Woodchucks and disaster planning

Woodchucks and disaster planning

Summary: A woodchuck family took up living under our deck. A supplier of household hardware was "down for maintenance" during normal business hours. Does the hardware company understand that to Web users, they're out of business when their website is down?

TOPICS: Outage

A cute family of woodchucks took up residence under our deck. Whenever one of these little critters took a stroll in the yard or on the deck, our cat jumped to the window and made all types of noise. I assume he wanted to play with them. More likely, he wanted to invite them to be the guest of honor at dinner.

When I visited a well-known household hardware store's website while seeking a humane way to ask the woodchuck family to move on to the nearby woods, I was surprised to find that the company's website was down for "maintenance" in the middle of normal business hours.

Going out of business

While I know that this company is in the business of selling tools, building materials, flooring, appliances and the like and not in the computer business, I don't think that their management team really thinks about the consequences of being off the air during normal business hours. It's as if they allowed their company to go out of business.

I have no idea how much revenue they lost during that outage or how many customers merely went down the network to purchase from one of their competitors. It is clear, however, that either they didn't have plans to prevent potential outages or their plans weren't adequate to deal with whatever problems appeared.

Planning for outages

A company website, like other critical IT systems, can be made to survive the loss of systems, storage, networks and even whole data centers. It requires careful planning and provisioning layers of software and hardware to deal with or prevent outages from occurring.

If the company in question had asked any hardware supplier, such as IBM, HP, or Dell, or any software supplier, such as Oracle, Microsoft, or VMware, systems could have been put in place so that customers and potential customers would never see an outage.


The worldwide web is a very important worldwide marketplace. Why would a company "shut its doors" and encourage customers to buy elsewhere? Was the lack of adequate disaster recovery planning due to management thinking that IT wasn't its primary business and not making the proper investment? Did the company invest in plans, but failed in execution?

In the end, all that matters is that customers, like me, simply went down the network and purchased from other suppliers.

Topic: Outage


Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. In his spare time, he's also the managing partner of Lux Sonus LLC, an investment firm.

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  • The natural way to get the woodchuck family

    to move is to let your cat out.
  • So let me see...

    ...it is called the "Worldwide Web", because the ENTIRE WORLD has access 24/7/365...so just WHEN would you have any company do web maintenance work?

    It may have inconvenienced YOU...but folks on the other side of the planet were probably asleep...and never noticed a thing.

    And @ baggins_z is spot on. LET THE BLODDY CAT OUT, NUMBNUTS!
    • First off

      It is inconsiderate posts with no real value that make reading or posting in a blog a waste of time. Nobody really cares about sad little rants. It makes you look unintelligent, and not to be taken seriously.

      Second, this is an IT site. Most people know that with a little planning, the site does not have to go offline during maintenance. It is indeed the world-wide-web, so if you want customers from around the world, you need to plan for it.
    • Time Zone

      Assuming the company is operates only in the US then maintenance can be done from 12AM - 6AM Eastern. If they have multiple local websites then each regional would be updated at an appropriiate time.

      Also, how extensive are the updates and can they be done very quickly without interrupting your traffic.

      Otherwise, if they are any size they should have a backup ready to go.
  • Wither 'maintenance'

    Whilst it's possible this company was stupid enough to plan to do this during regular business hours (and assuming it's a regional company, such as Lowes or Home Depot here in the US that allows them plenty of time between say midnight and 6am Eastern for planned outages), it is also possible that the message was there not because it was planned but for some god-unforeseen reason that took the entire site down (web, app, database, DOS, insert any one of 1000 reasons here).

    No one is immune to this - even the powerhouses like Google and Amazon have issues that take out entire subsystems from public use. DDOS attacks can also be somewhat costly to protect against (which then require costs such as mounting the site behind the likes of Prolexic) and again could have caused this message to show up.

    I get that you're aggravated, and if this was a consumer web site then your complaints would have more merit, but ZD Net is geared for the gearheads. And if there's one thing a gearhead knows is that the worst stuff happens when you least expect it and that you quiet Tuesday turns into a hell hole because someone somewhere did something stupid.

    Last company I worked at always had scheduled outage windows monthy from midnight to 7 AM on a Sunday morning. Despite this we still had occasions where bad stuff happened during the day.

    In an online world it's extraordinarily expensive to guarantee your presence 100% during the day. Accidents happen.
    Lost In Clouds of Data
  • .

    How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
  • Ever heard of phone calls?

    That thing your little hand held computer can do, as well as Facebook and Angry Birds?

    (PS: loads of places to get the number from before someone points out the "if the sites down, how do you get the number bit!")
  • Wouldn't be surprised if it was Home Depot.

    A couple of years ago I went into a Home Depot and found that all their Point Of Sale registers were down and they couldn't do any sales transactions - the entire store. The clerks told me that it was actually not a rare occurrence. They and the customers all just stood around waiting for someone to reboot or fix the system somehow. I found it rather stunning that they would use a POS system that would periodically completely disable their ability to conduct business.

    Several times I've tried to use their terrible Self-Checkout terminals only to find some Microsoft system or error prompt staring me in the face after it crashed.