Amazon stock investors took a deep breath this afternoon as online retail giant Amazon went down for a brief time without warning.
Media accounts differ on the exact duration. Reuters and several other news outlets put the downtime for users in the U.S. and Canada on both Web and mobile at around 15 minutes . However, some sources suggest downtime was longer with GeekWire putting it at about 40 minutes .
Amazon has offered no response to most media inquiries. (Small Business Trends also tried to contact the mega online retailer earlier today without success.)
However, in a brief tweet CNBC claimed Amazon told the cable news channel its site was down for “improvements” and would be open again for business soon.
— CNBC (@CNBC) August 19, 2013 
Less than one hour’s downtime may not sound like a lot in the overall scheme of things. But when you’re as big as Amazon, minutes mean big losses. Forbes calculated that given Amazon’s most recent annual numbers, the company probably lost about $66,240 per minute  in sales. So that’s almost $1 million in lost sales if you buy the 15-minute explanation. If the site was inaccessible for closer to 40 minutes, that’s over $2.5 million in lost sales.
Of course, Amazon can easily survive those kinds of lost sales. With a market cap of $130 billion as of today, a few measly millions are a rounding error.
However, as a small business, if your site goes down, you may be hard-pressed to bounce back as quickly, especially if you use outside tech help. By the time you contact your tech help, and they free up from other demands, several hours could have gone by.
And while your site is down, not only do you have to contend with potential losses — but your company could lose credibility, especially if the outage continues for hours or days.
Here Amazon did a smart thing. The company had a branded placeholder screen ready. Within a few minutes, the placeholder page saying “Oops!” went up. So instead of simply getting a screen with an alarming error message, such as “500 internal server error,” you saw a page that looked like an Amazon.com page of sorts (image above). Even though the site was still down, it wasn’t quite as glaring an issue, because it looked like an Amazon page.
You, too, can minimize the loss of credibility and resulting fallout, by putting in place your own custom error page.
Watch the video below for a simple tutorial on how to install your own error page so you’re ready the next time your site goes down. If your server has CPanel installed, it’s not difficult. For most small businesses, the reality is, you’re likely to experience the occasional outage. It’s better to be prepared.