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Uptime Guarantees: What You Need to Know When Choosing a Web Host?

Picture this – You are running an online store, it's year-end shopping season, and lots of customers are checking out your products. All of a sudden, your website crashes, and your customers can't access any information or buy anything on your site. They start to leave and you're losing business. Worse still, your brand's reputation takes a hit.

This is where uptime guarantees to step into the spotlight – where web hosting company gives their promises to let you run your website smoothly on their premises.

In this article, we will discuss all web hosting uptime guarantees. What they are, why are they important, and how they can make a difference to your website and affect your choices in web hosting. Let's dive in!

What is Uptime Guarantee in Web Hosting?

An “uptime guarantee” is a commitment made by your web hosting provider to ensure that your website will be operational and accessible for a certain percentage of the time. For example, Hostinger offers a “99.9% uptime guarantee” – which means your website is guaranteed to be functional 99.9% of the time.

Uptime guarantee is critical for those looking for a reliable web hosting service. This – basically refers to every web hosting shopper – you wouldn't want your web host to be unreliable, right?

Example – Hostinger offers a 99.9% uptime guarantee in their shared hosting packages.

Four Levels of Uptime Guarantees

Uptime guarantees exist in different levels, typically ranging from 99% to 99.999%. Each level offers a different degree of reliability for your hosting server and networks.

  1. 99% uptime guarantee A 99% uptime guarantee means your website is assured to be up and functioning 99% of the time. However, this translates to approximately 3.65 days of potential downtime in a year.
  2. 99.9% uptime guarantee Also known as the “three nines”, a 99.9% uptime guarantee is usually considered the industry standard. A 99.9% uptime guarantee ensures your site will be up for 99.9% of the time. This may sound only slightly better than 99% but this small difference in percentage means your site's potential downtime is reduced to around 8,76 hours a year.
  3. 99.99% uptime guarantee A 99.99% uptime guarantee further narrows the downtime to just about 52.56 minutes per year.
  4. 99.999% uptime guarantee A 99.999% uptime guarantee offers near-perfect reliability with a meager 5.26 minutes of downtime per year.

The importance of these small percentage differences becomes evident when translated into potential downtime. While the difference between 99% and 99.9% seems negligible – a fractional increase in the uptime guarantee can significantly enhance your website's reliability and user experience. In practical terms, it is the difference between your website being inaccessible for several days versus a few hours in a year.

How High Uptime Guarantees Are Achieved?

Web hosting companies use several methods to achieve high uptime guarantees. One way is by using high-quality, reliable hardware. Just like a well-made car is less likely to break down – a good server is less likely to crash.

Another method is through redundancy. Having well-thought-out backup systems ready to take over if the main ones fail helps keep their service running smoothly. It's like having a spare tire in your car – if you get a flat, you can quickly switch to the spare and keep going.

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Hosting companies have quite a lot of work to do (read: extra business cost) to keep their uptime guarantee. How do you know they will honor their word?

Enter Service Level Agreement (SLA).

The SLA is an agreement between the user and the web host. It spells out exactly what they promise to deliver – including that all-important uptime guarantee. Something like “We pledge to keep your website live and functional at least 99.9% of the time”.

But that's not all. Words are cheap. An SLA is only meaningful if it also outlines what the company will do should it fails to deliver. Usually, you'll get some form of compensation, like credit towards your hosting fees or cash back.

When choosing a web host, make sure to read the SLA carefully. It's important to understand what the web host promises and what you'll get if they don't deliver.

Limitations and Misconceptions about Uptime Guarantees

Misleading Percentage Numbers

As mentioned above – the percentages in uptime guarantees can be misleading. A 99.9% uptime might sound impressive, but it actually allows for about 8.76 hours of downtime per year. That's nearly a full business day your website could be offline, which might not be acceptable if you're running a high-traffic online store that requires 24/7 availability.

Calculation Methodology

Secondly, the means of calculating uptime varies among web hosting services. Some may not count certain types of downtime, such as maintenance windows, network outages, or issues caused by third-party apps or services. It's crucial to understand what exactly is included in the uptime calculation before making a decision. Siteground hosting, for instance, runs a long list of events that do not count as “downtime” in their Terms of Service (see screenshot below).

Don't Count on Compensation

Thirdly, compensation for downtime often falls short. Many web hosting companies offer service credits (ie. get one month free if we go below 99.9% uptime) if they fail to meet their uptime guarantee. These compensations typically do not fully compensate for your loss. Losses in business revenue, damage to your company/website reputation, drops in search engine rankings, as well as customer inconvenience – all these issues caused by the website's unavailability are not compensated.

Guarantee with No Solid Supports

Word is cheap – an uptime guarantee is only as good as the hosting company's infrastructure and support. A company can promise near-perfect uptime, but if they don't have reliable servers, redundant systems, and a responsive customer service team, that guarantee might not mean much in practice.

So, while uptime guarantees are an important factor to consider when choosing a web host, it's equally critical to look beyond the numbers.

This leads us to the next section of our article…

What to Consider in Uptime Guarantees When Choosing a Web Host?

When you're choosing a web host, one of the first things you'll want to look at is their uptime guarantee. This is often shown as a percentage, like 99.9% – it's how often they promise your site will be up and running. A higher percentage is better because it means less downtime.

However, don't just take their word for it. Ask if they have data to back up their claim. Some hosting providers can provide reports to show you their past uptime performance. Look at this data over a few months to see if their uptime is consistently high.

Example – Kinsta publishes their service status publicly (see here).

For an unbiased opinion on a web host's uptime, consider reading hosting user reviews from trustworthy sources. Once you have signed up for a new web host, consider tracking your site using third-party uptime monitoring tools, such as UptimeRobot and Pingdom. These services regularly check if your site is up and running and can give you a more accurate picture of a web host's uptime.

Uptime Guarantees and Other Factors in Choosing Web Host

Choosing a web host can be a bit tricky, but taking the time to understand things like uptime guarantees can help make the decision easier. Further, a great web host isn't just about keeping your site online. It's about providing a reliable and enjoyable experience for your website's visitors. You should also look at factors like customer service, price, and what features they offer.

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Article by Jerry Low

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