The first and most obvious reason (to have more up-time than down-time) is your visitors the other, which is equally as important is search engine spiders (in order to maintain your existing rankings and stay visible in search engines).
After indexing, search engine spiders randomly frequent pages to ensure that (a) the page exists and (b) there have been no updates to report back to the search engine’s index.
In the event that a spider (a.k.a user-agent or robot) visits and your pages are off-line or missing in action, you risk all of your hard work to attain that organic ranking (which could have been years) being flushed away as a result, not to mention a cunning competitor naturally occupying your spot.
What happens when your Host Drops the Ball?
O.K, so this is where the rant starts, but there is a reason for this post. The INSPIRATION behind the jaded emotion is to let businesses know (no matter how big or small) that poor customer service is not something you can brush under the rug. So if you make a mistake in business, own up to it and do your best to make it right, before someone goes “social” on you and drops the dime on your reputation.
Long story short, we have used GoDaddy for the past 2 years for hosting our site. However, recently as a result of a social media and traffic deluge from a popular post. Our pages were experiencing outages as a result of pushing the bandwidth to the limits.
You know about The Digg Effect (getting hit with 25,000 server-toasting visitors as a result of the front page), well, I can assure you there is a Stumble and Sphinn Effect as well that can leave your servers reeling if you’re not prepared to deal with a social media deluge.
It all started when an esteemed SEO with notoriety Sphunn a page of ours at Sphinn, from there a few more pages got Stumbled and traffic was heading into the stratosphere. Then, while trying to access a few pages, I experienced a few 500 internal server errors which prevented access to the site.
To offset any unforeseen event of an outage, I then called our host www.GoDaddy.com to perform a a simple task (to increase the bandwidth and upgrade the hosting to offset the anticipated rush) which turned into a Hosting Horror Story in hindsight.
As a result, they left our site virtually crippled and off-line for nearly three days (which was just restored hours ago today) after eight (hour long) phone calls just to get the point across and cut through the red tape, they finally lead on to the facts (someone dropped the ball).
The thing that really bothered me the most was, they assured us of no outages, interruptions, etc. for such a simple migration. Then when something goes wrong, instead of informing us, they were tight-lipped about the situation, which led us to believe that it was a denial of service attack or some other black hat /server exploitation or hack attempt that was responsible for high-jacking our domain.
After 8 phone calls later, 2 additional mistakes from GoDaddy (restoring the data in the wrong folders) and an acknowledgement that they dropped the ball, they offered to waive the $150 restore fee for losing the data as a result of their mistake (wow).
Then, after another 24 hours, after failing to communicate that the service had been restored to a manageable level (which our own developers could have easily handled in less than an hour to get us back up and running) I had to call 3 more times just to force them to restore the site back to it’s prior functioning status as opposed to an empty FTP site with their (everything is working fine pitch).
I want to take a moment to state, that for those of our RSS subscribers, or individuals who have been frequenting our site lately, I apologize for being off line as of late.The moral of the story, no matter what type of business you are in, incurring downtime as a result of server problems (accidental or human induced) is one of the most harrowing experiences any business will have to endure.
Not only is your ability to communicate with the masses terminated, but your reputation and brand image can plummet as a result of the dent in your credibility your when new or unique visitors try to visit your site, only to find a (this page/site is missing in action) 404 error.
This goes back to Murphy’s law, if something can go wrong, it probably will, so as your business grows, your need proportionately expands for a reliable hosting environment which will require a stint of research and a strategic move on your part.
Finding the right business partner that can provide a hassle free, straight-forward solution for a critical dilemma without defaulting to a generic we cannot guarantee that your site will be up and running but we will do the best we can to remedy the situation within 72 hours spiel is not someone you want to trust with your brand. Who has 72 hours to spare in the middle of a media barrage? 72 seconds maybe, but even then it’s all about damage control and reaching new prospects.
Needless to say, terms like “disappointing and unacceptable” come to mind but fail to describe the stress and anxiety one feels when confronted with such a harsh reality.
In conclusion, you need to take steps to protect yourself like backing up your data regularly (particularly your databases) and keep a mirror, just in case you have to do a quick switch-a-roo and flip your DNS to another service provider in a pinch.
In this particular scenario, since they had escalated the situation to their “Advanced Hosting Team” the database and the content was on lock down, because it appeared as a hack. So, this is one situation we could have avoided and then shifted to another hosting environment, had we been prepared.
Because leaving your business in the hands of the wrong host can leave you high and dry with a mere shadow of your websites’ former stature left in it’s place if your service provider drops the ball.
If you have a hosting horror story, feel free to share your comments and let businesses know, that poor customer service has real world repercussions (such as blogging to the masses and SERP control). With the range and scope of social media and RSS each voice can have a profound impact on reputation management.