Over Easter weekend, an outage happened to the largest real estate technology company in America. They recovered quickly and elegantly. On another side of life, a broker client of ours with 400 agents was given one-week notice that the company who provided Microsoft Exchange Mail services is going out of business. The realty is that software systems and hardware systems break. And when it happens, it is very disruptive. It is a good idea to think about your disaster plan every year, and review your vendor contracts. You should have a document that outlines everything that happens when systems fail.
Redundancy, Back Up, and Co-dependence
Redundancy and Back Up are loaded terms. It is one thing to have copies of your critical systems (Back Up) – it is another think to have those systems online and available (Redundancy). Moreover, a lot of online software is co-dependent on other software. Here are a few examples.
When the MLS system went down, other services did not. However, since many of those systems were only accessed through the MLS single-sign-on system – agents did not know where to go to access them. This could mean different things for different MLSs. For example, if the sign on security system or the MLS is not available, services like Instanet, ZipForms, or Realist may be working just fine – but agents do not know how to access those services without going through the MLS.
The solution to all of this is to have a plan in place, and have staff ready to manage DNS so that users trying to access services can get information on what happened, what is happening to fix it, what systems are impacted, and how to access solutions that were not impacted. (DNS is “Domain Name System” – it directs consumers to specific webpages and allows traffic to be redirected as necessary).
Stop and Think
Many agents lost their minds when the MLS service was interrupted. Strangely, I don’t know why. Aside from a temporary inability to add or edit a listing – all or most of the information that an agent needs was available through other sources – including their own website. I know that showing instructions and agent remarks are invaluable to agents. But you can always pick up the phone and call the listing agent if you are stuck. Sold data and tax data are also quite available online. Sure, it is not as convenient or efficient to find workarounds for service outages – but it is doable. Make the most of the challenge. You may be surprised at how resourceful you can be.
The most important plan you need to have when you have any type of system outage is a plan for communications. Many MLSs turned to Facebook to advise customers of the problem and the solution. Remember, understanding why something is broken is often hard. Users ask themselves, “Is is me or is it the system?” Moreover, Murphy’s Law is that the outage will happen at the very worst possible time, like a holiday weekend. Make sure that there is someone appointed to orchestrate the communications plan every night, every weekend, and every holiday. Something as simple as being able to record a service announcement on the phone system can go a long way toward calming everyone down. Some MLSs like MRIS even offer a text messaging option that is used not only for advising on routine maintenance, but also communicating emergency status.
If you have not taken a look at your emergency plan – pull it out and dust it off. If you need a review – let us know. We are more than capable of giving you a hand.