Every website owner should be backing up their website and database on a daily basis. If you’re not, set that up immediately. However, this is not what I’m referring to when it comes to backups. I’m referring to all of the critical aspects of your business. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
If employee X doesn’t show up on your busiest day of the year, what are you going to do? Can you step in and do their job? Do any of your other employees know how to do their job? If not, you need that key employee to document how they perform their job. This is good practice should they go on vacation, get sick, quit, or be terminated.
In year’s past, I’ve had critical part-time employees quit at a moment’s notice during the busiest time of year. Luckily, I had job postings already written, posted them to Craigslist, and had replacements in as little as a day. I also use a service called LaborReady to assist with immediate manual-labor needs.
If the printer you use for shipping labels dies, what is your plan? Are you going to run to Office Depot during a snow storm? Are you going to pull the printer from another employee’s office? When our thermal printer died one Christmas season, I was completely unprepared and my business came to a standstill. I couldn’t fine one locally, spent hours reconfiguring labels for a laser printer, and lost considerable order-processing time.
If your Internet connection suddenly dies and you can no longer print postage, what are you going to do? We pay $6.95/month for dial-up Internet access ever since we lost our ability to process orders for five hours during Christmas. There are other options out there via 3G, tethering your phone, etc.
If your payment processor goes down, what is your backup plan? I don’t suggest having multiple payment processors. That’s too much to deal with. However, does your order success page REQUIRE a successful response from your payment processor? If so, modify the code so that if the payment processor’s API is unavailable or times out, that you can simply capture the order details and attempt to run the customer’s card later.
For most online retailers, the Christmas season is our make-it or break-it time of the year. For my business, we do nearly 50% of our business for the entire year in a span of about 30 days. During that time, every minute counts. Plan for the worst by assuming that every thing will go wrong. Knowing what to do when the worst occurs reduces stress and improves the performance of your business.