By Sam Rufo, nxtConcepts
Sam Rufo is the president and founder of nxtConcepts, a marketing and web design firm. Sam is a regular contributor to Adventure Park Insider’s (API) sister publication SAM (Ski Area Management). As part of API’s ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 virus situation, Sam is sharing guidance and advice to help aerial adventure industry leaders navigate the developing, unprecedented scenario.
As we tackle the most immediate needs of keeping employees safe and dealing with the uncertainties of what this spring and summer will look like for the aerial adventure business, company websites are an essential means of communicating with guests, employees, suppliers, vendors, and the media.
In recent weeks there has been unprecedented internet usage, which has stressed networks including Verizon, Spectrum and even Facebook, as well as hosting companies. Many businesses have seen their websites go down for a period of time. Any website, e-commerce, or email downtime could potentially cause financial pain and a lapse in communication.
So don’t take your technology for granted. Make sure it’s safe and secure. The Small Business Administration website recommends that you “communicate continually; that communication is the key to preventing panic.” If your website or email goes down, what will you do? Do you know who to contact to get it back up and running quickly?
Very few businesses, including aerial adventure parks, have an IT or website crisis plan in place. You can’t control when a disaster (or a global pandemic) will strike, but you can be prepared.
One way that nxtConcepts prepared for this coronavirus emergency was to conduct website audits. We use a checklist to make sure that we have gathered the most critical information needed to maintain and support a website.
If a website goes down, no one wants to be scrambling to figure out who to call or what to do. Review the Crisis Website Audit Checklist with the person/people in charge of your IT and IT vendors. Make sure you know the answer to every question.
Armed with this information, follow our eight-step approach to gain a little peace of mind.
8 Step Approach to Peace of Mind
- Hosting. Ask your hosting company if its support hours or options have changed. At the start of the self-quarantine, we were surprised to find many hosting companies were scrambling to provide support with a lack of onsite staff? Even dedicated hosting support had hours cut from 24 hours to just eight hours a day.
- Firewall. Attackers are actively exploiting the coronavirus-related havoc. There has been a spike in the last month across the globe of phishing attacks that aim to steal remote user credentials, as well as weaponized email attacks. Verify that your firewall is in good working order.
- Virus and malware scanning. Take an inventory of your website software. Do you have the most current versions of all server environment and CMS related updates? If not, how soon can the software be installed? Your website and server should have a scanner to identify malware files that could cause a disruption. At nxtConcepts we set the scanners to run every six hours. We also make sure that the reporting system is operational to send immediate notices of any issues that require human intervention.
- Monitoring. If there is a problem with the website, it’s essential to catch it early. Make sure you have a website monitoring system and it is in good working order. We set our systems to check for website uptime every 10 minutes.
- Backups. Daily automatic backups are critical. What happens if your server fails? Or your hosting company goes out of business? You need a recent copy of all your website files and databases. We use an off-server backup service. We also regularly download additional copies of the website databases and files to local computers. That way, in the event a website needs to be restored, having to just upload files speeds up the recovery efforts. Finally, verify recent backups are in good working order. In an emergency, the last thing you want to find out is, when you need a backup, that it might be corrupted.
- Bandwidth. All hosting companies have bandwidth limits. Verify your website is within normal ranges. Check what happens if there is a spike in traffic. Will you be able to add additional bandwidth or processing power quickly?
- Hardware. Increased website traffic puts additional strain on the actual servers. For dedicated hosting, verify the age of the server and if any regular maintenance is needed. At the start of this crisis, one nxtConcepts client identified its server CPU needed replacement. Rather than wait for it to stop working, we had the hosting company proactively perform the 10-minute replacement.
- Communication. It is important to let the rest of the team know what’s going on and what they need to do. At each step, communicate to everyone involved, and tell them if there are issues that need immediate attention. Not only will this ensure your website and the related technology continue to operate smoothly, but it gives the team peace of mind.
Business owners and managers should know that technology failures are inevitable. During a crisis, knowledge is power. The more documented institutional knowledge you have available at hand, the faster and easier it will be to remediate it and get systems back online quickly.
If you have any questions or need immediate assistance, visit https://nxtconcepts.com/web-interactive/webmaster-on-call. NxtConcepts is available during the coronavirus crisis seven days a week.