Last week, the New York Times website was down again. This was the second time in two weeks, ostensibly for different reasons, but still, that kind of downtime is simply unacceptable. We’ve talked in the past about what they did the first time the site went down; the second response was very similar (though the second reason, DNS hacking by the Syrian Electronic Army, was much more thorough and shut down the Times’ mobile apps as well), relying on established social media feeds to continue publishing.
The New York Times Web site is experiencing technical difficulties. We are working on fully restoring the site.—
The New York Times (@nytimes) August 27, 2013
We’ve also, in the past, talked about what happened in Calgary, Edmonton during their most recent floods:
[T]he emergency management and social media worlds watched in awe as the official police Twitter account was placed into so-called, “Twitter jail,” for tweeting too much.
[W]hat didn’t make it into most of the “Twitter jail” stories was that the City of Calgary’s website was overwhelmed and went down from the traffic crush.
Calgary acted spectacularly during that disaster and so has the New York Times. I hope that we’ve learned from them have multiple layers of fail-over protection ready to go. (Though between me and you, I know that’s a long shot.) But what’s spurred me to write today about this post is something Matthew Keys did during the NY Times hacking:
He wasn’t under any threat at the time, and he didn’t have any reason to be concerned, other than a rumor that Twitter’s main web address may have also been hacked. The service was still functioning regularly, and actually was fine throughout the event. But Mr. Keys depends on 100% uptime for his livelihood and cannot take a chance, so he proactively is posting where people can find him should Twitter go down, or his access disappear. Before it’s troubled, before he’s got to scramble to set something up, just in case.
And his actions leads me to think about our preparations for such an event. Sure, it’s written into the plan, but does anyone who hasn’t read the plan know where they should go? I sort of hinted at this in my Calgary post, but never took the necessary next step that I am today:
The Calgary Police were lucky to have another account they were able to fail over to, Constable Jeremy Shaw’s personal account, but that meant that the public had to find that account to begin receiving the updates again.
Are you prepared to start advertising your dark site, your back-up site or social network, today? Once all hell breaks loose and the site is down and Twitter’s been hacked and no one can hear your messages anymore is probably too late. Do you have pre-approved messages that will go out regularly while your comms are up during a disaster informing folks where to go if they can’t reach you through the normal channels?
So, do your readers know where to get updates when your site crashes? (Or is hacked by Syrian Electronic Army, Anonymous or Occupy.) When are you going to tell them?