I like to think of myself as relatively technical. I am an early adopter of new technologies and can usually find a way to cut through the fluff and determine if it is a good fit for me, and how to most effectively use it. WordPress? Got it down and it powers all my sites. Solostream for themes? I can see which theme will best reflect the content. Dropbox. Facebook. Twitter. Office. Feedly. Evernote. I have them all and use the heck out of them. Where I fall short in my knowledge is what lies on the back end. And that, was the root of one of the worst weeks of my life last week.
As my business grew, my needs did as well. I was running multiple websites on a dedicated server that was ancient (in technology terms)—2012. Sites were slow. Crashes and glitches were becoming more frequent. My local IT guy is not really a server management guy and he recommended moving to a managed server where the server company will be responsible for it and keeping it humming, and we will be responsible for keeping the software we put on the server. Easy enough.
I purchased a managed plan with a more powerful server and began the migration. I hate the concept of taking sites down because in my delusional mind, at any given moment there are thousands of people looking at my websites. But we decided to do it late one afternoon and have it migrate to the new server overnight. One website went like a charm. The next one went through with no problems. The third… piece of cake. The fourth? Not so much! There are several steps to moving a site and we got hung up on the final piece. The site would not come back up at all. We could not access it from the server. In the end, we ended up buying yet another server and re-migrating all of the sites which resulted in a down time of about 4 days. Unacceptable.
When a portion of my income is derived from a site being up and accessible, a 4 day outage is a nightmare and one nail in the coffin of being out of business. And the most frustrating aspect was that I relied on the advice of “experts” to guide me through the process, only to be put in the middle of a “it’s not my job, I will point my finger at the other guy” argument. My IT guy was insistent that it was a “server” issue; yet my server guy insisted that it was a “software” issue. In the end, it was a server issue, which had never before been seen—just my luck.
The takeaway I have from this is twofold and completely apropos to the travel industry:
First, always have a backup plan. If I had to do this over again, I would have had planned for the outage (and hopefully it would not come) by having a fully operational site ready to go at a different domain. That way, I could at least re-direct my site to whatever.com for my clients. It would have cost a bit more, but it makes sense to have the redundancy in place in case of the worst.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, is to not point fingers to shirk responsibility. While it may end up not being your responsibility, pointing fingers just alienates the client. Recognize that there is a problem and offer what is within your realm to help resolve it. My IT guy was content to step aside and say it was a server issue without the benefit of offering what he had seen and done to the server guy. In travel, when a client has an issue, be the go-between. They paid you for your expertise and that expertise includes navigating the pitfalls as well as the specific knowledge about travel. Presumably you have earned something in commission on the transaction; never assume the transaction ends when the check clears or travel has commenced. See it through to the end. Negotiate with the supplier on behalf of your client if need be. Show your client that you are advocating for them. Don’t be that IT guy.
Now that this is behind me, I have had a long conversation with my IT guy about what I expected. I realized that the issue was not his “problem” but that I was his client and based on that relationship, he needed to be the go-between because I lacked the knowledge to navigate it on my own. Sound familiar?
But, after nearly a week, we are up and running—onward!