What Is Uptime in Web Hosting?

The amount of time a server has been up and running is known as uptime. This is commonly expressed as a percentage, such as “99.9% uptime.” Uptime is a useful indicator of a web hosting provider’s ability to keep their systems up and functioning. If a hosting service has a high uptime percentage, it means that their servers are always up and running, which means that any site you host with them will be as well. Uptime is critical since web pages can’t keep clients if they’re down.

Problems With Grading a Web Host on Uptime

The major issue with evaluating a host-based on uptime is that there is usually no way to independently check it. You must accept the host’s word for it if they claim to have a 99.9% uptime.

But there’s more to it than that. Almost always, uptime is expressed as a percentage of total time. But what percentage of how much time? JoeBlos Web Hosting has a 99 percent uptime, which means they only have 1% downtime. Over the course of a week, their server would be down for 1 hour, 40 minutes, and 48 seconds. Over the course of a year, your server could be offline for up to 87.36 hours, or more than three days. Three days doesn’t sound like all that much until you’re not making any sales from the website and are receiving calls from the VP (or worse yet, the CEO). And the frantic calls usually start after 3 hours, not 3 days.

Uptime percentages are misleading. 99% uptime sounds great, but it could mean a 3-day outage every year. Here are some mathematical explanations of uptimes:

  • 98% uptime = 28.8 minutes/day or 3.4 hours/week or 14.4 hours/month or 7.3 days/year
  • 99% uptime = 14.4 minutes/day or 1.7 hours/week or 7.2 hours/month or 3.65 days/year
  • 99.5% uptime = 7.2 minutes/day or 0.84 hours/week or 3.6 hours/month or 1.83 days/year
  • 99.9% uptime = 1.44 minutes/day or 0.17 hours/week or 0.72 hours/month or 8.8 hours/year

Another way to think about uptime is in terms of how much money you’ll lose if the server goes down. And all servers fall down from time to time. If your website generates $1,000 per month in revenue, a 98 percent uptime server might cut your income by $20 per month, or $240 per year. That’s merely in terms of lost sales. Customers and search engines will cease returning to your site if they believe it is untrustworthy, and that $1000 per month will start to dwindle.

Look at their uptime promises when picking a web hosting provider; we recommend only going with a firm that assures uptime of 99.5 percent or greater. The majority guarantee at least 99 percent uptime.

Uptime Guarantees Can Be Misleading Too

Uptime guarantees are not usually what you might think they are. Unless your hosting agreement is very different from every other hosting agreement we’ve ever seen, the uptime guarantee works something like this:

We guarantee that if your website goes down for more than 3.6 hours per month in unscheduled outages, we will refund the cost of the hosting for the amount of time you reported and they verified your site was down.

Let’s break that down:

  • How long was the downtime? — We already know that 3.6 hours per month is 99% uptime. So any amount of time that your site is down below that amount of time is within the 1% outage rate that they guarantee. In other words, if your site goes down for 3.5 hours in a month, that’s too bad.
  • Unscheduled outages — Your hosting service may call it something else, but what this means is that if they let you know that they are going to be performing a server upgrade next weekend, and your site will be down for 72 hours, this is not covered in their uptime guarantee. Most hosts don’t take their sites down for more than 4 hours at a time, but problems can happen, and depending upon your hosting agreement, even longer than anticipated maintenance outages will not kick in the uptime guarantee.
  • Refunding the cost of hosting — this is the important part. If your website earns $1000 a month in sales and is down for 4 hours, you’ve lost $5.56. Most hosting packages cost around $10–20 per month. So they will refund you between 6 and 12 cents.
  • You reporting the outage — Many uptime guarantees only refund you your money if you report the outage. And then they only refund you for the amount of time that you noticed your site was down. This is fine if you have monitoring systems to let you know the minute your site goes down and comes back up again. But most of us don’t, so you won’t be reimbursed for the full outage if you don’t know how long it really was.

Other Uptime Issues

Software vs. Hardware

Another way to think about uptime is in terms of how much money you’ll lose if the server goes down. And all servers fall down from time to time. If your website generates $1,000 per month in revenue, a 98 percent uptime server might cut your income by $20 per month, or $240 per year. That’s merely in terms of lost sales. Customers and search engines will cease returning to your site if they believe it is untrustworthy, and that $1000 per month will start to dwindle.

Look at their uptime promises when picking a web hosting provider; we recommend only going with a firm that assures uptime of 99.5 percent or greater. The majority guarantee at least 99 percent uptime.

Who Caused the Problem?

If you did something to your website that broke it, that will almost never be covered by an uptime guarantee.

Getting Reimbursed

It can be difficult to collect your compensation if you’ve decided that your website went down due to no fault of your own and that the problem was hardware rather than software (or that software was covered under your agreement). Most hosting companies need you to jump through a number of hoops in order to receive a refund. They’re probably hoping you’ll decide that the time and work required isn’t worth the 12 cents you’ll get.

Uptime Is Still Important

Don’t get us wrong: having a hosting company that guarantees uptime is far superior to not having one. However, don’t take a provider’s claim of 99.9999999999999999999 percent uptime as a guarantee that your site will never go down. What this most likely means is that you’ll get reimbursed for the cost of hosting during the outage if your site goes down.

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