The true cost of website downtime & how to mitigate it’s impact

It’s your webmaster’s worst nightmare, and surprisingly affects most online businesses at one point or another regardless of their size. What matters though is understanding that server issues and errors will happen and putting in place a pragmatic plan to mitigate or at least minimize the cost of the impact. Let’s look at how downtime can affect your business and how you can protect your business from its effects.

This is not surprising when you can consider that, according to Gartner research, the average cost of just one minute of downtime equates to $5,600. According to Vxchnge a third of larger companies reported that just an hour of downtime could cost a staggering $1-5 million in lost income.

Let’s take a closer look at why a website going down can be so costly.

Lost productivity

Picture this – you are a small business using cloud applications to sell a product. Suddenly, the system goes down. Now, you can’t sell anything, your employees are twiddling their thumbs, and you are scrambling to get back online. Even though you can’t make any money at this moment, labour and operating costs still have to be paid, which means shelling out on salaries, rent, and other fees even when there is not any money coming in.

Of course, this can happen to larger companies, too, but smaller businesses feel the pinch more in this situation.

In the manufacturing sector, an entire production line could be shut down by a server outage. This can cause significant disruption to supply chains, and the backlog created by this situation can take a while to fix, even when everything is back up and running again. Some industries do have the technological capability to continue operating after being disconnected, but a lot of industries have still not made this leap, which makes them vulnerable.

Educational institutions or event websites can also be affected. Downtime means less registration, awareness, and engagement.  

Missed opportunities

So, downtime prevents you from attracting new clients and it upsets your current ones.

Let’s take a look at website speed. Research has shown that 47% of people expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less. If it takes 3 seconds or more, a sizeable number of people will leave your website, and that number grows with each passing second of delay. Therefore, it is apparent that slow service is unacceptable for a lot of people. A complete lack of service, which is what happens when a website is down, will be even more intolerable for a user or client.

Negative brand perception

A customer who comes to your site for the first time and sees that it’s down will more than likely perceive this event as a red flag, which means they probably won’t bother coming back to use your services or buy your products. It doesn’t matter if you are down for just a few minutes, the fact that you are not available online creates a very negative impression of your business. And if your website frequently suffers from this issue, customers will share their bad experiences with others. That creates an uphill battle to win back the public’s trust and rebuild your reputation.

Even Amazon, who is a major player, has experienced a drop in reputation. This is due to its Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform suffering recurring outages. Smaller businesses simply cannot afford these periods of downtime, and they are looking for other platforms that offer more uptime.

Data loss

In answering your question, I have focused heavily on lost time and money, but it is important to be aware that downtime can result in data loss and security threats.

Most companies will try to back up their data, but data can become corrupted or lost when access to the cloud or a network is lost. Even if this data is only temporarily unreachable, this can cause panic and alarm in customers, which makes regaining their trust a difficult proposition.

Hackers can use cyberattacks to exploit a moment like this, either to destroy or compromise valuable data.

Finally, some companies rely on big data analytics for their day-to-day operations. Losing access to this resource can have a profound effect on the business.

SLA pay-outs

A Service-Lease Agreement (SLA) is a contract that offers financial remuneration whenever an outage occurs. Understandably, a customer seeks a guarantee that they will always be able to access products and services whenever they need them, and an SLA forms part of this guarantee. After all, a third-party cloud or data provider cannot repair the damage done to a business reputation because of downtime, but they can cover the costs if the downtime resulted from a failure on their end.

Damage to SEO

If your website is down for a long time, your ranking in the Search Engine Results Page (SERPs) could be affected. If you have a brief outage, then the consequences will be minimal. If outages are extended or frequent, Google might decide that your site is unreliable, and they might give your spot high-up in the rankings to a site they consider more reliable.

If you are worried that the slowness of your site might contribute to downtime, don’t worry. Slowness creates other issues, but you won’t lose your SERPs ranking because of it. But you should be concerned about outages damaging your SEO. If customers can’t find you, then it will become more difficult to advertise and sell your products or services.

How to mitigate the effects of downtime by monitoring your website 24/7

For most businesses a website’s uptime can be critical for a business because it is central to its activity.

The best way to minimise the impact of downtime is to monitor your website’s uptime and check its pages for errors and broken pages. Hexometer.com is a great solution for this. Unlike traditional uptime and page speed monitoring platforms that just tell you when your website is down or slow. Their AI assistant works checks for JS errors, configuration issues and broken pages detecting anomalies in your website performance before they burn a hole in your pocket.

A dedicated dev ops team or managed hosting provider can also help minimize downtime by constantly monitoring your website and fixing issues when they happen.

Lastly, another layer of security might be to take out an insurance policy so any losses can be mitigated.

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