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Backups, Backup Plans, and Fire Suppression

by Michael Waite, Bonefrog Creative

One thing you can count on when flying your money-mining ship through cyberspace: problems. Technological problems. Functionality problems. Support service problems. Hacker problems. Snipper problems. It really is the wild-end of the last frontier out there. And you’ve got to be prepared with backups and problem-scenario plans.

Data Backup. You’re hearing nothing new from me when I say you need to carefully and religiously backup your data—your website files, your databases, you book-keeping records, everything. There’s no excuse not to. Data storage is cheap and it’s easy. There are automatic solutions out there, or you can set up (in writing) a manual one. Just do it. If you’re building and maintaining the site yourself, then you’ll have a complete copy of your site (including the support and assembly files) on your workstation computer hard drive. Back it up after every update/change/upload to the web server. If someone else is handling the site updates, go online and FTP a copy to your backup HD.

Backup Plans. As you gain eCommerce and web functionality savvy, you’ll see more and more situations where things can go bad and stick you with a problem. Something goes wrong with your hosting service and you’ve got to move somewhere else, fast. Your key webmaster employee quits you without notice. You contracted web-person goes AWOL. Whatever.

Have files or notebooks with procedural steps outlining what needs to be done to get systems back to normal. Have your key employees and/or contractors write these step-by-step guides, including passwords and the this-then-this process of all critical operations.

Part B of your backup planning is to not only know what to do, but where you can go to replace what you’ve lost or need to quickly change. Like another web host and hosting plan (already researched and settled upon). A contract webmaster to fill in for your in-house person until you’ve got her replaced. A consultant you can call on when things go weird and you need some savvy advice.

Fire Suppression. Many have learned this lesson the hard’re going to learn it the easy way: pay attention to what’s being said about you out there in cyberspace. Maybe some blogger is burning your down in the blogosphere. Some unhappy customer is ranting about your horrible product or service on every review board she can find. You’re getting tagged as a spammer even though you’re sure you’re playing by the rules. Pay attention.

Someone needs to be paying attention to what’s being said about you. Set up the Google Alert service or something similar and task somebody with paying attention. Decide who the company spokesperson will be and make sure they know what they need to know. Be as transparent as possible. Realize and accept that you’re not of everyone. Don't try to appeal to every possible customer-type...that only leads to inflated claims and dissatisfaction. Bottom line: people don’t expect perfection, they just expect attention and compassion when something goes wrong. They expect you to make it right. Sometimes it may even be their fault, not yours...but is there some way you can make it right anyway...even if it's simply providing advice on getting out of the jam? (see also Dealing With Bad Reviews)

Damage Control. Google slaps you for some perceived volation and your search traffic slows to a trickle. A new competitor moves in and shakes things up by either knocking you off, busting your chops in features comparison, or kicking your butt in the marketing game. If you manufacture and sell a product, pirates will find you. Hackers gain access to your secure database and hijack valuable information. Spammers zombie your computer and use your IP address to launch a spam flotilla...getting you shut down. WHAT TO DO? Your first defense comes from your savvy, from knowing what could happen so you can prepare for when and if the bad guys come sneaking under your fence. Then plan accordingly so you can move decisively and effectively.

Nobody is going to care about it as much as you do. If you leave oversight and planning to someone else, you’ll be bitten. Budget for defense. Sock some money away to fight if needed. Dedicate resources and staff time to backups, backup planning and fire suppression. Integrate backup planning and resources into your business planning.
phone: (208) 776-5210

© Michael Waite • (May be reprinted as long as contact information is included)