Tim Pat Dufficy, managing director of ServerSpace Limited, discusses the damage downtime causes to a small company.
A business that doesn’t have an online presence is effectively dead in the water. The demands of modern-day consumers mean that you need to have an online offering to really attract a wider target audience. With your online site now acting as your ‘shop window’, it’s so important that not only does the site look good; it also runs smoothly when people visit it. Unfortunately, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are at a considerable risk of jeopardising their entire business operation just because they lack a functional online site.
Trust is the most important aspect of any business, so when you have a website that’s clunky and unresponsive, you lose credibility as well as trust. For a business that already has a strong online presence, downtime is the biggest threat to the business’ online performance. The dreaded situation for a business is when a customer enters their bank details to purchase a product and the website goes down, leaving the customer unsure whether the transaction’s gone through. The trust between the customer and the business is consequently broken.
Your website needs to be permanently available. Research from the Baymard Institute found that the average shopping cart abandonment rate was 67.35 per cent. Consumers won’t wait long for a website to respond. A frustrated customer is a very unhappy customer and although there are security measures in place to protect the business and the customer, these measures don’t accommodate for emotional reactions. It’s a concern if the customer doesn’t use the website again, but the biggest concern should be that they’ll tell their friends. Reputation is far harder to protect in a digital age but ensuring your business’ website runs smoothly and is accessible to the user is half the battle.
The other problem that SMEs, in particular, face is that budgets can be very tight. Unlike one of the corporate giants such as Coca-Cola or McDonalds, SMEs just don’t have expensive IT staff. The last thing an SME wants to worry about is problems with servers and internet connectivity, as it will cost a sizeable amount of money to hire someone to fix the problem.
There are essentially two options for business owners. Either they allocate a large proportion of their annual budget to hire someone to maintain and manage the website, or they outsource to an external hosting and connectivity provider. The benefit of outsourcing is that there is round-the-clock protection from cyber-attacks; no downtime and a vastly improved internet speed.
Many SMEs are based in areas where the internet speed is inherently poor. Although the government is frantically trying to invest in rural broadband provision, it will take years before every area of the country is adequately supplied with workable internet connectivity. Outsourcing to service providers that are based in metropolitan areas, where internet connectivity speeds are the strongest, will give SMBs the optimum level of service delivery.
It’s not just sales that businesses should be worried about when it comes to website downtime. A businesses’ website is a great information portal. A meeting with a potential client, for example, can go horribly wrong if they’ve relied on the website for contact details and directions to the offices.
A study from August last year, released by Freelancer.co.uk, found that 65 per cent of small businesses in the UK believed there was still an urban/rural divide. But the fact is that there will continue to be a divide until internet connectivity is improved. The route that small business owners need to take is to use providers that are based in urban areas because otherwise they’re in danger of getting left behind.
SMEs are undoubtedly being held back by slower internet speeds and connectivity, but there are solutions out there. The key is choosing the right solution for you. The impact that a slow and unresponsive website can have on a business’ reputation can be irreparable and it doesn’t just affect short-term sales potential; it will also have a longer-term impact on a business’ credibility.
It is far cheaper and less time-consuming for SMEs to offload their server responsibility to external providers, whose job it is to manage the server 24/7 and to make sure that the website delivery is flawless.