Saturday evening Roll20 had a service outage. I typically do not get to play on Saturday evenings as most of my gaming takes place on weeknights as that is what fits my schedule the best. However, I started seeing the tweets about it on Saturday evening even though I was not playing. Then earlier this afternoon the good folks at Roll20 posted a note on the previous evening’s downtime.
Technical problems happen with anything that involves tech. Anyone that owns a computer, smartphone, or any tech device has been troubled by a technical issue at some point. Even the big companies like Amazon or Google’s Gmail have the occasional outages and they have substantial amounts of money invested in avoiding these outages. Hitting 100% uptime is very difficult, even for the big players.
A key differentiator between different companies is how they communicate with their users during these outages. I must say, Roll20 handled things very, very well. Let’s look at how Roll20 handles keeping folks up to date on their availability.
First, they maintain http://status.roll20.net/. This is the method they provide to check the current status of their servers. If there is an outage, it should be reflected here. The historic availability is also available for the past three months on the status site. This is a handy resource for Roll20 users if they are experiencing some issues. It provides a quick easy way to see if it is a server problem or a player having isolated technical issues.
Next, Roll20 maintains an active Twitter presence. If you use Twitter and play in Roll20 games, you should follow them. Looking back at their Twitter timeline from last night you can see they were up front about the issues and were tweeting updates about the problem keeping people informed. While tweets do not fix the problem, communicating about the problem really helps people know what is going on and that the issue is being worked on.
And finally, after the outage last night Riley posted on the Roll20 forums more details about what happened. He reassures the community Roll20 takes the downtime seriously and goes on to describe what is going on to help minimize these issues in the future. I have great respect for companies that post these post-problem updates publicly.
I am quite happy to see how Roll20 handled the outage and communicated during the outage. Technical issues happen, it is how the companies handle them that differentiates them from the others. Kudos to Roll20 for handling last night’s brief outage like professionals in an open and forthcoming manner.