Practical Ecommerce

Lesson learned: create and follow your own online store disaster policy

Online merchants must create and follow their own disaster policy – as an author on eCommerce topics for almost a decade now, I’ve tried to hammer this into my readers. I’ve always been proud to say I have never had had a major disaster with my own online store, because I have faithfully followed this practice. That is, until my summer vacation last week.

I was completely and blissfully offline for a week of horseback riding high in the cool mountains of central Mexico. My long-time customer service manager had quit recently after five good years together, but I had a good interim manager to handle things in my absence. We have a disaster plan, and we follow it. What could go possibly wrong?

My SSL Certificate expired the day I left for vacation, and nobody knew how to get it renewed in my absence. You’ve occasionally seen the dire warnings – the customer’s browser will warn the user of ‘untrusted’ certificate, even though the site and all transactions remain encrypted. It’s a matter of trust.

Disaster analysts will tell you that rarely does one single event cause a disaster – it takes a pooling of five to seven small things, small decisions or variations from protocol that exponentially multiply to allow a disaster to occur. My SSL certificate is included with my business hosting account, so I had no idea that it had to be manually renewed each year. I had moved to a different hosting account, you got it, exactly one year ago. I also changed email addresses due to a flood of spam, so all renewal notices were going to my old address. With losing my long-term manager and piling on a vacation, in retrospect we were ripe for a disaster.

My web host quickly renewed my SSL Certificate as soon as I requested it, and I added a recurring “Renew SSL Certificate” to my calendar to prevent this disaster in the future. I’ve updated my own disaster policy, and am humbly following it again.

I did fall off my horse on my vacation, but that’s a disaster of a different kind, and mainly my ego was bruised.

For help in creating a disaster policy for your own online store, download my free guide from the address below.

Free guide for online merchants:

Guide to Creating a Disaster Policy for Your Online Store – pdf format

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Comments ( 3 )

  1. Richard Stubbings July 26, 2012 Reply

    Why restrict your disaster policy to your online store? A disaster can affect any and all parts of your business. You should be just as worried about your fulfilment of orders as your web site.

  2. magentoplugins August 10, 2012 Reply

    I think she is talking about everything not just about her store….On the other hand, most of the hosting companies already had employed such techniques at their end….

  3. Kerry Watson August 24, 2012 Reply

    Hi Richard, thanks for the feedback. My blog is written for new open source online store users, so that is why I talk about a disaster policy for online store users. But it does touch on things like backing up your personal computers, fulfilling orders, etc. … everything that you need to keep on running an online store during a disaster. Each online store is different, which is why each store owner needs to develop their own. Thanks again for the feedback. Kerry

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