Website monitoring

Embracing Planned Downtime: Why It’s Crucial For Your Website’s Health

You’ve probably heard plenty of horror stories of unplanned website downtime wreaking havoc on businesses and costing companies thousands or even millions in lost revenue. So if you’re worried, we can’t blame you! Website downtime is usually a nightmare for any company relying on having a steady online presence. 

But not all downtime is bad. Scheduled, well-timed downtime can be a game-changer in keeping your site running smoothly and ensuring customer satisfaction. So, buckle up as we embark on a journey to uncover how to turn planned downtime into an opportunity for growth and optimization!

What is Planned Downtime?  

Planned downtime is basically a scheduled period when a website or server is taken offline for maintenance, updates, or repairs. This isn’t an accident or the result of a technical failure — instead, it’s done intentionally to keep the system running smoothly and ensure the best possible user experience.

For example, imagine a popular e-commerce website with millions of users. To keep up with the growing traffic and maintain security, the website’s developers need to regularly perform system upgrades. They schedule the downtime during the site’s least busy hours, notify users in advance, and ensure everything goes according to plan. This is a classic example of planned downtime done well.

The Difference Between Planned and Unplanned Downtime

The biggest difference between planned and unplanned downtime is control. Planned downtime is scheduled and managed, while unplanned downtime is something that happens unexpectedly due to issues like server failure or cyber-attacks. 

Unfortunately, unplanned downtime is more common than you think. According to Forbes, “An overwhelming 82% of companies have experienced at least one unplanned downtime incident over the past three years. Most have suffered two or more.” 

SOURCE: Forbes

Planned downtime, on the other hand, allows you to perform necessary repairs, updates, and maintenance without the looming pressure of an immediate crisis. This way you can stay ahead of potential problems and ensure that your website remains in tip-top shape. 

Every website has to perform maintenance at some point or another, so expecting zero downtime is likely unrealistic — the goal is to avoid unplanned downtime as a response to a problem that has already occurred, and instead switch to a well-managed plan of planned downtime that reduces stress and financial losses, and protects your brand’s reputation.

The Benefits of Scheduled Planned Downtime

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s talk about the advantages of scheduling planned downtime. 

Perhaps the biggest advantage of planning and scheduling your website’s downtime is time savings. By scheduling maintenance downtime, you can perform tasks more efficiently. 

Let’s say, for example, that you need to update your server or conduct repairs and testing. Rather than waiting until your current setup fails and your website goes down, you can schedule a specific time to deal with the issues — and you can then prepare for it by having all the necessary tools and personnel on hand. 

The result? The overall time your website is offline is likely much shorter than if you have to deal with an emergency repair — and this minimizes disruptions for your users and keeps your customers happy. 

Scheduling downtime also allows you to conduct any upgrades or updates during periods of low traffic or outside business hours to minimize disruptions as much as possible. This increases operational efficiency, satisfies customers who expect high-quality services and products delivered on time, and minimizes emergency maintenance repair costs. 

Source: Gartner

Speaking of keeping your customers happy, this is where maintenance windows come in. 

Here’s Why Maintenance Windows Are a Great Idea 

Planned downtime allows you to let your customers know in advance that your website will be down. This will minimize the frustration and confusion resulting from them trying to access your site or use your services during downtime. 

With a maintenance window, you can let people know the time frame during which maintenance activities will occur and even why the downtime is happening. This is key because transparent communication about planned downtime helps build trust with your users. 

With UptimeRobot, you have access to a Status Page in which you can add Announcements to let visitors know the server is down because of maintenance. Once the Window Maintenance window is set up (either once or as something recurring every week/month), UptimeRobot will stop the monitoring at the time you choose and resume later so that you don’t get any “expected notifications” about it and your overall uptime isn’t affected.

In fact, go ahead and let your customers know exactly why the scheduled maintenance is happening. Is it going to improve the website or service? Is it meant to add upcoming features or fixes to the site? This is your chance to let customers know you’re committed to providing a reliable and high-quality experience.  

Another big plus of a maintenance window? It reduces support requests. As DealnTech points out, “Most of your stress as a business owner during a planned website outage will be dealing with customer service (unless you’re doing the website maintenance yourself. That’s why informing your customers about the planned website outage will help make the process easier.” 

Users who are aware of the planned downtime are less likely to contact your support team for assistance, allowing your team to focus on the maintenance tasks at hand. 

The Costs of Unplanned Downtime

Unplanned downtime can have serious consequences for your website and business — and that includes a number of key losses. 

The most obvious one? Financial loss. A study by Gartner shows that the average cost of downtime across industries is $5,600 per minute (a whopping $300,000 per hour). And the number goes up for e-commerce websites and businesses that rely heavily on their online presence. 

SOURCE: Gartner

In fact, UpKeep says that “Almost half of all companies that experience downtime (46%) aren’t able to deliver services to customers as a result.” This results in a loss of sales and services, the biggest money-losing factor of downtime.

Another issue with unplanned downtime – and one that’s not always factored in– is lost productivity. Forbes puts it best: Shutdowns, scheduled or not, can eat up to 1%-10% of available production time. These nonproductive hours can’t be recovered but you still have to bear the costs.” A team’s productivity is going to suffer if everybody is scrambling to identify and resolve the issue. 

Want to know more about the costs of downtime? Jump on over to The 6 Hidden Costs of Downtime, a recent post we wrote about it. 

Calculating the Cost of Unplanned Downtime

Calculating the costs of unplanned downtime requires considering a number of factors. As a general rule, the bigger your company, the more money you’ll lose if your site goes down. When the Apple store went down for 12 hours in 2015, the company lost $25 million in sales. Facebook’s blackout in 2019 cost the company $90 million. And these aren’t even the biggest website outages of all time. 

Calculating the cost of downtime requires an analysis of several factors, including lost revenue, employee productivity loss, and recovery expenses. 

For example, let’s say you run an e-commerce website, GadgetWorld, that suddenly goes down for four hours due to a server hardware failure. This is how much the unplanned downtime would cost GadgetWorld: 

  • Lost revenue: Since GadgetWorld generates an average revenue of $1,000 per hour, the four-hour downtime means the site has suddenly lost a potential $4,000.
  • Employee productivity loss: GadgetWorld now has to reach out to its IT team to deal with the issue, which means paying at least one IT professional (but likely more) to identify and resolve the issue. At an hourly wage of $75 per hour, that’s another $300 spent. 
  • Recovery expenses: Is IT support not enough to fix the problem? GadgetWorld might need to purchase new hardware or hire an external server repair specialist to fix the hardware failure, which can easily cost an additional $500-$1,000. 

At the end of the four-hour unplanned downtime, GadgetWorld lost $5,300. 

Preparing for Planned and Unplanned Downtime

So are you doomed to experience downtime? According to Reliable Plant, “Manufacturers seem to think zero downtime is possible, and 72% of organizations said that zero unplanned downtime is a high priority.” But to get you as close as possible to that ultimate goal, you need a couple of things. 

At the top of the list is developing a comprehensive maintenance plan. This should include: 

  • a schedule for regular check-ups for your website,
  • a monitoring system in place to detect potential issues that could affect your uptime early on 
  • routine backups of your website’s files and database
  • security updates to protect against vulnerabilities
  • regular software and hardware updates

For both planned and unplanned downtime, you also need to have two key issues in place:

A disaster recovery plan

Establish a clear plan of action and concise emergency response procedures for various types of downtime (including hardware failure, cyber-attacks, and scheduled maintenance) going forward. 

Source: Invenio

This should include the steps to be taken and the necessary resources and tools to deal with the problem, even if that means just disconnecting/restarting affected systems from the network.

Make sure you regularly test and update your disaster recovery plan as well, such as running scheduled simulations or full-scale disaster recovery tests.

A way to communicate with your users

You should always have a plan in place to keep users informed about any downtime. If the downtime was unplanned, you can use social media (many large companies use Twitter) to provide real-time updates and address any concerns users might have. 

You can also send an email notification or write a blog post explaining the cause of the downtime and any steps being taken to prevent similar incidents in the future. Following the massive outage in 2011, Amazon published a detailed post filled with “analysis, commentaries, and lessons to be learned.”

If you don’t have a status page, consider setting up one with UptimeRobot. In the event of downtime, the status page can be used to provide real-time information to customers so they’re aware of what’s happening and what steps are being taken to solve the issue. 

Planned downtime is a crucial aspect of maintaining a reliable and high-performing website. Done well, a proactive approach to website management shouldn’t have a negative impact on your finances, your business, or your brand’s reputation.  

Whatever you do, remember that communication is key! Always keep your users informed and maintain transparency during both planned and unplanned downtime. Your audience will love you (or hate you a little less?) for it and you’ll foster trust and loyalty.

So, the next time you’re faced with the decision to schedule some planned downtime, just think of it as a spa day for your website – a little bit of downtime now can lead to a happier, healthier, and more productive website in the long run! 


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