Since you are all dedicated Capn Design readers, you noticed that my site was down for a few days at the beginning of last week. If you look at the blog post, you’ll see my site was down for nearly 3 days and the process to get it back up wasn’t pretty. The worst part was that my email was out for a good part of the time.

As a service to those who use shared hosting and the shared hosting providers out there, here’s how I’d suggest handling this kind of outage.

For Site Owners

  • Make sure your email is hosted somewhere rock-solid. I moved to Google Apps and I’ll never look back.
  • Just having your host make daily or weekly backups isn’t enough. Set up a cron job (or use an desktop app maybe?) to transfer your backup file on a regular basis so you can get your site up ASAP. I was hamstrung since I didn’t have a current backup to move to the other shared host I use.

For Shared Hosts

  • By far the most important: Keep your customers informed. No one told me when my site went down and I had to go to a status blog to find out. If you have me in a database and you know what server I’m on, just email me periodically. Sure, it’s a pain, but I would have been much less frustrated.
  • Give your support people real information. I would ask questions about what’s happening and they would know nothing more than what the status blog said. I know your engineers are busy, but communication is just as important as fixing it, especially when it takes three days.
  • Don’t make me ask for a refund, just offer it. When I go to a restaurant and they don’t bring me my meal for three hours because the gas is out, they don’t make me pay. Sometimes, they even offer me a free meal the next time I come in.
  • When something goes horribly wrong, do a post-mortem and post the results online. Show me that this won’t happen again because you’re putting in measures to stop it.

I’m still with my host, for now, but I’d like to see them do any of the things I mentioned here. If I don’t hear from them in the next few weeks, I’ll abandon ship without hesitation.