have someone on staff to secure it.

Thankfully, I had a backup and I wasn’t counting on revenue from my site. Not everyone is so lucky.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to give your site some basic protection against downtime due to hackers.

Keep Software Up To Date

When software or plugins come out with updated versions, it is often because there were security holes that needed to be fixed. My site was hacked by a script that crawled the internet to find sites with old versions of WordPress. I could have avoided the whole mess if I had just taken a few minutes to click the Update link in my WP admin.

Use Secure Passwords

This seemed almost too obvious to add to the list until I read that “123456” had finally overtaken “password” as the most common password.

You don’t have to go crazy with an obnoxiously long and impossible to remember password, but at least stay away from the most obvious choices like your domain name, your username, “admin”, and “test”.

Backup Your Site

In addition to defacing my site, the script that hacked my site also installed a number of hidden files that sent emails and who knows what else.

I could have just swapped out the home page, but starting with a clean backup ensured that these hidden files didn’t stick around and cause damage.

Avoid File Uploads

Allowing file uploads gives hackers yet another access point to get into your site. Even image uploads can be risky and you cannot rely on the extension.

The best solution is to prevent direct access to uploaded files altogether, but if this isn’t an option, you may want to consider consulting a professional.

Use SSL

SSL is a security protocol that is used to prevent attackers from “sniffing” data as it passes between the website and web server or database.

If your site collects payment information or personal data, you should consider using SSL to keep it secure.

Monitor Your Site Content

When your site is hacked, the sooner you know about it the better. One way to find out if your site has been defaced is by monitoring a snippet of content on your site that does not (or should not) change.

Content monitoring is available at no extra charge on all of our $5/mo+ plans. To enable content monitoring on a new or existing SiteUptime monitor, follow the simple steps below:

  1. Log into your Control Panel and click on “My Monitors”.
  2. Click the “Options -> Edit” link next to the monitor you wish to edit or click the button to add a new monitor.
  3. Click the Advanced Options button.
  4. Towards the bottom of the form, you will see “Monitor Page Content”. Enter the snippet you wish to monitor and you will receive an alert if the that content cannot be found.

 

 

Are You CC’ing Your Web Host on Your Email Alerts?

m-notifyingYourHost-155x155The only thing more annoying than your site going down at 2:00 in the morning is having to get out of bed to send an email to your web host and then stay up and play middle-man until the issue is resolved.

One way to get a little more sleep is to just CC your host on your downtime alert emails.

On the Add/Edit Monitor page in your Control Panel, simply enter your host’s support email address in the “CC the Following Addresses” field.

(Note: Please be respectful of your web host’s time. If your site frequently goes down for reasons outside of your host’s control, you probably shouldn’t use this feature.)

Want to Stay in the Loop on the Alerts?

By default, alert emails are sent from “no-reply@siteuptime.com”, so if your host wants to respond you won’t get the message.

Keep yourself in the loop by changing the From and Reply To email addresses to yourself or your admin. Then, when your host responds, they will actually be responding to you.

To change this information,  go to the Edit Profile page in your Control Panel, and look for the “Change ‘From’ and ‘Reply-to’ email” field. Don’t forget to save your changes!

Log Into Your Control Panel – or – Register For A New Account

Re-Introducing, Our Website Monitoring Webhook

If you have been with SiteUptime for awhile, you have probably stumbled upon a few of our “surprise features” while working in your control panel. These are big/small/medium-sized system enhancements that we scope, develop, test, and deploy without really telling anyone.

One of these surprise features is our Website Monitoring Webhook which went live months ago, but was never properly introduced.

This user-requested functionality allows you to specify the URL of a script where we can send data when an event occurs with one of your monitors. You can use it to customize your email routing, trigger an event in your system, switch to a backup, etc.

Learn More >

Did you know we that we have an affiliate program?

If you have a website or app (which you probably do) and you want to make some extra money (who doesn’t?), then you might want to check out our affiliate program.

All we need is the PayPal address where we should send your payments, and you can immediately start referring users and earning $30/Advanced Plan and $15/Premium Plan for each qualified upgrade!

Log into your SiteUptime Control Panel or Create a free account.

Then, click on the “Affiliate Program” button in the side navigation, give us your payment email, and you are ready to start referring users.

monitoring_dashboard_affiliateLink

 

 

Cloud Services and Your Site’s Uptime: What You Need to Know

If your website struggles with server lags or occasional downtime issues, it can hinder your biz. But if your site becomes inaccessible without your knowledge, you may end up facing a much harsher set of consequences: lost revenue, disappearing data, angry customers – or worse. Moreover, nothing gives a website a bad rep in an industry like frequent outages and server slowdowns.

These are all great reasons to employ a website uptime monitoring service. However, you should also stay on top of the actual factors that could potentially lead to website downtime. Of course, there’s the obvious stuff: keeping an eye out for traffic spikes, staying up-to-date with your server status, and routinely checking for errors or other on-site issues.

Here’s what most webmasters don’t know: cloud services have the unique ability to disrupt a website’s otherwise smooth uptime track record. It’s a newer problem, so it’s been largely ignored. Recently, however, a few well-known websites have done an excellent job of bringing some much-needed attention to the matter.

Cloud Services: Risky for Your Website

Read Write recently published an excellent write-up about cloud services, and the author expertly laid out the mechanics of their effect on website uptime. He pointed out that a great many websites rely heavily upon external (cloud) services. Think apps such as social media feeds, advertising plugins, or even third-party analytics. If any one of these cloud services happen to punk out, your website could pay dearly in the form of slow loading speeds, empty pages, or even by going offline.

The article pointed to the recent (and now infamous) Amazon and GoDaddy site downtime incidents that triggered a wave of panic and lost revenue following the blackout last year. Sites such as these are considered “too big to fail,” but at the end of the day, they’re just websites like yours. As their unexpected downtime proved, outages can happen to the big guns, too. It doesn’t matter how well known the company behind the cloud service on your site may be – if it crashes, you could still go down with the ship.

In the piece, readers were also reminded about an incident back in May that stemmed from the widespread use of a defective Facebook “Like” button. When webmasters attempted to add the button to one of their pages, it would prevent the entire page from loading for visitors.

Don’t Shortchange Your Customers

Over at Modernize, Ryan Hughes recently mused about where exactly the blame should fall for massive cloud service outages like these. He suggests that webmasters may be lured into a false sense of security by the brand names behind all those questionable cloud apps. Many make the mistake of failing to properly investigate the mechanics of the tools before plugging them into their sites.

Further, he wonders whether webmasters themselves seek to use free services simply to cut costs and have someone to blame when the lights go out. This, he notes, would be much simpler (and cheaper!) than creating and implementing their own apps for their own websites.

Key Takeaways for Your Site

According to Read Write’s article, the bottom line is this: as a webmaster, you should always have your finger on the pulse of your website. This means understanding all the moving parts – including third-party plugins and cloud services. What’s more, you should know where these services originate from and put in the hard work of investigating the source’s security strength and operational fortitude.

Hughes, on the other hand, says your primary concern should be your responsibility to your customers. For him, that translates to investing in your own original apps and services that you’ll be able to monitor and control internally.

No matter which route you choose, remember this: if GoDaddy, Facebook, and Amazon taught us anything last year, it’s that keeping a close eye on your website uptime is especially vital when you’re using cloud apps and services. However, when you’re a busy webmaster, constant uptime monitoring doesn’t exactly fit into your schedule.

That’s exactly why Site Uptime offers 24/7 website uptime monitoring and instant SMS alerts for webmasters. When you implement our monitoring service, you protect the investment you worked so hard to build.

Keep Hackers at Bay with HTTP Authentication Monitoring

When you spend any significant chuck of time creating and maintaining a website, it becomes a labor of love. When you’re heavily invested in your creation, protecting it should always be at the top of your list. In recent years, countless horror stories have surfaced about hijacked websites, hacking of sensitive hidden info, stolen user credentials, and more. In light of this sad reality, it would be insanely foolish to neglect website security.

Basic HTTP authentication is one way to tighten up security around your site. Think of your overall security plan as the layers of an onion – the more layers you add, the harder it will be for a bad guy to break in. By enabling basic HTTP authentication on your site’s private webpages, you’re adding a much-needed layer of safety to your online masterpiece.

Understanding HTTP Authentication

In order to appreciate the benefits of HTTP authentication, you first need to understand what exactly it is. Let’s break this down super simple style, shall we? Firs, there’s the HTTP transaction. That’s just the act of a browser sending a request to a server, followed by the server’s response. Both request and response use HTTP when they’re sent.

Whenever an HTTP transaction happens, if the server has enabled HTTP authentication, the browser or client program must offer up some credentials in order to gain access. Once an Internet user enters the correct user name and password, he or she will gain access to the protected page.

Advantages and Warnings

The first major plus of using basic HTTP authentication is simply that all browsers support it. If your company runs a smaller website that’s not open to the public, this option would be a dynamite addition to your existing website security plan. If you are the head of a large (and very public) online community, then you may need to opt for a different kind of authentication plan.

If you’re on team of programmers or system administrators, then you may have used basic HTTP authentication in your trusted network environment at some point or another. Since programmers must be able to read and diagnose activity, this form of authentication is preferable due to its simplicity. Bottom line: use this authentication technique in a trusted environment or on a private network. Otherwise, proceed with caution or enable additional security features to supplement HTTP authentication.

Introducing SiteUptime’s HTTP Authentication Monitoring

Did you know that SiteUptime offers HTTP authentication along with its other website uptime monitoring services? When you purchase a website monitoring plan (you can compare the features of each here), you can add HTTP authentication for only $5 extra per month. We do all the heavy lifting – all you must do is select a user name and password for the page you want to protect, and we’ll take it from there. No coding required.

If someone tries to access the page and the login attempt fails, SiteUptime will automatically send you an alert so you can check out the situation immediately. If you have a private network with webpages you’d like to protect, HTTP authentication is for you. If you have questions about this service, contact us for more information.

How to Prepare for Traffic Surges When Your Content Goes Viral

Every webmaster dreams of the day that they finally post that special article – the one that suddenly takes on a viral life of its own and pulls in the traffic like gangbusters. The really good ones follow this path and eventually wind up on a major website or online news organization.

When that happens, it’s supposed to be the most exciting day of your online career. Unfortunately, many site owners miss out on the feeding frenzy because their website simply can’t handle the traffic. People begin to have trouble accessing the site, frustrate, and click away to something else.

When that happens, how will you know? What can you do? Fortunately, you can take some precautions before your site crashes under the weight of all that new traffic.

Planning for Traffic Surges

If you’re just getting started, then it will likely take some time for your website content to circulate widely enough for a potentially viral piece to take flight. The more places your content and links to your site show up, the more chances people will stumble upon something great you’ve just written. If no one knows your website exists, then, that great piece may never see the light of day.

Once you’re established, have a reputation, and you’re becoming known for generating cutting-edge stuff, it’s time to think about taking some precautions. You need to have services on standby that can step in and handle any traffic surges that may slow down or temporarily disable your site.

For example, Amazon’s AWS (Amazon Web Services) Storage Gateway offers solutions for just such a crisis. The service allows webmasters to leverage Amazon EC2’s on-demand compute capacity to mirror data in case they need a boost of capacity during traffic surges. It may be worth considering if you have a site with a unique concept that seems to be catching on rather quickly. That’s a sign that you may become popular more quickly than you originally expected.

Website Monitoring Services

Now that we’ve talked about how to handle unexpected traffic surges after they’ve happened, let’s focus on how to monitor your website uptime. It’s important to watch for downed pages and slow load times consistently in order to prevent your site from missing out on a rush of new visitors. Think about it: a percentage of that traffic is almost guaranteed to convert to loyal readers if you keep setting the bar higher for your content quality. However, if you fail to accommodate for the initial traffic spike, you may just lose every one of those new visitors.

But who has the time to monitor their website’s uptime all day and night? Certainly not you if you’re busy creating all that great content. That’s why using an affordable website uptime monitoring service like SiteUptime is so vital. SiteUptime can curb your website downtime through its wildly popular free and advanced remote monitoring services. When your website goes down, you get an instantaneous notification via email or text so you can take action right away. That will give you the chance to correct problems instantaneously – before you lose all those precious new readers.