In this blog post, we share our insight and experience of hosting the websites of energy suppliers and utilities companies.Posted on 04 September 2015 - Hosting
Website hosting for the energy sector is something in which we’ve got a lot of experience and knowledge. We count NIE, SSE and Phoenix Gas among our customers, so we’re well versed in the energy industry’s unique set of circumstances and demands.
For most businesses of an equivalent size to a major player in the energy market, a website would serve as a corporate brochure and sales tool (either indirectly or, in the case of retailers, directly). While an energy or utilities business does want its website to perform those functions, it will always been overwhelmingly more in-demand when something goes wrong.
An energy company works hard to provide reliable service to its customers, who are likely to descend on the website en masse on the rare occasion the reliable service fails. In other words, the less power an energy company is able to provide at any given time, the more power its website will need.
Here are some other things we’ve learned about web hosting in the energy sector over the years:
Power cuts and other supply problems in the energy and utilities sector almost always coincide with bad weather. While that doesn’t offer much comfort to customers, an energy supplier armed with a decent weather report and a flexible web host can at least foresee and prepare for the huge traffic spikes that accompany disruption to service.
Energy companies effectively have a public service responsibility. People expect to have access to their power at the flick of a switch. If for any reason they don’t have that, they expect answers pretty quickly. Their first port of call tends to be the supplier's website. Failure to equip a website with the infrastructure to cope with that demand to keep people informed as to what’s gone wrong and when it will be fixed is a PR disaster waiting to happen.
Given the prominent, public-facing role of many energy firms, they are at high risk of attacks from hackers or cybercriminals. It is important their websites are protected by robust security measures that recognise and guard against this threat. That is even more important now that many energy consumers pay bills or top-up meters via their supplier’s website.
As we’ve established, the conditions under which an energy supplier’s website operates during a power cut could scarcely be more different to the conditions of a normal business day. As such, a prudent energy supplier will insist on testing their infrastructure by simulating website traffic conditions during a power cut.
We’ve mentioned that energy companies are in the unusual position of their websites being in far great demand when people are unable to use their services than when they can. It is advisable for the hosting infrastructure to be designed in such a way that it can scale up quickly when demand suddenly increases. That is the most cost-effective way of coping with demand without encountering the problems we've previously mentioned.
Emma Duggan, Web Manager, NIE NetworksRead full case study