Uptime – An Important Web Hosting Metric

Uptime is by far the most important feature when searching for a web hosting company. Uptime can be defined as the amount of time the hosting server’s are actually running. If the servers are down (downtime), businesses (especially e-commerce sites) will be greatly affected as this could equal lost revenue. If web hosting servers are frequently down, this could put a website out of business.

When selecting a provider, it’s advantageous to know reasonable uptime percentages as well as the methods to choose the best hosting company based on specific needs. Once a host is selected, continual uptime monitoring is necessary for consistent quality and performance.

What Uptime Percentages are Reasonable?
Ideally, providers that offer uptime guarantees of 99.5% are realistic and excellent estimates. This metric simply means that the site will be up and running almost 100% of the time. Hosting services that offer true 99.9% to 100% uptime are difficult to find and do not run cheap. If on a budget a balance must be struck to find the highest uptime percentage with the most reasonable cost.

How to Choose the Best Host
There are several common methods to finding the best web hosting service. A helpful first step is to research the host’s uptime record and carefully read the fine print of their uptime guarantee (usually found in their Service Level Agreements). This gives the client opportunities to view past trends for reliability. There are many guarantees available on the internet so researching a web hosting company’s uptime will confirm that guarantee and make for a better hosting decision. Forums are a good source of information regarding personal experiences with the provider but it's best not to solely rely on these opinions. Also while researching, observe the provider’s policies on refunding or crediting during downtimes which should be included in their guarantee policy.

Another beneficial step is to ask the potential host about disaster plans, redundancy, and backups. The host will usually discuss their hardware so it’s beneficial to conduct further equipment research to ensure quality. Many providers offer hosting on two separate machines with automatic switchable mechanisms which greatly improves uptime. Unfortunately there are unusual circumstances which could cause the servers to not be operational, thus it’s helpful to know the hosting company’s plan up front.
Finally, it’s useful to always recheck the SLA’s (Service Level Agreement’s) with the hosting company to ensure an uptime guarantee prior to signing or agreeing to any contracts. Many providers only use uptime guarantees as a marketing ploy to lure in new customers and don’t stay true to their advertised uptime.

Continual Monitoring Once a Host Has Been Selected
It’s always favorable to monitor the uptimes and downtimes once a web host has been decided upon. This further ensures the quality and guarantee the host has promised. After all, consumers should get what they’ve paid for and frequently monitoring offers this guarantee. If they are not living up to their quality levels and guaranteed uptimes, a new host can easily be selected.

There are many third party monitoring services available which can help during the research phase and to observe once a provider has been selected. These resources are valuable and shouldn’t be underestimated. Additionally, there are low cost solutions available but also many that are free. These websites or applications collect useful data for measuring uptime including error notifications, uptime reports (daily, weekly, monthly) sent to the communication method of choice including cell phone text, specified monitoring periods and availability statistics.

Web Hosting Summary

  • It can be difficult and expensive to find a provider with 99.99% or 100% uptime.
  • Don’t only rely on forums for the accuracy of web host statistics (uptimes and downtimes) and host recommendations as the information may not always be accurate.
  • Find providers that offer high quality hardware, specifically for redundancy.
  • Look for providers that offer hosting on two separate machines as well as servers that are capable of automatic switchable mechanisms.
  • The main focus should be on the quality of service, not on quantity.
    • It’s more beneficial to look for hosts that live up to their uptime guarantee, not those simply pushing a refund or credit for downtime.
  • Third party uptime measures can be valuable resources while researching a web host and to continue monitor the selected provider.
  • Remember that “uptime guarantees” and SLA’s (Service Level Agreements) could simply be marketing techniques.
Uptime is the most crucial aspect of looking for a provider to host a website. If the site does not follow its guaranteed uptime, this can cost businesses a great deal of time and money. Improved uptimes will allow more users to access websites which increases internet communication and profits. Following the methods stated above can ensure the correct web host is selected and through continual monitoring, can guarantee a high quality level in the future.

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