The Importance of Creating a ‘Dark Site’

If your Web site crashed, or went down for any significant length of time, are you prepared with a remotely hosted back-up site, or what we call a “dark site?” If you are, congratulations! You can stop reading this post and go about your day. If you do not have a dark site, keep reading…

A dark site is a fully functional, branded site or blog that remains “hidden” on a separate server from your main site when everything is peachy keen. However, it is easily accessible from any computer with an Internet connection and a Web browser. It is also updated and ready to go public in the event of an emergency or if your main Web site goes down for any reason and you need to get information out to the public.

Most companies probably have secure and reliable Web site hosting, but every now and then, even the most reliable sites can have issues. Sometimes these issues are beyond the hosting company’s control, such as natural disasters. And there is always the risk of your site getting hacked, which actually happened to one of our clients. In an extreme cases, an event (good or bad) may trigger an avalanche of traffic to a company’s site that could overload the server and bring the site down. In this case, having a dark site ready to bring into the light is essential.

So, where can you host a Web-accessible dark site? There are several free services such as Tumblr, Wordpress, Blogger or Weebly. Of course, even if you have a back-up site, how are you going to let your followers know that you’re site is down and direct them to the temporary site, or what we call a “dark site?” Simple. Social media and even the traditional media - if the public needs access to your information immediately.

Oh boy. There’s that phrase again. Social media. In addition to having a “dark site” ready in case of an emergency, your business or organization should be utilizing social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, two of the most popular social networking sites on the Interwebz today.

If your Web site goes down, and you have a Twitter and/or Facebook account, you can easily notify your clients, vendors, partners and friends that your site is down and provide a link to your dark site, which by now you’ve brought into the light.

Another option is to integrate the two. Many businesses are using content management systems (CMS) like Wordpress to build their sites and blog. At CWI Media, however, we have a static HTML-based site, but use Tumblr to host our blog. Now, when you’re on our blog site, it looks just like our static HTML site, but should our Web server ever fail, our blog will still be active. So in our case, our dark site is actually live, but because we designed it to match our Web site exactly, you can’t tell the difference.

Hopefully your business or organization already has these continuity of operations (COOP) plans in place, but if not, I strongly recommend you add it to the agenda of your next executive meeting. And if you have questions, or would like a free consultation on how to develop such a COOP plan, e-mail me at gary@businessbullpen.com.

Do you Blog? Got Tumblr?

By Gary Cope

Do you blog? If so, which blogging service do you use? Wordpress? Blogger? Typepad? Those three seem to be the most popular, at least in our circle of blogging friends and clients. I have used Wordpress extensively and it is my blogging platform of choice for business-related blogs because of its seemingly infinite variety of plugins. Wordpress and Blogger are both free while Typepad comes with a modest monthly fee attached to its services. But let’s not forget my personal favorite, Tumblr.com. Haven’t heard of Tumblr? Well pull up a chair my friend!

Tumblr, like Wordpress and Blogger, is free. After I got past the initial learning curve of the dashboard, I discovered that it is, without question, the most user-friendly blogging platform I have ever used. The most redeeming quality of Tumblr is that it allows me to completely and easily customize the entire look and feel of the site using simple HTML and CSS. What exactly does that mean? Well, it means that I can design a basic Web site and then simply add Tumblr’s blogging code to the page I want to serve as the blog and presto - I have an instant blog that looks exactly like I envisioned. OK, there’s a little more to it than that, but it is very easy. That means it’s a piece of cake to add blog functionality to your current Web site without setting up a separate blog site. If you need help with your blog, let CWI help today! E-mail us at info@cwimedia.com.