As I write this, Twitter and many other websites are filling up with complaints about the non-accessibility of Facebook over the last few hours (you can see a screengrab from downrightnow.com below). With 500 million users (read: addicts), the number of complaints will probably peak soon, possibly even before the problems are resolved, as people get bored of moaning and do something more profitable with their time instead. However, it raises an issue for businesses – many of whom are becoming reliant on their Facebook pages to communicate with their customers, as well as those who are seeing increasing amounts of business through Facebook ads.
As more businesses rely on third parties to generate traffic, make sales, and store data in the cloud, the failure on the part of a third party can have considerable effects on your business, and even a few hours downtime from a lucrative lead generator, your data storage ‘cloud’ or your e-commerce merchant account provider can cause pain. It would be very difficult, if not impossible to conduct business over the Internet without needing to use third parties to do so but it is always worth taking a look at your crisis management plan for each of the services that you rely on, so you can foretell what consequences downtime will have, and be ready to react should a ‘disaster’ occur.
Whilst there are few, if any, businesses who can boast the reach that Facebook has, any downtime can cause a loss in revenue, and hence profit (or any social media marketing tactic for that matter). Making sure your website enjoys an uptime of well over 99% is vital, particularly for e-commerce sites. So, check that your website is always backed up and that you have an alternative hosting provider which will kick in automatically should your primary host fail. Companies who are reliant on e-commerce sales for their business should probably consider secondary hosting in an alternative country, as there have been instances where regional and even national networks have been incapacitated.
Back up any data in the cloud to an offline source regularly, preferably whenever you put new data into the cloud. Whilst Google Apps has a particularly good record, its many millions of users do make it a target for unscrupulous folk looking to gain notoriety for their cracking/hacking skills. The same goes for many smaller sites, and you should consider all data as critical and have at least one, if not more backups of data, including emails, databases, spreadsheets, documents and so on. The more of these that can be stored in separate places the better, in the unlikely case that you suffer fire, pestilence/virus attacks, and bandwidth famine all in one go.
And finally, do not put all your marketing eggs in one basket. If you rely on a single source for the majority of your traffic (whether this is the search engines, Facebook or a particular trade site), the loss of that source, even temporarily, will damage your bottom line. You should use a wide range of internet marketing tactics in order to reach the maximum audience possible, as well as covering you should any single source of revenue or customers fail.