This is a great guest post by Stormy Sweitzer that you should definitely bookmark!
Imagine being miles from home with limited or no access to the Internet, when the website you make your living from goes down – and stays down until you return from your out-of-the-way adventure.
If you are a nomadic web entrepreneur who runs most or all of your business yourself, this scenario probably plays in the back of your mind. You may have even taken steps to prevent it. I learned the hard way how to prepare for this scenario…and deal with the consequences.
My husband/business partner and I had planned a multi-week trip for months, taking care of all the details of our jam-packed adventure with friends. We thought we had similarly prepared our business – a now-defunct membership website – to run on its own while we were away.
When we returned home, we discovered that our business had been offline for ten days – certain death in the world of web. Our hosting provider had performed unexpected server upgrades mid-way through our trip leaving our customers facing a blank, white screen.
The lessons we learned from this experience, and how we now manage our other sites when we travel make up The Traveling Web Entrepreneur’s Technology Back-up Plan.
1. Back up your computer, site content, and email service
If something does go wrong or your site disappears, backup files can help you restore your site up to the point that the last backup was saved. In our case, the email system also went down. Given the way our hosting provider managed email, any attempt to contact us was unrecoverable. An email backup would have been helpful.
Set up automated backups of your website(s) at least once a week. If you update your site each day or your users/customers add a lot of comments and content, you may want to back your site up more frequently. You can save backup files on a hard drive (be sure to store it someplace away from your computer). Or, for a monthly fee, you can save them with an online file storage company so that you have virtual access to your backups from anywhere.
Email systems vary across hosting providers; enable an email server backup if it is available so you do not lose any correspondence to your business email address (the one that matches your site’s domain name) if your site goes down.
Since hardware and software can have problems, too, remember to back up your computer periodically so you have a recent copy of written content, photographs, other files used for your personal and professional life, and even your system’s setup.
2. Make sure your web services are up to date and automatically renewed
When we were finally able to fix the server problem, we discovered that the SSL certificate for our membership site had expired and had not been set to auto-renew. The expiration notice, unfortunately, came during the time that the email server was down and we spent an extra day sorting things out – that was time our customers spent not feeling confident entering their login information to access their account information.
To avoid losing key web services, be sure to check expiration and renewal dates of your domain names, hosting, and all other services you use to run your site, before you leave and make sure you know if something is due.
If possible, place domain names, secure socket layer (SSL) certificates, and other web services needed to operate your site on automatic renewal. Set up automatic payment of both your bills and your credit card so that you never miss a payment.
Have a current credit card and email address set up with all of your service providers (i.e., domain registrars, hosting providers, etc.). In fact, keeping a checklist of all service providers where your credit card is on file will help you quickly update all of them when your current credit card expires.
3. Monitor your site’s server availability
We had no internet access for several days and, because we had not been notified of the server upgrade, we did not know what we needed to do to solve the problem. Google’s robots crawled our site during this time, and, finding nothing, pulled rank on a year and a half of effort.
A simple website monitoring service could have notified us – or one of our family members that knew how to reach us – that there was a problem.
If you are planning a trip away, set up a website monitoring service that will notify you if your site goes down. This service will only help if you, or someone keeping an eye on things for you, have ready access to email, text messaging, Twitter, or RSS feed. Before using a service, check its features to make sure it will meet your need. Some services allow you to have multiple contacts, receive SMS alerts, send automated reboot requests to your hosting provider (ideal if you are out of reach), or monitor both web and email servers.
Consider asking a trusted friend or family member to monitor the site for you periodically or serve as the primary or additional contact on your monitoring service. Make sure they know what to do and how to reach you and/or your service providers if the site goes down or malfunctions.
4. Be able to administer your website remotely
We had the ability to log in to the administrative side of our website remotely, but we did not have access to the internet. Without it, we were not able to use it to figure out and correct the server problem until we returned to home base.
If you will have periodic access to the internet, it is good to know how to access your website’s content management system, hosting service control panel, and, if you are very tech-savvy, even your web server through an Internet browser or remote desktop. Keep your usernames and passwords up-to-date and secure.
Being familiar with administrative features for your site (the dashboard) and hosting service (control panel) can also help you quickly navigate through the systems to make any changes your site needs.
5. Know how to contact your service providers
Since you never know when a problem might occur, it is also good to have your service providers’ most current information on hand, especially how to reach them for support if there are changes that you can’t make yourself.
Keep an email or Google Doc with a list of technical support phone numbers and email addresses in case you need to use them. You can also share this information with the friend or family member who is helping you monitor problems with your site.
Bonus Tip: Be prepared to reassure your customers
While our site was down, there was no message informing visitors of why, just a white screen. Once we resolved the problem, it took another day before anyone was able to log in to the site confidently. It was a difficult situation to manage and a challenge to reestablish relationships with our customers.
If this type of problem happens to your site, customers will want to know what happened and what you have done to fix the situation. Be candid, address questions about data if you need to, and let them know you are there to help and to continue providing great service to them.
Have you experienced a business technology failure while traveling? What did you learn from it that you use to keep your site and other services up and running now?
About the author: Stormy Sweitzer is a kitchen strategist, food allergy navigator, and real-food author and educator who focuses on simple, delicious, and healthful eating strategies for people with active lives. Her philosophy: the food we eat needs to fit into our lives, not the other way around. Stormy combines her background as an entrepreneur, public health professional and travel-junkie to provide classes, books, and recipes that inspire people to gain confidence in the kitchen while exploring healthy foods and new flavors. Visit Stormy at https://www.Maoomba.com.
$100 Change is an initiative designed to ensure entrepreneurs make the most of $100 to start their dream project. Right now you can join and have the opportunity to win 1 of 10 scholarships currently of $500 each.
Join 100 Changemakers in 100 days and start your dream project.