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You need your web host to keep your website available to visitors 24/7. That’s why it’s imperative to select a host with the best ability to keep your website up and running with minimal downtime. Most hosts offer some kind of uptime guarantee to their clients, but the those promises may not be a reassuring they appear to be.
Uptime Guarantee Hosting?
Web hosting is a competitive market, and hosts offer a lot of perks and promises in order to stand out from the pack, from unlimited bandwidth to free domains. Many of these bonuses are helpful, but few of them are actually necessary. But there is one common promise that could make or break your website: the uptime guarantee.
An uptime guarantee is a pledge that your website will be up and accessible online for a certain percentage of time. If not, you’re entitled to a refund. Many web hosts guarantee 99%, 99.99%, or even 100% uptime.
If you rely on you’re relying on your website for your business, whether through selling products or services or making money through affiliate sales or ad revenue, an uptime guarantee is one feature that could have a direct impact on your bottom line. A website that can’t be accessed is a website that’s costing you money for every minute it’s down. A reliable host with high uptime is an essential part of building your online presence and a trusted brand.
Most hosts offer some degree of guaranteed uptime as part of their hosting package as a lure to potential customers. Whether or not you should trust that guarantee, and use it to choose your web host, is up for debate.
Why Does Hosting Downtime Happen At All?
In a perfect world, your website would be live 100% of the time. Unfortunately, while there are plenty of good web hosts out there, none of them are perfect. When webmasters think of what causes downtime, the worst often comes to mind. But hackers armed with DDOS attacks aren’t the only thing to watch out for.
Downtime can also be caused by:
- Equipment failure: faulty hardware, software defects
- Operator error: bad code, accidental file deletion, unsecure experimentation
- Disasters: earthquakes, floods, fires
- Planned downtime for maintenance, upgrades, etc.
With all these risks and possibilities, the question isn’t if your website will experience downtime, but when.
A Closer Look At Guaranteed Uptime
The most common level of guaranteed uptime mentioned in promotional materials is, by far, 99%. This might sound like a nearly-bulletproof level of uptime for your website, but once you crunch the numbers the picture isn’t quite as rosy.
Consider this: seven days per week breaks down to 10,080 minutes. Even at just 1% downtime, you’re looking at 108 minutes of potentially dead website time—nearly two hours per week. And keep in mind that some companies determine their uptime guarantees based on yearly totals, not weekly or month. That means you’d have to have more than 3 days of downtime in a year before you can make a claim.
…And “Downtime” May Not Mean What You Think
Even after those three days of downtime, making a claim may be more difficult than you imagine. Many hosting companies place strict limitations on what constitutes “downtime.”
As a rule, downtime due to user error, such as bad code from an outsourced developer, doesn’t count. And usually your host won’t owe you anything for scheduled downtime due to maintenance.
When it comes to uptime guarantees, it always pays to read the fine print. Look closely at your contract terms, and you’ll notice language that’s usually associated more with insurance salesmen than your website hosts: Standard clauses such as “force majeure” will limit your host’s liability for anything that happens outside their control, like those aforementioned earthquakes and floods.
Should You Choose a Host Based On Their Uptime Guarantee?
Any webmaster would love to find a host with actual guaranteed 100% uptime, but the truth is that there’s no way to make such a promise. Even the most ambitious guarantee is a flimsy shield against the effects of Murphy’s Law.
But that’s small comfort when you’re facing the consequences of downtime for your own site. While an uptime guarantee will reimburse you for your hosting costs when your host fails to keep your website live, it still can’t compensate for the lost opportunities and income that result from that downtime.
That’s why choosing a host based solely on their uptime guarantee isn’t a great idea. Instead, look for a host with a solid reputation for customer service, support for the features your website needs, AND a generous uptime guarantee. That’s the best way to ensure you won’t be left up in the air when your site goes down.