“Precaution is better than cure.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

To say it wasn’t a great way to start the New Year would be putting it mildly.

I came into the office on January 2 at 7:00 a.m., my usual time. A few hours later, I clicked onto one of the two dozen or so product-specific micro-sites for my online business … only to find it gone.

I quickly clicked on the other micro-sites on the Products page of my website (bly.com). All gone.

Next, a panicked call to my Web-hosting service – with even worse results: a recorded message telling me the number had been disconnected.

Holy cow!

In essence, my entire Internet marketing business … a $200,000 a year passive income stream … had been shut down, in a single morning, without warning. And I had no idea how to fix it – or whether it could be fixed.

I dashed off an e-mail to my website designer telling him what had happened … and that he might need to reload back-up copies of the HTML code for all my micro-sites.

“What back-up copies?” he e-mailed back a few minutes later. “We don’t keep back-up copies. But you can transfer the HTML code from the actual live site to a new server,” he continued, “as long as you have the access codes to each site.”

Access codes? What the heck was that?

Of course, the only one with those access codes was my Web-hosting guy … who had mysteriously vanished from the face of the Earth.

Through sheer luck, everything worked out – and within 48 hours, my Internet marketing business was back online. My sites came back up. I found a new hosting service, and moved all the sites to their server.

Heed my advice …

I’ve taken steps to prevent a similar disaster from occurring in the future … and you should do the same.

  • First, only deal with a Web-hosting service where you can reach a real, live person during business hours. In fact, the same advice goes for any service that’s “mission-critical” to your business. If a real person at the company won’t talk to you, don’t use them.
  • Second, insist that your designer archive back-up copies for every website or page he creates for you.
  • Third, have your designer give you a copy of the HTML code for all your sites and pages … and keep duplicate copies on your own PC.
  • Fourth, make sure you – or someone in your office – keep a record of all user names, codes, and passwords needed to get into your existing websites. Don’t say, “My Webmaster has them” or “I can just call the Web-hosting company.” That won’t do any good if you can’t reach them.
  • Fifth, identify back-up vendors for all mission-critical services you use in your Internet marketing business. For me, these include Web-hosting … website design … the maintenance of my e-list … e-zine distribution … credit card processing … metrics tracking and measurement … shopping cart … and autoresponder. Reason: You don’t want to be at the mercy of a single supplier … no matter how much you like them.

The reliability of such services is of major importance for the small Internet marketing entrepreneur. A glitch in Web-hosting or your shopping cart, for example, effectively shuts down your entire operation. If your online sales are $7,000 a week, every day your sites are down costs you $1,000 in sales you can never get back.

You also have to be concerned with how the cost of these services figures into your ROMD (Return on Marketing Dollars) – a principle taught by Internet marketing guru Fred Gleeck. To maximize ROMD, it’s not enough to generate a high volume of sales – you have to do it at a reasonable cost. The lower your expenditures, the greater your ROMD for a given volume of sales.

And keep in mind that as your Internet business grows, you’re probably going to need to make some changes. A service that’s geared to the typical SOHO (small office/home office) may not make financial sense for you down the line.

Take Web-hosting.

There are plenty of reliable Web-hosting services that can host a site for fees ranging from $19 to $49 a month. But while that’s fine when you have just one website, it won’t work for you when you eventually have multiple product-specific micro-sites.

There are Internet marketers who have as many as 100 different websites, one for each product. If you were to pay $49 per site for hosting 100 sites, your annual hosting bill would be nearly 60 grand a year … eating up a huge share of your profits.

That’s why I now host my sites with a service that charges $49 per month total – for one site or over 100. For 100 sites, that works out to less than 50 cents to host each site per month … with annual hosting expenses of under $600.

And if you’re looking for reliable, affordable vendors to help you back up your mission-critical programs, here’s one I can personally recommend.

[Ed, Note: Bob Bly is the editor of ETR’s Direct Marketing University: The Masters Edition – a program to help you start your own successful direct-mail business.]

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.

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