Woodchucks, failed websites and DR planning for SMB

Woodchucks on deck

A cute family of woodchucks took up residence under our deck. Whenever one of these little critters took a stroll in the yard or on the deck, our cat jumped to the window and makes all types of noise. I assume he wanted to play with them. More likely, he wanted to invite the to be the guest of honor at dinner.

When I visited a well-known household hardware store's website while seeking a humane way to ask the woodchuck family to move on to the nearby woods, I was surprised to find that the company's website was down for "maintenance" in the middle of normal business hours.

How many small to medium size businesses allow the same thing to happen to them?

Off the Network Equals Out of Business

While I know that the company in question is a very large company in the business of selling tools, building materials, flooring, appliances and the like and not in the computer business, I don't think that their management team really thinks about the consequences of being off the air during normal business hours. It's as if they allowed their company to go out of business.

I have no idea how much revenue they lost during that outage or how many customers merely went down the network to purchase from one of their competitors. It is clear, however, that either they didn't have plans to prevent potential outages or their plans weren't adequate to deal with whatever problems appeared.

This can be a significant problem for smaller firms that don't have the expertise needed or the money to invest in having multiple data centers and redundant systems.

Planning for outages

A company website, like other critical IT systems, can be made to survive the loss of systems, storage, networks and even whole data centers. It requires careful planning and provisioning layers of software and hardware to deal with or prevent outages from occurring.

A small company need not purchase all of the hardware and software to create a highly available website. Many suppliers of cloud services would be happy to host the company website.

If the company in question had asked any hardware supplier, such as IBM, HP, or Dell, any software supplier, such as Oracle, Microsoft, or VMware, systems could have been put in place so that customers and potential customers would never see an outage.

Analysis

The worldwide web is a very important worldwide marketplace. Why would a company "shut its doors" and encourage customers to buy elsewhere? Was the lack of adequate disaster recovery planning due to management thinking that IT wasn't its primary business and not making the proper investment? Did the company invest in plans, but failed in execution?

In the end, all that matters is that customers, like me, simply went down the network and purchased from other suppliers.

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This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I've been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

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