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4 Tips For Dealing With App Outages

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By our nature, web workers are dependent on online tools to do our work. Sometimes those tools become inaccessible, though. For example, recently a hosting outage took down 37signals’ Basecamp, an app that many web-based workers depend on heavily.

These outages can quickly become crises. How do you know what step to take next on a project if the project is entirely managed on a site that is currently down? How do you get in touch with a client if you usually only communicate through that same project management tool? You may not be able to work quite as fast without your tools, but these tips can help you keep the situation from escalating.

  1. Have an alternative method of communication for clients and co-workers. It may seem obvious that it’s important to have multiple methods of communication, but it’s worth going beyond just having an email address for the people you work with. Depending on just what tools have gone down, there’s a possibility that an email server has gone down as well. Having a phone number or another form of communication available — even being able to send a message through a social networking tool — may be necessary to be able to get through to the folks you need to talk to.
  2. Have a backup of project data. All your project information is in the cloud, right? Even if the service goes down for a little while, you’ll be fine, right? Not necessarily. There are plenty of scenarios that end with you having to recreate your project from scratch (as could happen if the app doesn’t come back up in time, or it goes bust). Having a backup of your information can offer extra peace of mind.
  3. Choose a tool to keep working. Many outages are open-ended, because it can be tough to tell exactly what is necessary to bring an application back online.If you’ve got deadlines, waiting around for something to happen is not the best option. Ideally, there may be some aspect of your project that you can work on without logging in at all. If that’s not the case, there are a couple of options: consult your backup documentation or your client to see what would be most practical to work on in the mean time.
  4. Discuss a new deadline. If you’re in a situation where you really can’t proceed with a project — maybe the only copies of important files are inaccessible — you may quickly realize that your current deadlines just aren’t going to be doable. If that’s the case, talk to your client or manager as soon as you can and explain the situation. If you aren’t sure how much of an extension you’ll need (a typical situation if you don’t know when your tools will be available again or if you’ll have to rebuild the project from your backup), make that clear so that you’ll have grounds for future discussions, if need be.

Unfortunately, the best methods for dealing with any kind of application outage require some prep work while your most important tools are still up — getting contact information for a client who can’t respond to the only email address you have isn’t going to move things along. In the worst-case scenario, when an outage has caught you entirely by surprise, it may be difficult to come up with a next step that will actually help you with the work. The best option may be just trying to get in touch with your client or co-worker and check what can be done at all. In the event that you can’t reach anyone, you may just have to wait out the outage and deal with the repercussions down the road.

What do you do when your web apps go down?

Image by Flickr user p4inkiller

2 Responses to “4 Tips For Dealing With App Outages”

  1. @Priyanka, It’s been my experience that a help desk’s prediction for when an app will be back up is generally like a weatherman’s prediction for the next week’s weather — it’s as close a prediction as they can make but it’s not always very accurate. I like having a backup plan beyond relying on customer support.