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Keep Your Site Up During Times of Crisis

A plan can help you keep your website running in a time of crisis.

An earthquake that struck Bellevue, Washington, over two years ago turned into a wake-up call for Smooth Corp., an operator of several e-commerce companies that sell flooring products--DIYFlooring.com, iFLOOR.comand RugArea.com.

"While we had limited disruption of our operations, it made us think about what else could go wrong," says Steve Simonson, 35, CEO and founder of the 90-employee company, which expects 2006 sales of about $80 million.

As a result, Simonson says, the IT department suggested they set up backup web servers at a separate location, or "co-location facility." This would allow continuous internet connectivity in the wake of disasters that could cause prolonged power outages, such as hurricanes or earthquakes. In May 2005, Smooth signed on with a facility in Seattle.

Co-location facilities offer a secure place for companies to physically house their hardware and equipment. Most offer high security, including cameras, fire-detection and extinguishing devices, multiple connection feeds, filtered power, backup power generators and other items to ensure high availability. If necessary, the servers can run at co-location facilities for months, says Simonson, adding that these facilities "are far less vulnerable than we are."

How do you prepare for a disaster? Consider these tips from Chris Kivlehan, sales and marketing manager at INetU Managed Hosting, which offers a Business Continuity Hot Site service that places internet servers in geographically diverse data centers and synchronizes the data between the two locations according to a customized schedule. Should a crisis occur, the disaster recovery site can come online in short order and keep operations running smoothly.

  • Establish a written policy that explains how a disaster should be handled. Says Kivlehan, "In a time of crisis, this will cut down on confusion."
  • Regularly review your plan to make sure it's up-to-date.
  • Have a backup website in place, and test it regularly. Says Kivlehan, "All you want to have to worry about in the time of a crisis is flipping the switch."
  • Create an "after the disaster" plan. Many people forget they may have to make some changes following a major disaster. Says Kivlehan, "Make sure [these changes are] spelled out somewhere."

Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at mcampanelli@earthlink.net.

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This article was originally published in the March 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: In Harm's Way?.

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