Website Disaster Recovery Plan

What To Do WHEN Your Site Goes Down

This is not a question of if, this is a matter of when. Most hosting providers on the internet guarantee a 99.9% uptime when it comes to your website. This is only a guarantee on the server side, and doesn’t even include the threat of virus infection, hacking, server side scripting or malicious take-downs. Don’t wait for your website go down to throw together a quick recovery plan, make a plan today while your website is still up.

website recovery plan

Here are some quick suggestions on what your “Website Disaster Recovery Plan” should entail:

  • Make Backups Frequently

    In the event of a website hack, sometimes your files can get corrupted or even removed completely from your server. If this were to happen to you today, do you have a backup of your sites files? Your images? Your blog posts? If you answered no to any of these questions, you need to do a backup ASAP! “I don’t have time for backups”… WRONG. There are automated online backup systems out there that will automatically create DAILY backupsof your entire website and even your database.

    Check out CodeGuard (I use them on a few of my client’s websites), they offer free backups online for small to medium sized websites. Visit for more info.

  • Contact Your Hosting Provider!

    Stop everything you are doing, if you suspect your website is down and you have checked on multiple computers, pick up your phone and call whomever manages your website and inform them the site may be down. This could be your IT department, your internet marketing agency, your hosting provider… whomever it is, call them now! They might not even know the site is down and they could already be starting the disaster recovery plan. Most of the times downtime is server related, and is out of your hands anyway. But, in my experience, around 50% of the time a site goes down– the techies managing it don’t know that it happened.

  • Configure Your Site to Display a 503 Code Status Page

    When your site goes down due to any reason, and your pages aren’t accessible any longer, you need to inform your visitors what is going on, but more importantly you need to let Google know what is going on. The 503 Code tells Google that your “Service is Unavailable”. This is Google’s recommended solution for planned site downtime. Read more from Google here. Be aware that even though this let’s Google know that YOU know there is a problem, it is not a permanent solution: lasting 503s can eventually be seen as a sign that the server is now permanently unavailable and can result in us removing URLs from Google’s index. Put your pages to Status Code 503 then get to work on fixing your problem!

  • Make Sure Your Old URLs Map to Your New URLs

    One common mistake is after a website downtime is resolved, no matter the method used to resolve it, the old website URL’s are different from the new URL’s. If the solution to resolving the down-time was to go with a new system or rebuild your database, the URL’s could be different. You will need to map your old URL’s to your new URL’s using a 301 Redirect.

Step by Step Website Disaster Plan

Here is a step by step guide on what you should do when your website goes down… this is a very basic step-by-step guide and should just be used in addition to a more extensive disaster-plan your website management company should impliment.

  1. Immidiately call your IT department, hosting company or your website service provider and inform them of your experienced downtime. They will verify that the site is in-fact down on their end and start investigating the cause. You need to let them your know immidiately that your website is down, there could be a server error they don’t even know about. When my websites go down, the first thing I do is call my hosting company.
  2. implement code 503 Status on your site
  3. Analyze and determine cause of downtime: was it server maintenance, bandwidth-overrun, hacking, malware injection, database errors, etc.
  4. Depending on the type of disaster, it may be your best option to implement a backup. However, if the downtime is due to server issues… there sometimes isn’t much you can do but to wait (assuming you have done step 1 and have called whomever manages your server)
  5. If implementing a backup is the method you need to go with (hacking, file deletion, file errors and corruptions) If you have a current backup of the website, unpack the backup and replace your entire site. If you were hacked, this would remove any instances of the hack, however, the security holes that made the site vulnerable to attack still exists, so make sure to get these fixed by a website security professional ASAP! Also make sure you implement your database backup as well!
  6. If you do not have a backup of the site, you need to do a manual clean and replace of corrupted files. This is a very manual and labor intensive task. If you are uncomfortable scanning lines and lines of code for signs of exploits, code injections, code errors and more, then you need to hire a professional to fix these issues for you. This can take quite a long period of time depending on the size of your website/number of files.
  7. Verify the site is working
  8. Verify all old URL’s and links coming in match and are working. Test your site’s top pages, Google your site, click around and on every single link.
  9. Test your site frequently and keep your finger on the pulse for the next 4 weeks. If you were hacked, you have a high chance of being hacked again in the following month if your security hole wasn’t patched. So please, if you were hacked, fix your vulnerabilities!

If you have any questions please feel free to comment!

With the potential power outage across the east-cost from Hurricane Sandy, the threat that your hosting company’s servers will go down increase. Natural disasters are sometimes not included in the 99.9% uptime guarantee, so contact your hosting providers to see if they have redundant servers that host your site in multiple locations, it could be that your website company, even if they are located somewhere else besides the east cost, has servers located in Hurricane Sandy’s path. Be prepared and call your website hosting provider today to verify they do not expect any upcoming outages.