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What to Do When Online Outages Hit Your Events

By Lucas Fitch

Last week’s internet outages were a reminder of just how frail key online infrastructure can be. Eventprofs will need to ensure that they have solid contingency plans in place for when service outages pose challenges for online events. 

 

Attendees to Hubspot’s online Grow networking conference got a rude surprise last week when some of them found themselves temporarily unable to access the event’s sessions. The conference was hit by an internet service disruption from the content delivery network Fastly that affected some of the biggest sites on the internet.

While the problem was quickly identified and dealt with, it’s a reminder of how vulnerable the tech infrastructure that events rely on can be. As key internet infrastructure becomes concentrated in the hands of a few companies, service disruptions become more and more likely. Given that last Tuesday’s outage was only the most recent in a series of such events over the past few years, what kind of contingency plans should eventprofs have in place for when the technology they depend on fails?

In this post we’ll look at what eventprofs can do to reduce the likelihood of tech failures hobbling their events, and how to triage when outages do occur, or when key infrastructure like servers break down.

 

Preparing for the Worst

Prepare and practice a contingency plan.

IT professional Dave Cartwright has pointed out that the Fastly outage occurred “due to a sequence of events it was almost impossible to foresee.” That makes it the kind of event that’s difficult to prepare for, which is why contingency plans are vital.

Preparing those plans should begin early, and involve everyone in an organization. As Digital Management site Pagerduty puts it, “IT outage management isn’t solely concentrated to IT … organizations should also have a plan around how teams like Support, Legal, Marketing, Sales, etc. are kept in the loop. Have an idea of what to share, set up a place where colleagues can easily get information, and determine who will get updates and how often.”

It’s also crucial that whatever plan is in place has been thoroughly practiced, so that in the moment, everyone knows what to do to minimize disruptions, keep attendees engaged, and get things back on track as quickly as possible.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Consider using hybrid cloud services rather than relying on systems that are either cloud-based or on-site. According to one solutions provider, hybrid on-premises services “have that cloud-like experience while still having control of your applications on-premises. It is a much more flexible approach and you can react quicker to outages.”

Know what tech you’re relying on, and what questions to ask.

Key members of your team need to have a solid grasp of the tech infrastructure on which they’re relying. Knowing the kind of questions to ask third-party service providers can help ensure the resilience of events and minimize the odds of disruptions occurring.

Communicate with stakeholders.

Good contingency plans take into account that during service outages, normal means of communication may well be down. As a result, it’s important to ensure that everyone involved knows how to contact stakeholders via alternative methods of communication. That means having a master list of all stakeholders to be contacted in the event of a service outage or tech failure.

A good communications plan should emphasize what attendees are to be told, and how they are to be kept informed as the situation progresses. Keeping customers and attendees in the loop across platforms and through strategies like using a Status Page that updates regularly will reduce frustration and increase satisfaction once any outage is cleared up.

Finally, solid contingency planning will include updates once outages have been resolved, to deal with issues relating to refunds, compensation, and scheduling.

 

IN CONCLUSION

Last week’s Fastly disruption shows how easily services that we often take for granted can fail. At a time when the events industry is more reliant than ever upon online tools, eventprofs can reduce risk by educating themselves about the infrastructure that supports their events, and by putting solid, well-practiced contingency plans in place to mitigate negative outcomes even when the tech on which they depend breaks down.

about the author

Lucas Fitch
Lucas Fitch is based in Toronto, Canada. His writing combines a focus on current and international affairs with an interest in technology and B2B events. He has an MA in English and South Asian Studies from the University of Toronto, and a B.Ed from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
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