eCommerce Made Easy

Navigating the Storm: Lessons Learned from Website Disasters

October 24, 2023 Carrie Saunders Episode 26
eCommerce Made Easy
Navigating the Storm: Lessons Learned from Website Disasters
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Ever wondered how to fortify your online business against unexpected disasters? Then you're in the right place. You're about to get an insider's look at how two of our clients weathered the harrowing storm of a severe website disaster. The ordeal was a valuable lesson on the critical role of backups, data protection, and the right tools to restore your digital presence when things go off the rails.

In this episode, we'll walk you through the process of establishing a secure online environment for your business. Join me as we navigate these recent events, the causes, preventive measures, and much more. Remember, success is all about being prepared!

Find out more information about the Business Visibility Made Easy Course at www.ecommercemadeeasypodcast.com/bvme

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Speaker 1:

So this episode, I'm going to be talking about something that's very much on my mind. In the past three days, we've had two clients come to us with some serious issues with their websites and I'm talking the websites. We're gone. So I want to talk about what happened, why and how could we have prevented this, as well as what else do we need to be thinking about in our business to ensure that we have the resources to restore something if something goes terribly wrong, because things can happen to computers and to software out there. So what happened? What do we need to pay attention to? So stick with us as we talk about that this week.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the eCommerce Made Easy podcast. I'm your host, kiri Saunders. When we started this business, all I had was a couch, a laptop and a nine-month-old. My main goal To help others. Now, with over 20 years in the eCommerce building industry, and even more than that in web development, I have seen a lot. I love breaking down the hard tech and to easily understandable bits to help others be successful in their online business. Whether you're a seasoned eCommerce veteran or just starting out, you've come to the right place. So sit back, relax and let's dive into the world of eCommerce together. Welcome back to the eCommerce Made Easy podcast with me, kiri Saunders.

Speaker 1:

So this week, like I said in the intro, we are talking about something top of mind to me. We have had two clients in the past three or four days come to us with a serious, serious problem. So what happened? Well, the first customer came to us on a Friday late Friday it was almost closing time at BCC and their website was gone I mean gone, the files were gone, the database was gone, everything was gone. Now, you know, I have to be a little bit cautious on how I talk about this, because I don't want to give away anybody or the services they were using and throw anybody under the bus, but what I want to do is to make sure that you are prepared and you can help prevent or mitigate this. So this particular client, like I said, the website was gone and the database is gone, and they were a bit in a panic.

Speaker 1:

Now, luckily for them, we were in the process of upgrading their website, so we had already downloaded a full copy of their website At this point in time. Whenever they came to us, though, it was about three weeks old, because we had been working on this upgrade for a few weeks and they needed a way to restore their website. Their hosting provider didn't have any recent backups. Imagine that they didn't have any recent backups. Now, I know we've talked about this on the podcast before, but this is why I talk about this. It is so imperative and important that you ensure that your host creates backups, and the backups must be off the server that you run your website on. If that is not possible, you really need to get an external backup service. If you get stuck trying to find one, you're welcome to email us and we'll be happy to help you pick one out.

Speaker 1:

But let's get back to this client. So what did we have to do? We had to pull up their files that were three weeks old. But what's more importantly is our database copy that we had was three weeks old as well, because we had been, like I said, working on their upgrade, and we don't go back and get a fresh copy of the database till we're close to done and want to do a pretrial run of going live. So about a day or two before we actually finish an upgrade and switch to that upgraded site, we will pull another copy of their database to do what we call a dry run or a test run for upgrade. But we haven't. We weren't to that point yet. We're about a day or two away from that point. We hadn't done it yet.

Speaker 1:

So they not only had to have their website down for a couple of days, because it took a bit to get their website back up and going, especially because their server was honestly about toast, so it took their web host a bit to get their server back up, but then not only that, but they also lost three weeks worth of order data. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine losing that much order data? Now, for some people that might be 10 orders, for other people that may be 10,000 orders. It really is going to, very obviously, you know, based on the volume of your business. But do you really even want to go through that?

Speaker 1:

That's one of the reasons why I talk about how important it is for backups. Now, let's say you have a software as a service, so these people had downloadable software. But what if you have software as a service? Here at VCC, we're working on coming up with some other services that are SaaS related. So software as a service is what SaaS also stands for, and I've been pondering in my mind even before these incidents has happened. What can I do to ensure that this information that I'm trusting into this company it's, you know, a cloud-based company and I can't really touch the data how can I assure we have backups for it? Now, one thing you can do is go to that company and ask them good questions how often do you backup my data? What happens if the data gets destroyed? How fast can you get my data back with your backups? You know, how long do you keep backups for? Do you keep them for a day, a week, a month, etc. So these are questions you need to ask at any place. That is a software as a service. For example, shopify. It's a very common software as a service e-commerce provider. Wordpress also can have SaaS solutions for you as well. So what are they doing to protect your data?

Speaker 1:

Some of the tools will provide a way for you to export the data. If they do, I highly recommend you have a routine where you export that data regularly. Now, regularly could be once a week, it could be daily. It kind of depends on how much volume and how much you change the information in the system. So maybe you have just a web page with information on it and you're not actually selling products. Well, and if you only update that information maybe once a week, then once a week is probably enough. If you have an online e-commerce store where you're constantly putting in new products, you're getting orders regularly, etc. You're going to want to back it up a lot more frequently. So we need to be thinking about this from a downloadable software standpoint as well as a software as a service standpoint, depending on what you have.

Speaker 1:

Speaking of this, too, let's think about some other things. What about your email service provider? Very likely you have some sort of email service provider where you're emailing your customers and if you're not, I highly recommend you listen to our email marketing episodes, which we'll link to in the show notes, so that you're making sure that you're actually keeping in contact with your customers via email. But let's go back to the email service provider. I recommend you regularly at least weekly export the information in your email service provider. Same thing here what happens if they go down? What happens if they lose your information? But also, you need to make sure, ask them how often are you backing up my email list too? You need to think about this in pretty much all aspects of your business. We can even go to your accounting software. Maybe you use QuickBooks online or some sort of service like that. How do you know whether that is getting backed up for you? Think about any sort of software you use at all that has your information in it, in your data and in your customers data. To really make, I recommend you sit down and make an audit after you listen to this podcast episode, list out all the things you can think of your email service provider, maybe even your email too, like your company's email, your company's information on the web, all of that.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so I said we had two customers with this issue, right. So the other customer was similar but not quite the same. Their whole user and web directory was completely gone. Luckily for them, their database was still intact. So these people on this server didn't get to the database and we had a copy of their website, and the last time we made a copy was in March because they were working a really big project for them. So luckily, we were able to get them back up and running much faster than the previous company because their server wasn't completely blown away.

Speaker 1:

Now, how did this happen? We did some digging and we don't know for sure quite yet and honestly, it's a bit hard for us to know for sure because they weren't hosted on our web servers and we don't have all the information we could. If we're hosted on our web servers and many times hackers like this will actually cover their tracks and make it a lot harder to figure out for sure how it happened. But what I do now is both of these clients had older versions of downloadable software, which implies to me because it just has to that likely their server was also old and we actually think that they got attacked because the server software was out of date and had vulnerabilities. So this is different than the software you use to look at and run your website. This is the underlying software, so you can think about it like on your PC or your Mac is like the operating system was out of date, for example, so you can think about it like that versus the applications running on it. They are out of date for that in their situation.

Speaker 1:

But the problem was the server software was out of date, at least, that's what we believe to be true at this point in time, with the limited information that we have. So so this is why I recommend that you not only make sure that your software is up to date, that you also are making sure that your hosting provider is updating the software that runs on the server as well. So make sure you're asking good questions on that. Ask them how often they update it. Are they going to alert you before they update it? This is also something very important, because one of those clients said that their server provider updated some server software without telling them ahead of time and then the site went down at one point in time in history. So you need to make sure that they're going to alert you before they do that, so that you can make sure that your application is going to work on the newer version of the server. So we have a whole host of things here that went wrong. I'm very thankful for them, because I hate to see a client have a situation like this. I'm very thankful that we had copies, even if some of the information was old, that we could start to rebuild their site for them and then we could start fixing it and figuring out where the holes are, so that their server admins can figure out where the holes are and get them up and running and going much better.

Speaker 1:

So this is going to be a bit of a short episode. To be honest with you, I haven't been feeling great. I got like a sinus and ear infection, which I know is a little bit of personal information, but I feel like we're all friends here. But I want to make sure that you're thinking about this and I don't want to make this too long too, because it's kind of techy and it's a bit heavy. I want to make sure that you really see how important this really is to make sure that you keep things up to date and backed up, and if you're on a software as a solution type service, they are going to keep things up to date for you.

Speaker 1:

You obviously should double check, but you need to figure out how are they keeping your data safe? If something does go wrong, how fast can they get you back up and running and say, the server your software is running on crashes? Because even though it's software as a service doesn't mean that there's an a computer behind it somewhere. It's somebody's computer somewhere that's running it, or multiple sets of computers running it. So you really need to be asking these very critical questions because this is your business, this is likely your livelihood and you need to make sure it's protected.

Speaker 1:

So hopefully this was helpful for this week's episode of Ecommerce Made Easy. I appreciate your understanding that my voice isn't quite as strong as it usually is from me not being well the past few days and I hope that you can get these questions answered and that you are better protected because of this episode. Again, if you have any questions or confused at all on any of the tech that I talk about, you are welcome to reach out to us at podcast at bcsengineeringcom and we will be happy to help you out and, as always, if you rate us on your favorite podcast app, that really helps us and helps others get to know the information that we are trying to teach others so that they can have a very successful and safe online business. See you next week.

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