Know Before Your Customers Tell You: The Benefits of Website Monitoring

Posted by Binary Canary Team on Jun 21, 2018 8:24:40 AM

Your website is one of the most important tools your business has. It's your open opportunity to connect with customers, make sales, and share important product information. As valuable a tool as your website is, that means that downtime can have an extraordinary cost. Unfortunately, all too many businesses don't find out that their website is down until they're informed by their customers—and sometimes, that comes too late to repair much of the damage done during the downtime. If you've been blindsided one time too many by customer reports of a website gone down or you're hoping to be proactive about maintaining your website's uptime, website monitoring provided by Binary Canary can have a significant impact on your ability to do business the way it really needs to be done.  

The Cost of Downtime

When your website goes down, you're not just missing out on current customer purchases. In many cases, website downtime can mean a host of lost opportunities. Consider how website downtime can negatively impact your business. 

You'll miss out on current sales. New customers, in particular, aren't going to sit around and wait for your website to come back up. Even loyal customers may struggle with patience if they need to get a particular item ordered fast. When your website is down, they can't make their purchases from you. 

You'll miss out on future sales. The more often your website is down, the less reliable your customers will consider you to be—and as a result, you may find yourself struggling to keep their business. Not only that, you have no way of knowing how many customers will decide, during your downtime, to check out a competitor who does a better job of meeting their needs. When they opt for a competitor instead of you due to website downtime, you miss out on the full lifetime value of that customer. 

You miss out on opportunities for workers to do business. Many employees rely on your website functioning smoothly to take care of their daily job responsibilities. When the website goes down, they're unable to do their jobs properly. That can mean anything from packing orders to returning sales calls. You can't order them to head home for an hour or more while you bring the website back up, so those employees are just sitting in the office, waiting for the website to be repaired so they can return to work.

Customer service decreases. When they can't access the website, your employees can't provide vital services that your users have come to expect. As a result, they may find themselves struggling to provide the customer service that customers need. Customers who call in will want information from the website, but if it's down, employees might not be able to access it, either. Dissatisfied customers are more likely to have a negative view of your business-—and in the future, they'll be more likely to take their business elsewhere. 

You'll have to pay for repairs. Accurate website monitoring isn't just about making sure that you find out quickly about potential problems. It's also about ensuring that you'll be able to solve problems before they become more serious. Website monitoring can help predict problems and ensure that you're able to decrease downtime before a problem takes your website down. 

Bad publicity can spread further than you know. You've lost customers during the time your website was down. What about the publicity they spread? "Oh, don't bother with that business. Their website was down the last time I visited it, and it took forever to get it back up again." "Oh, I didn't like that business. Their customer service was terrible." Worse are negative reviews online, which may permanently stain your reputation. The longer your website is down, the more serious the problems may be—and the more damage control you'll have to do in order to restore your reputation later.

The ultimate cost of website downtime to your business will depend on a number of factors, including the size of your company, your regular business, and how loyal your customers are, not to mention how long your website is down. Take a look at those factors, then consider how having your website down for even an hour could impact your business—and how website monitoring can help improve your odds of success. Note that 98% of businesses acknowledge that a single hour of downtime can cost their business more than $100,000. How much are you missing out on while your website is down?

The Benefits of Website Monitoring

When you use uptime monitoring to keep an eye on how your website is performing, you'll be able to experience a number of key benefits. For example:

When your website is down, you'll know immediately. You won't find yourself waiting around for customers to tell you what's going on--and which point, you've already missed out on valuable revenue opportunities. Instead, you'll know as soon as possible that there's a problem. 

You'll be able to start work on the problem sooner. When you know that there's a problem, you can start the steps that will fix it instead of losing valuable time that could have been spent repairing the damage, you'll be able to kick off that repair process and get your website back up faster. 

You'll be able to notify customers proactively. Don't wait around for customers to notify you! Instead, let them know that you know there's a problem, that you're working on it, and around how long you expect it to take before the website is back up again. This simple step can help prevent you from losing customers and decrease the odds that they'll hurry off to competitor. 

If you need website monitoring services that will help you keep your website running smoothly, contact us! We'll work with you on uptime monitoring, downtime notifications, and all the other vital pieces that will keep your website up and running as smoothly as possible. While it may be impossible to completely eliminate website downtime, you can significantly decrease it—and that means more satisfied customers who are more likely to remain loyal to your business. At Binary Canary, we'll provide the website monitoring you need to track your site so that you'll know your site is having problems before your customers let you know. If you're ready to get started or need to learn more about those advantages, contact us today!

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Topics: Website Monitoring, Uptime Monitoring, Outages, Binarycanary.com

The Human Factor - When an Outage Is A Mistake

Posted by Binary Canary Team on May 15, 2018 10:12:00 AM

You may have heard the joke about how "Somebody tripped over a power cable in the hosting center."

Joking aside, a study sponsored by Emerson Network Power in 2016 showed that 22 percent of outages are caused by human error, and that percentage has remained stable for several years. (This is not counting outages caused by deliberate human action such as hacking or sabotage). Other studies put the percentage as high as 75%. Some of those outages even literally are caused by accidentally unplugging something.

 

So, what are the primary causes of human error?

 

1. Power problems. Which includes, yes, accidentally unplugging something. It can also include plugging too much equipment into one circuit, causing a fuse to blow or a circuit breaker to flip. A lot of IT equipment is dual-corded, which can increase errors, as can worn out labels on circuits. This makes it all too easy to power down the wrong server. In some cases, major outages have been caused by somebody turning off the UPS and nobody noticing it until main power goes off. Do you remember the 3 day outage of British Airways' computers that caused the delay or cancellation of 1,000 flights? Caused by somebody disconnecting a power supply.

2. Software updates. System administrators tend to hate them, and in some cases problems can be caused by not performing updates, especially security updates. Problems can also be caused by not checking system requirements and installing an update legacy equipment cannot handle. The most common human error, though, is installing an untested update or not properly backing up before installing the update. In May of 2017, Starbucks installed an update to their point of sale systems, which went wrong and turned many Starbucks into cash only businesses for half a day.

3. New installations. Switching sites over from an old server to a new one is always going to be a high risk process. When it goes wrong it can result in significant downtime. New installations are complex and cannot be automated. It can happen to the best of us: When SalesForce did a site switch of their servers in 2016, the database lost file integrity and they had to restore from backups.

4. Not having a disaster recovery plan. Not planning for downtime is the easiest way to make sure downtime lasts longer. Even small companies should have an IT disaster recovery plan to allow them to get back on their feet.

5. Not keeping (or checking) backups. Automated backups handle ninety percent of situations, but sometimes a human has to step in. When an automated backup system fails, a lot of the time administrators don't notice until they need their backups and discover they are corrupted or non-existent.

6. Failing to anticipate load. This was how Lowes and Macy's both had major outages on Black Friday, 2017. They did not realize just how much strain would be put on their servers and didn't set up the needed extra capacity. This resulted in a load-related failure of their payment servers. Lowes' website went down altogether for 21 minutes, an eternity in e-commerce time.

7. Routine maintenance issues. Remember when AWS went down for hours on February 28, 2017? It took with it half the internet. AWS status report was on the affected servers. Both DownDetector and IsItDownRightNow.com went down from the load. Some people were unable to use their smart devices. The cause? A typo. Literally, a typo made by the person taking down some servers for maintenance.

8. Failures of computer hygiene. A worker opens the wrong email or the wrong file and all of the servers go down. Many cyber attacks rely on somebody making a mistake or not paying attention to get in.

9. Mistakes with climate control. Flipping the temperature from Fahrenheit to Celsius can rapidly cause equipment to overheat. Many datacenters now avoid this by eliminating human control over the thermostat.

 

So, how can you reduce the human factor? Automating everything possible is always a good idea, but here are some other things to consider:

 

1. Use monitoring systems such as Binarycanary.com to alert staff immediately when a system goes offline. The first step to resolving an outage is knowing when it happens. Even for downtime that is not caused by human error, a common reason for problems not being resolved is the correct personnel not being notified. You can't rely on employees or customers to notice a problem right away. BinaryCanary.com helps make sure that you are instantly aware if a key system goes down.

2. Security training for all employees. Everyone who accesses your system should be properly drilled on how to spot phishing attempts, not opening unsolicited attachments, etc. Sending the occasional spoofed email from IT can help spot the people who are vulnerable and need a reminder.

3. Improved datacenter design. Better labels can prevent the wrong server or cabinet from being unplugged. Wiring things in the easiest and most intuitive way will make life easier for everyone who does maintenance in the datacenter. Color coding plugs and plug inserts is a great way to make sure everything gets and stays plugged in to the right power systems. Using red cords for mission-critical equipment that should never be unplugged has helped some people. Secure plugs which require a key to unplug are available and might be useful in some circumstances. 

4. Better training. Making training mandatory for everyone who goes in or near a datacenter is a good idea. Set a good example by taking at least some of the courses yourself. Training is expensive, but it has a high ROI when it prevents an incident. Hold refresher courses at least annually, ideally twice a year.

5. Limit access. If people have no business being in the server room, keep them out of the server room. This reduces mistakes and also helps improve physical datacenter security, keeping out thieves.

6. Have and test a disaster recovery plan. Having a plan is not good enough. You need to test it and retest it periodically, especially if something has changed.

7. Keep all of your software up to date whilst performing updates carefully to help prevent downtime caused by a bad upgrade.

Human error is a major cause of website and IT outages, and likely always will be. Minimizing it is best done with training and planning to make sure that people make fewer mistakes and fix them faster.

 

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Sources:

https://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240179651/Human-error-most-likely-cause-of-datacentre-downtime-finds-study

https://www.greenhousedata.com/blog/despite-automation-human-error-is-a-top-cause-of-downtime-how-to-avoid-it

https://www.cloudendure.com/blog/7-outages-system-downtime-incidents-q2-2017/

https://www.pcworld.com/article/3068699/salesforce-outage-continues-in-some-parts-of-the-us.html

https://blog.bluematador.com/major-downtime-blunders-2017

http://www.raritan.com/blog/detail/preventing-human-error-in-a-data-center

https://blog.newcloudnetworks.com/5-ways-to-prevent-human-error-disasters

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Topics: IT outages, Outages, Binarycanary.com, Human Error

3 Aspects Of Your Business That Must be Monitored - www.binarycanary.com

Posted by Binary Canary Team on May 4, 2018 3:42:33 PM

Mandatory Uptime Monitoring

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Topics: Website Monitoring, Uptime Monitoring, Server Monitoring, Email Server Monitoring, DNS Monitoring

Why Monitor?

Website downtime is a fact of life. Even highly redundant websites experience failures. To underscore our point, we actively monitor 1,000 "world wide" websites across multiple industries.

The average uptime is 99.41%, meaning that each site may be down for as much as 52 hours per year.

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