How to Over Communicate During a SaaS Outage

How to Over Communicate During a SaaS Outage

When you're a cloud or SaaS specialist, you can't hide during an unexpected outage. Instead, the far wiser approach is to over communicate facts with partners and customers. That's exactly the approach Reflexion Networks has taken this week after experiencing a SAN (storage area network) issue with its hosted email security services. Here are the details.

Reflexion competes in the email security, archiving and eDiscovery and email continuity markets. Generally speaking, the company seems to have a strong track record for reliability. But Reflexion has had two partial outages over the past 24 hours. Instead of going radio silent, VP of Sales and Marketing Scott Barlow has been busy updating partners and customers across Reflexion's social media sites.

When I asked Barlow for some deeper details via email he replied with these insights:

"Yesterday [May 18], we experienced a problem with our SAN storage infrastructure, making it impossible for us to divert messages into quarantine storage.  This in turn caused an extended backup in the delivery of inbound email.  The situation was further exacerbated because mail flow didn’t automatically failover to our secondary SAN and backup delivery infrastructure.  The outage lasted from 12:00 PM until approximately 4:00 PM EDT.  This morning we had another hour outage as we add additional storage to our redundant SAN infrastructure to handle the volume of new customers registering through our partners.  No email was lost!

All hands are on deck to conduct a full scale review of our systems and processes to ensure we take the necessary steps to prevent a reoccurrence.  We will correct these issues and get back to providing the best service and support in the industry.  Our partners want us to get though this, and we will."

Communicate (But Stick to the Facts)

Of course, outages s*ck. Everyone from Amazon.com to RIM has suffered cloud-related outages in recent months. On the one hand, we all want more reliable SaaS and cloud systems. But if there's an unexpected setback, you'll find that the smartest companies over-communicate facts about (A) what went wrong (B) immediate recovery steps and (C) long-term corrective measures.

You'll notice that Barlow's email wasn't filled with speculation or what-ifs. Instead, he shares time information and the most important fact of all: Was any customer data lost during the outage? The answer, in this case, was no.

At one time or another, your company will surely face a business continuity issue. I wonder: Will you respond in a timely manner to customer, partner and media inquiries? Instead of hiding, step up to the microphone armed with facts. Take control of the story and mitigate the risk of media and customer speculation about what went wrong.

I'm heading off to a webcast shortly. But will check in with Barlow tonight for a progress report. But I suspect he'll have already updated readers across Reflexion's social networks.

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