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If your business relies on the Internet to sell goods or services, you should be concerned about the potentially damaging effects of a Distributed Denial of Service attack.

A DDoS occurs when an attacker targets your website, slowing it to a crawl or totally blocking traffic, taking up your bandwidth, crashing servers, or attacking applications.

This malicious disruption affects your bottom line and tarnishes your reputation as a reliable business.

These attacks often involve a botnet, which is a network of infected computers centrally controlled by malware. The source of a DDoS attack can be hard to pinpoint because it comes from many different computers and locations.

A DDoS attack often comes without warning. While you or your customers might initially notice some site slowing, it can be hard to tell if the problem is just a normal bump in traffic or the beginning of a problem. Once an attack is fully underway it can be hard to fight unless you’ve prepared for such a possibility in advance.

To protect your business, you should do a risk assessment to find any weak points and plan how to be ready to respond if necessary. This includes ensuring your web servers and bandwidth can be scaled to handle potentially massive volumes of traffic and what it takes to make that happen.

Depending on the qualifications of your IT staff and your server capacity, some experts recommend hiring a qualified consultant to assess your systems and readiness. Then you should strongly consider any recommendations for improvements, such as being able to scale to meet overwhelming traffic demands.

After the assessment, you should prepare an action plan that includes procedures that outline who to contact and how to react so any effects on your business and customers can be minimized.

While this could require financial resources you hadn’t planned on, you’ll likely find it to be worth the costs compared to the alternative – which could block your revenue sources and even lead to debilitating data losses.

So take the time to assess your needs and be prepared to deal with problems as they arise.