Recently I saw a law firm experience an unfortunate event. The firm launched a new version of its website and sent out an email announcing the launch. The email included a picture of the website with a link to visit the site. I clicked on the link and saw….nothing. A blank page. I searched the name of the firm, found some other links, clicked on them and saw…nothing.
I know of the firm, but don’t know the people well, so I called someone who does and asked her to please call and let someone know that there was a problem. I don’t want to see anyone get embarrassed. My colleague called the firm and let it know that its new site was down.
It seems that so many people clicked on the link at once that the new website couldn’t handle it and the server choked. The firm and its web designers were unaware of the problem until I had the call made over their way. Once they became aware of the issue they were able to quickly resolve it. But what an unfortunate thing to experience at a website launch.
Set up an alert
It is possible that the web designer or IT person for the site knew it had gone down, but I don’t think so. There are alerts that can be set up to let you know if your website has gone down. Consider arranging one for your site.
Don’t go cheap
Here’s the thing. A lot of law firms and businesses want to get the cheapest hosting package possible for their websites. I have no idea if this was the case for this firm, but it is a common problem. Don’t go with the cheapest package, make sure that your site will be able to handle what you throw at it. The lowest level I recommend for law firms is generally a business level package. Don’t try to get something for $15 per year or $2 per month. It isn’t worth it. Generally you will be looking at around $10 per month for the lowest package you should consider. Sometimes you will find a deal, but really, is $120 a year that much to make sure your website works?
Mirror your site
Another thing to consider for your site is a mirror. In essence an exact copy of your site is located on more than one server. With the proper set up, if one version crashes, another one will remain available. Any firm that expects a lot of traffic should always have a mirror, but given the import of having websites up and running these days, if you are a firm that really relies on its website for business, consider adding a couple of mirrors. Most large firms are set up this way. Companies such as Netflix, Google, and Amazon have an immense amount of servers around the country and/or the world. Good hosting companies or web designers that tend to work with larger firms should be able to help you set something like this up.
Stagger your emails
In addition, if, like the firm in my scenario, you plan on sending out an email to a lot of people, consider sending it in waves. That way you won’t have hundreds or thousands of people clicking on a website at once, and can avoid a crash.
Be aware of increased traffic
Sometimes people get lucky and a blog post or video goes viral. It is often very difficult for even high level websites to deal with a viral post. Have a plan for keeping your site up if something goes wrong (or right.) You don’t want to lose the opportunity for a lot of people to see your site because you cannot handle the traffic. Be sure someone has the appropriate phone numbers and log-in information so she can be in touch with your hosting company and increase bandwidth or move your site to another service, if necessary.
Take care of your website. Make certain that it has enough power behind it to stay up and running for your expected audience, and then, maybe, consider adding a little more.