High Availability : Keeping your Business Website Running at All Times?
Why Your Website Should Be Available 24/7
In this 24/7 world, your customers and clients expect your website to work at all times. If they want to shop or get information at 3:00 a.m., your site needs to be up and running. If it’s not available, you plant seeds of doubt in your customers’ minds. A simple error message can make a customer doubt the integrity of your entire business or its ability to fulfill simple orders. If the customer is checking on the status of an existing order, a non-functioning website can cause them to question whether it’s safe to do business with you. After all, if you can’t deliver as promised, surely one of your competitors can.
Because of this, your website must be reliable around the clock. Any time your site is down, you need to figure out the cause and fix it as quickly as possible. It doesn’t matter how appealing or highly featured your site is if it doesn’t work reliably. When your website boasts high availability, it can be relied on for higher than average periods of uptime. Uptime of 99.999 percent is optimal. This high-end uptime, sometimes known as “five nines” uptime, results in about five minutes of downtime per year. The next level, “four nines,” or 99.99 percent uptime, results in 526 minutes of unavailability each year.
While it’s your web host’s responsibility to provide and guarantee that uptime, it’s your business that suffers if expectations aren’t met.
Issues That Can Derail Your Website’s Availability
What do you have to look out for to keep your website up and running? Here are some key issues that can affect your website’s availability. • Compromised Security. Hackers often compromise sites, especially those that aren’t well-maintained. If you learn that some of your customers are being spammed, supposedly by your site, you’ve been compromised. If this occurs, your site needs a full security audit and repair before its reputation is ruined with search engines and with your customers.
• More Traffic Than Expected. When this occurs, generally it’s good news: you’re going viral, or your marketing is working and visitors are flocking to your site. The bad news happens when your site crashes as a result. To prevent this, your site needs to be scalable, growing and shrinking as needed. Optimizing website code and servers are ways to approach this happy problem. • DDoS attacks. Being hit with a Distributed Denial of Service attack can come as a shock. When this occurs, you’re essentially being held for ransom as attackers flood your site with bad data. A DDoS mitigation service is the only way to filter out the bad data so your customers can still find you.
• Coding errors. Sometimes the problems don’t come from outside. If you have errors in your site’s code, you can see crashes and delays across the board. Often
these errors make themselves known to customers during critical transactions, and may result in you losing their business. Auditing and analyzing your code is necessary to make the appropriate fixes.
• Maintenance. You may think downtime for software and server maintenance is a given, but redundant services can keep your site going even while maintenance is being performed. An analysis of your site’s traffic will help determine when to schedule maintenance. Because power or server outages can cause further downtime problems, you need 24/7 monitoring to catch these issues the instant they occur.
How to Keep Your Website Available
Fortunately, there is a wealth of resources available to maintain high availability on your business website. Start with automatic daily backups, not just for your site, but for all your databases. Content distribution networks can help with DDoS attacks and unexpected spikes in traffic. Best-in-class web application firewalls also protect against DDoS attacks, and you should research what protection your cloud server provides. Check out hardening tools like Net Registry, and monitoring tools including Updown and Pingometer.
On a deeper level, you need formal, ongoing code quality processes in place, including continuous integration, code reviews, and static code analysis.
Redundancy is a basic principle of all IT. When your site and applications are being run from many servers in a cluster, everything can keep working even if any single server or computer crashes. When your services are all redundant, no single point of failure can bring down your entire site.
Call us to learn more about our solutions for maintaining your business website’s availability. Our goal is to keep your site running around the clock and our engineers are available 24/365 as well.