Recovering from website disasters - Part 4
This article, originally published in 2004, offers tips on solving problems with your website
There's libel in my forum
In law, a defamatory statement is one that's untrue and is likely to make right-thinking members of society think less of someone.
If you're alerted to defamatory postings in your website's forum, act immediately. "If someone complains, it is important to remove the posting while further investigations are made," says Harris. "This is one of the points to arise from the famous case of Godfrey v Demon. You should not allow defamatory remarks to remain published." In this case, Demon settled and picked up the bill for legal costs after the High Court ruled it was responsible for a posting in a newsgroup it hosted.
Once you've cleared it with a legal eagle, you can reinstate the posting later if it's not libellous.
Make site visitors answerable for their postings. Harris recommends having an abuse button on the forum so readers can alert you to anything inappropriate and restricting postings to registered users. "It should be possible to get their comments on the complaint and if necessary they can be summonsed as a witness or co-defendant," he says.
My server has broken
When things go wrong, it's worth knowing how much your website is worth to you. It suggests a ceiling for how much you should spend on fixing it. Sumner was managing a site for a major events organiser when a suspected hardware crash corrupted the database. "We were quoted US$12,000 to recover the database in three hours," he says, "and that company seemed to be very busy. We had another quote to do it in 12 hours for US$5,000. There are probably companies that offer to do it cheaper but this was a quality company with a guaranteed no fix, no fee.
"We ended up reconstructing the database. It took more than three hours but it didn't cost us US$12,000."
Although backups were taken regularly, they needed to rebuild the database down to the minute. To avoid similar crises, Sumner recommends finding a hosting package that includes a hot standby server.