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Website Host Outage Shows Various Levels of "Internet Involvement" by Sweeping Contractors

The recent daylong service outage by one of the largest website hosting companies in America, Knownhost, provided a number of business-related insights.

Ranger Kidwell-Ross, editor by Ranger Kidwell-Ross, WorldSweeper's Editor

These days, it's safe to say that the vast majority of businesses are connected to the internet and have a company website and e-mail. You do, or you couldn't be reading these words. What I learned recently, however, was that only a relatively small percentage of contractors may be checking their e-mail and websites as often as they should.

A couple weeks ago, the web hosting company used by WorldSweeper for both this website and the approximately 75 contractors whose sites we host went off-line without notice for almost an entire day. Since our hosting company is one of America's largest and advertises that it has the best uptime percentage of any such firm in the industry, this was quite a surprising event. (It turned out to be due to a widespread power outage in the Dallas area where the servers are located.)

As you might imagine, a number of contractors called our office to find out what the problem was. What I found surprising, though, is that I didn't hear from the majority of our web-hosted clients. I found this both surprising and alarming – for the success of their businesses.

I first got onto the internet back in the '80s and designed the first corporate website for the power sweeping industry, At the time, there were 'only' about 100,000 websites in existence. This seemed like a large number then; however, today there are well over 1 billion websites. Since I have been online for so long, I take it for granted that other business owners realize the implied commitment that an online presence creates.

For whatever reason, people who contact you via your website or business e-mail address expect a response even faster than if they leave you a voicemail message. Your e-mail link on your website, especially, needs to be checked at least once a day and ideally even more often. When you do get business inquiries you need to respond quickly.

Surprising to me, two thirds of our web hosting customers apparently didn't notice their website and e-mail were down all day; or, they were unconcerned about their web access being down. Either one is a mistake.

Today, your website is your company's face to the world. Your e-mail links and addresses are typically the 1st way your clients and prospects will choose to contact you. I encourage all who are reading this to take immediate action anytime they find their website or e-mail are not operational. Do not wait more than an hour before inquiring about any outages.

In addition, if you have a website then take the steps necessary to make sure you set up your business e-mail address such that it includes your company's domain name. Do not be something like If you don't have email addresses throughout your company and as a website like that end in your domain name, there is no way you can look as professional in your correspondence as your competitor will. Further, make sure that you or someone else in your company checks your main company e-mail address – the one that is linked from your website – at least twice a day. Preferably even more often.

I also recommend that you review the content on your website regularly, at least once a month, to make sure the content is still valid and up-to-date. Check and recheck for spelling and grammar errors. Do the number of years you claim to have been in business on one page match the year your company was founded that is part of the content of another page?

Finally, when do you tell your customers that you've had a service outage... especially when they don't have a clue unless you do tell them?! In this instance, especially since Knownhost has provided phenomenal historic uptime and the problem was an energy vendor, I decided not to send out a general alert bulletin to my hosting clients who didn't notice on their own. Some may be learning their website was out right now by reading these words.

That's an issue that you need to decide on a case-by-case basis. However, I encourage you to make a decision one way or the other; don't let things happen by default. And, if customers contact you after the fact to question why you didn't alert them, know what you will tell them.

It's tough enough in this recessionary and predatory business climate to get and keep customers. Don't provide either your competitors or prospects for your services with a reason they should choose someone else. Most sweeping company websites talk about how responsive the company is to its clients' needs. Start that pattern of responsiveness with how quickly and professionally you respond to web-based – and other – customer and prospect inquiries.

As always, the articles in this issue are designed to help you find crucial insight for your business. My hope is you find they all help in one way or the other. If you have ideas about articles you'd like to see in the future, please let us know that, as well. Our goal is to write about what you want to read. And, if you have a sweeping-related need please contact us about it. We'll try to assist in any way we can.

I routinely reference articles and studies, provide information from my "Fundamentals of the Power Sweeping Business" manual and put contractors and city officials in touch with others who may have answers to their informational needs. By the same token, if you have a story you can provide, additional information on any of the topics we've covered – or need more details – please let me know. I'll be glad to help if at all possible.

By the way, if you don't have a listing yet in our Contractor Locator section, you are missing out on what is arguably the best advertising value in sweeping. At the same time, you'll be helping to keep online and active.

Good Sweeping!
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