Daily Archives: February 12, 2015

Tip #217: Beware the brand promise you can’t keep

If your business is all about keeping promises — say something like insurance, or perhaps Web site hosting — you really want to make sure that when the chips are down, you can actually make good on those promises.

This comes up because today I visited Luke Rehmann’s  password-checking site, from a link in a BGR story we ran about a big password hack. Rehmann’s site is getting hammered as I write this (my analytics show that the story about the hack is one of the biggest we’ve run in months) and it has buckled under the load.

The site  is apparently using CloudFlare, which claims to provide robust, distributed Web hosting. But when I went to the site, I got this message:

Search_Mark_Burnett_s_10_Million_Usernames___Passwords

Click to zoom, or just trust me that it says, “This page is currently offline. However, because the site uses CloudFlare’s Always Online technology, you can continue to surf a snapshot of the site…”

Needless to say, if the site is a database lookup service, then a snapshot of it does not count as “online.”

Now, to be fair, CloudFlare does not actually claim to be running Rehmann’s entire site. The CloudFlare service caches the Web front-end to the site, but the database that the site hits is, likely, not part of the system. So the site can give you the cached version of the site, but it can’t do anything about the database, which appears to be swamped. That’s not CloudFlare’s fault.

But the messaging is all wrong. CloudFlare’s banner at the top of the site seems to say, “Use CloudFlare and your site will never go down,” when, in fact, CloudFlare can’t make that promise — because it’s not designed to do what’s necessary to keep a database site online.

If the whole point of your product, as spelled out in its brand, is to do a thing, then your product should do that thing. If it doesn’t, sending out self-contradictory messages will just confuse people, and probably annoy the crap out of your customers.  

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