You’ve probably encountered a time when a service you want to use is unavailable, and it’s frustrating. In fact, just the other day I wanted to get in a little bit of Minecraft, but with their login servers down, it was impossible. Similar downtimes have crippled a number of popular services, making the most headlines when it’s something involving email. With generic failure messages, it’s difficult for the end user to diagnose: is it a problem on my end, or is it something I’m unable to solve?
Enter the status website. Lots of services have them, including Twitter, Google and Apple. They act as a destination for troubled users to head to in order to diagnose a problem, or check whether maintenance is in progress. While it’s something you can probably knock off yourself, OffsiteStatus is a simple, but useful, web app that generates a site status page to send your users to. Let’s see how it can make your life simpler by giving you a separate hosted service for letting your users know how your website’s working.
Status websites are a great way to let your customers know for sure when your service is having a problem, without having to resort to sites like Down for Everyone or Just Me. You’ll be able to tell people exactly what’s going on, apologize for the inconvenience, and perhaps even cut down on the number of support emails you’ll get as your customers will already understand. You’ll then be able to update again when your site is back up, so users will know the problem’s over.
The only problem is, if you host your status site yourself on the same server as your main web site or app, then it’ll likely go down when your main site goes down. That’s why having an offsite, separate service to announce your site’s status is such a good idea. It’ll let you update your customers no matter what’s going on with your main site, without having to resort to social networks that just might be experiencing a Fail Whale themselves.
When it’s time for you to create your own status page, it’s just a click away from the app’s homepage. You’ll need to specify the regular fields to provide some login credentials, but you’ll also get to choose a timezone, allowing your status page’s times to reflect those of your own (or something else, like your main demographic’s time zone).
When you’ve created your system, you’ll have a dedicated subdomain that will be the location to which you send your users to. Ordered by date, this page will list all of your interruptions and downtimes, as well as scheduled maintenance periods. If nothing happened on a specific date, there will still be an entry to reflect the perfect uptime.
If you have a custom domain, you can also configure a subdomain of that with the service, so your users don’t feel like they’re being sent elsewhere. Then, when a problem occurs and you want to notify your visitors, it’s time to head into your admin panel (at yoursubdomain/admin) and assign a new message.
Updating the Users
When it’s time to notify your users, just head to the administration dashboard, where you’re able to post a message and update the current status of the service. When you head over to update the status, you’ll need to fill in a brief description of events, and assign a level of severity of the problem (ranging from “Fully Operational”, for updating when the problem’s fixed, to “Major Interruption”). You can constantly update events, and should do, so that when any issues are resolved, your status is reset to “Fully Operational”.
Optionally, you can also configure the built-in Twitter integration to post a tweet whenever your status is updated. This is particularly useful, since it helps to notify even more people who perhaps won’t instinctively check your status website. You can even grab an HTML snippet to show the current status on your site, or elsewhere, which is a pretty nice feature.
If you want even more ways to notify users, they’re able to sign up for email updates to be sent when your status changes. Also, a dedicated RSS feed is also available, which you can direct users to subscribe to in order to receive updates.
In addition to updating for an impromptu issue, you can also setup scheduled maintenance periods, which will automatically update your site to notify users of the work in progress. This is done in much the same way as a regular update, but you’re asked to specify a start and end time, naturally.
Honestly, there’s little else to the app. It’s pretty simple, but no one really wants a complex system for doing this kind of job. The presentation to the end user is quite simple and minimal, to it’s benefit. However, I’d love to have seen a little bit of customizability on the status page, as it’d be nice to make the status page fit in better with the rest of your brand. Right now, you can’t even upload a logo to replace the text heading.
Nevertheless, the app does what it should, and all for free, so it’s difficult to really complain. If you manage a service that could benefit from this type of product, I’d highly recommend this particular app’s offerings.