Understanding and Verifying Web Hosting Uptime Guarantees
Almost every web hosting company is offering some sort of uptime guarantee for their services. It all sounds great “on paper”, but if you don’t know what is really covered you don’t know what you are buying into. First of all you need to identify the uptime guarantee of your web host. Find the fine-print and read it. Often you can find a public display of the uptime or you can email the web host for a public link to their uptime stats. If they don’t offer this, ask them exactly how the uptime is calculated. Some web hosts require you to bring proof of uptime/downtime by monitoring your own website.
If you have a web host that display’s the uptime stats on their website, you have an easy way to identify uptime eventually. Don’t take the nice looking stats image on the host’s web site without additional verification though. Be sure to check what the actual time frame has been used to calculate the uptime. Some web hosts with frequent downtime simply reset their service counter each time they have an outage encountered. In my opinion a 99.43% uptime going back over the course of a year is a much safer bet than an “impressive” 100% uptime going back only a week. But hold on. What uptime is displayed? The web host’s own website does not matter to you at all. For you it would be more important to know the uptime of the server your website is sitting on. Go back to the beginning and try to find out what server your website would be put on and ask for uptime stats for that server.
The next step to verify is how uptime is actually defined. Scheduled outages for maintenance usually don’t fit into the uptime guarantee. Does uptime only covers the server or is the network included? Technically your website is still up even if the network goes down and your web server cannot no longer be reached from the Internet. Some web hosts consider your website up in that moment even though you consider it down. If in doubt – ask for clarification. Is emergency maintenance (example: immediate security risk requires a kernel upgrade with reboot) really scheduled or not? A 15 minute notification before the outage begins might be scheduled, but then again – do you check your email every 5 minutes to catch this event? Probably not.
What is the process to take advantage of an uptime guarantee? What proof do you have to bring? Are you receiving a credit to your account or is it a cash value? Find out before you get into a situation that you consider a case of using the uptime guarantee. Knowing the necessary details helps to save money. If you experience a lot of outages and want to move away, a credit to your account will not really help you – but you also don’t want to stay longer than necessary risking more downtime.
You can see the difficulties surrounding the uptime guarantee promises in the web hosting industry. I personally have never used the uptime guarantee promises of a web host yet – even though I had a few situations where I would have qualified. In some cases it was just something unavoidable where I really liked the host and felt I would be punishing the wrong guy asking for a credit or cash. In other cases I rather spent the time moving my websites off the providers equipment as fast as I could and cut my losses. It really depends on your situation. I take any uptime guarantee with the grain of salt and rather spend additional time researching the candidates for my preferred web hosting providers (I am currently mainly using “ThePlanet” and “Httpme.com” for my critical needs, but also have other providers on the list).