opinion

Beating the Heat

Stephen Yagielowicz
The life of a webmaster is in some ways like the life of a farmer – you’re always trying to make something grow and always worried about how environmental variables will affect that growth.

I’ve discussed before the need for redundancy and backups, but even the largest companies and best prepared operations can encounter problems seemingly beyond their control – such as the weather. But are some of these problems within their control and merely “unforeseen?”

Playing on the “farmer” analogy, I’ll point to two easy examples where the weather has played a direct role in an online enterprise’s operation and the “crop” they’re able to harvest:

XBIZ reported today that popular community site MySpace.com was hit by a heat wave induced power outage. According to the report, “Many site members were critical of the company’s failure to have a more reliable power backup in place, especially for a site as heavily trafficked as MySpace, with an estimated 3 million visitors monthly.”

One would think that MySpace is big enough to afford a hosting solution that has an adequate uninterruptible power supply (UPS) – the costs of such a solution being quite inexpensive in comparison to the lost revenues and bad publicity that a simple power outage causes.

As another example, consider the vulnerability of gulf coast datacenters; how well did their servers and connections fare after Katrina left them under water? What impact did this have on websites relying upon them? Do you think that the “24x7” tech support that you’re relying upon will still be there on the job after the next hurricane-inspired mandatory evacuation order is issued?

Looking at the location-specific environmental vulnerabilities that your datacenter faces (fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, power outage, terrorist attack, etc.) will help you to assess how vulnerable your operation – and cash flow – is to outages.

In the case of adult paysite operations, these unforeseen outages can lead to cancelled memberships, chargebacks and lost traffic as affiliates pull their unproductive links, causing an impact far beyond the duration of any transient event.

While you can’t do anything to prevent “Acts of God” – you can anticipate them and implement procedures and policies to help mitigate them. With the temperature here rising once again into the triple digits, I can only hope that my web servers – and my air conditioner – both run smoothly throughout the day.