What I need to know about Server Uptime?

Virtually all web host providers guarantee excellent uptime figures to their clients – if they don’t, you should be worried!  You should also be worried if they guarantee 100% uptime.  This is a straightforward lie, since this would mean the company runs perfect servers that never break down or experience power failure (and if they’ve managed to invent the perfect server, why are they scraping a living in the web hosting business?).  Although figures like 99% and even 99.9% uptime are guaranteed, just how much are those guarantees worth?

Server Uptime Guarantee is Essential

In the first place, it’s important to remember that these figures are just estimates.  They’re basically saying that in a given period of time, say a week or a month, they will attempt to achieve uptime of 99%.  Of course, the next month they might only achieve 95% if there’s a sudden power failure.  So it’s important to treat these guarantees with a degree of caution.

A lot of companies also offer compensation to their customers if they fail to meet an agreed amount of uptime.  This might take the form of a one-off payment, or a reduction in monthly fees for a certain period of time.  Although this is nice to have, bear in mind that the compensation you get may be less than the money you lose if your website is offline for any significant amount of time.

The best way to get an idea about a company’s actual server uptime is to talk to that company’s existing customers.  Look at the customer forums, and visit webmaster discussion sites.  Start a discussion if you can’t find the information you’re looking for.

Server uptime is something you should definitely be concerned with, because the consequences of not having it can be disastrous.  Web users are not renowned for their patience.  If your website isn’t immediately available, or even if it’s slow to load, they will very quickly move on to your competitors.  If you’re selling goods and services online, this could lose you a lot of money.  Even if you’re just running a site for personal pleasure, the whole point of doing so is that you want people to look at it.  Why pay money to a web host if they can’t host your site?

Of course, stuff happens, and nobody can foresee the exact events that will cause a server to crash.  However, it is reasonable to expect that the web host will have put emergency plans in place, and have taken every precaution to keep their servers up and running.  These include running back up servers in parallel and clustered serving, so that if an individual server breaks down, another is there to take its place; constantly upgrading servers to ensure peak performance; and having generators on standby in case of power failure.  Never be afraid to ask your web host what contingency plans they have in place, because your business depends on it.  Server uptime is too important to just hope for the best.

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