Your business website experiences a bad crash; what's your protocol for communicating with customers?


Having my business website crash (bad) recently was one of the toughest few days since becoming a Founder. My former hosting company experienced a major server issue. A planned re-boot caused a couple of fatal errors which resulted in our biz being off-line for 4 days.

As our business exists exclusively in virtual space, this was incredibly frustrating.

I communicated our status via Twitter, but then made the mistake of broadcasting "all's well" after a few hours, only to have the site go down again! This was my first experience with major down time for our site, and I was reliant on outside services to fix it.

It took transferring to a more code compatible hosting service for our platform, but after a few days we were back on-line. All the data was backed up, so nothing was lost except time and potential new sign ups. Things have been very stable since.

Do you have established protocol for an internet site crash of your biz? After initially notifying your customers, when do you give the green light and via what social media tool?

Thanks in advance for the great advice.

Customer Support Technical Customer Service Internet

asked Nov 2 '11 at 03:56
Richard H.
175 points

2 Answers


For a major crash like this I would:

  • Email all customers
  • Facebook fan page status update
  • Twitter

  • Support/Community site if you have one (I like Zendesk for this)

I know you might be scared to put it in the open that you had these issues, but I think openness and transparency outweighs the negatives of the downtime.

It might also be a good time to make sure your users know where to look for status updates. Perhaps include that information in an email to them all, and also include it in your support documents.

answered Nov 2 '11 at 10:07
Joel Friedlaender
5,007 points
  • Hi Joel - I agree fully, that openness & transparency outweighs the negative. In fact, when we went down a 2nd time - I re-posted an "oops, thought we were there" message. Thanks for the suggestion on Zendesk. Where would you post where to look? The natural spot that comes to mind is at the top of our HELP content after clicking the link. Great suggestions! – Richard H. 12 years ago
  • On your help page is a good place. Really anywhere that you think your users will go when there is a problem. – Joel Friedlaender 12 years ago


Richard.. you may already know this... but whatever hosts you have will not have 100% up time (even Rackspace don't and they guarantee it).

If you site is that critical make sure you have a hosting set-up with redundancy, so if one server goes down, and other is there in it's place (I'm no expert on this).

99.9% uptime = 8 hours down a year. No SLA in the world will cover you for your lost business.. just maybe what you paid for the hosting.

I'd only add to what Joel said by saying why not add SMS messages into the mix... If I was relying on your services, I'd rather be told it's down than have to find out myself. (SMS would of course depend on how many users you do have and what they do on the site).

answered Nov 2 '11 at 14:43
1,072 points
  • SMS is a good idea, just be careful if you have users in different time zones. I wouldn't want to be woken at 3am to find out about an outage that is sorted by the time I wake up. – Joel Friedlaender 12 years ago
  • Hi Sunil. Good point on the up time equation. I really need to learn to takes these events in stride, but this was the first timke we experienced extended down time. I had not thought of SMS and could see giving users the "option" to be notified via their account settings; this also addresses Joel's comment re: a 3:00 a.m. ping. Something to consider for v2.0. Thanks for the great suggestions! – Richard H. 12 years ago
  • @RichardH. You're welcome.. Joel was right... sometimes too much communication is a bad thing. – Sunil 12 years ago

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