A strategy for minimizing web site down time

Web sites reside on web servers. And eventually every web server will go DOWN. There can be many reasons: power issues, network attacks or failures, hardware failure, DNS mistakes, planned maintenance, etc. Regardless of location, reputation, cost, or monitoring, every web server eventually has some DOWN time.

Often that down time is so short you won't notice it. But other times, the failure takes longer to resolve. Then your site visitors simply find that your web site is not accessible, i.e., "DOWN".

Our strategy for minimizing web site DOWN time is called "DNS FailOver". With DNS FailOver active on your domain, our DNS server will check your site at 5 minute intervals. As long as your primary server is UP, nothing happens. But if your server is detected as DOWN, your DNS A record will be automatically changed to point to a backup copy of your web site on a different server! Your secondary site will be used until the primary recovers, then DNS is switched back to your primary site automatically.

That's the easy part. The hard part is developing and maintaining that backup web site. It needs to be in a separate data center, physically separate from your primary web server. Here are three different ways of maintaining a secondary web site:

  1. Easy: Set up a very simple "skeleton" secondary version of your site. Present the message, "Our web site is temporarily offline. It will be back shortly. In the meantime please contact us by phone or email." A site like this requires no further maintenance. Remember, it will only be seen during any brief periods when your primary server is offline.

    For example, here is our normal site and here is our skeleton site.

    Cost: $20/year/domain in addition to your normal hosting fee. Includes a cPanel login to your account on the secondary server for you to create your "skeleton" site. If you prefer, we can prepare a one-page skeleton site similar to ours above for the one-time fee of $25.
  2. Doable: We can copy your entire existing site to the secondary server. When DNS changes, visitors will see the secondary copy, which is identical to the primary. Whenever you make significant changes to your primary web site, you need to have us update the copy on the secondary server.

    Cost: $100/year/domain in addition to your normal hosting fee. Includes up to 4 sync copies performed by us at your request. Additional copy cycles after the included 4 are $25 per request.
  3. Hard: If content on your site is actively edited (i.e. a wiki, a blog with comments, frequent new file uploads, etc.) then this strategy is much harder because your site's database must be sync'd regularly (at least daily) and automatically with the secondary server. This is possible, but difficult to set up. Any user comments, edits, etc. added while the secondary server is active would be lost when the primary comes back online. In this situation, the "easy" option above is usually a better approach.

    Cost: Quoted per your requirements

Every site has different requirements. We would be happy to discuss options with you.


  1. You must use DataBack servers for your DNS.
  2. This strategy keeps your site online and visible. It does not allow you to edit your site or upload files during an outage.