This morning, I woke to the sound of a garbage truck doing its thing in the roundabout. Odd. Usually my alarm goes off long before it shows up. As it turned out, I had accidentally disabled my alarm before I went to bed. With mild panic, I rushed through a condensed version of my routine and left for work.

I take pride in my ability to show up on time. This incident will haunt me for weeks, months, possibly even decades. Who knows, even my kids might be affected. But I knew there was a lesson buried somewhere. Then, as I was parking, it struck me. Always have a fail-safe — some way to compensate for the unexpected. In this case, a backup alarm.

But what if you’re dealing with greater possible consequences, like issues with a web server? No matter how reliable a system may seem, it’s important to remember that nothing is infallible. Even the universe itself will eventually decline into darkness as entropy inevitably causes heat death…but maybe more on that in my next blog. My point is, there’s a pretty good chance your server will fail long before the universe.

Being a senior developer means I’m responsible for several servers and sites. I rely on other developers, account coordinators, hosting companies and even clients to make sure things keep working. I’m always watching server performance, checking access logs and running tests — all in the name of preventative maintenance.

Of course, servers can still go dark. Uptime monitors, basically robots that make sure things are running smoothly, are my first line of defense. They notify me to take a look when something isn’t quite right. Often, it’s as simple as fixing a line of code or hitting reset. If it’s more involved, a temporary page can keep people informed. And finally, frequent backups prevent data loss.

These efforts represent a responsibility to our clients and the various audiences who seek out their sites. Much like having a backup alarm to help ensure I wake up on time, a certain level of proactivity and planning goes a long way when it comes to keeping sites online.