Website Disaster Recovery

Head Surfer
August 9th, 2012

Most businesses lack the financial backing to deploy a completely redundant and reliable web hosting platform. However, that doesn’t mean that business owners have to encounter hours of downtime during hardware failure. Most small business owners pay less than $25 per month to host their website. Some even pay as little as $5.00 per month but in the event of hardware failure they risk losing thousands in lost sales and emails. Thankfully, this is a risk that they can mitigate while keeping their technology costs down.

A domain is pointed to a web location or IP address through a service called DNS (Domain Name System). The best analogy that I can use is to explain DNS is to think of it as a virtual traffic cop that tells clients what IP address or location on the web to visit when they enter in a website. By default the traffic cop tells prospective clients and website visitors to check this location every 24 hours. Unfortunately since the traffic cop is only checked every 24 hours a website can change locations but it will take at least that long for the traffic cops to complete the task of broadcasting the new website location. This is known as the TTL (Time To Live) and as a small business owner it’s a feature of hosting that should be controlled. Every small business owner has heard of web hosting, domain registration, WordPress hosting, however very few of them are aware of the value provided by managing your own TTL values.

Website downtime is always taxing on a business and our research has identified a few ways that business owners can avoid it entirely. The first key is contacting the web hosting provider and requesting that the TTL be lowered from the default of 24 hours down to three minutes. This will ensure that the web’s traffic cops check websites every three minutes instead of once in a 24 hour period. This small change empowers site owners and gives them the ability to redirect their website to a new location within minutes. If a small business owner needs to quickly change their website location the traffic cops will work to update the entire Internet within three minutes instead of 24 hours.

Small business owners that can’t afford redundant multi-server clusters can still enjoy the benefits of redundancy by simply setting up a second hosting account, keeping the files updated (that’s another article) and lowering their TTL. The monthly web hosting fee may increase, however the added cost is minimal and when the next outage occurs a business using this method can recover within an hour instead of hours, days, or even weeks.

Small businesses that risk losing out on sales or important emails due to hardware failure or downtime are encouraged to setup a second web hosting account. Additionally, the site owner should lower the TTL on their domain’s DNS record to three minutes, and establish a good method for updating the secondary account on regular intervals. Updating the secondary hosting account on regular intervals will ensure it’s up to date and ready when tragedy strikes.  This is the best method we’ve found for website cheap disaster recovery.


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