In the website hosting industry, downtime is a pervasive issue that dates back to the days before cloud computing and data centers became the standards of web hosting. Downtime refers to certain periods when clients of a Web host may expect that their websites will not be accessible due to a server-side issue. This issue is common across all modalities of hosting, from cloud to virtual and from dedicated to shared.
All Web hosting clients should expect some level of downtime, which is an issue that may occur at any given time. Let’s say, for example, that a terrible flood washes over a small town where a shared Web hosting provider is located. If the flood water breach the data center and completely cover the server hardware, downtime begins for the clients.
If the small Web hosting provider in our example does not have a live, active mirror physically located in a place not affected by the flood water, the downtime may last until the administrators are able to activate a backup and install it in a new server. In the unlikely event the Web host did not use a remote storage solution, the downtime could be permanent.
It is important to understand that some hosting companies may plan for short periods of downtime in advance for maintenance purposes, and this is something that they will expressly state in their contracts.
Although the Web hosting industry of the 21st century has greatly succeeded in minimizing downtime, all clients should realize that there is always a slight probability of downtime; therefore, downtime could be the only element of Web hosting that could be guaranteed in a Web host’s Terms of Service (TOS) or Service Level Agreement (SLA). Since there is no upside in guaranteeing a negative element such as downtime, Web hosting companies guarantee the opposite, which is uptime.
Uptime is expressed as a percentage, which these days is often seen as 99.5 percent and higher. In fact, 99.9 percent uptime guarantees are commonly used by Web hosting providers as part of their marketing strategies. Even with a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee, clients could expect up to 43 minutes of downtime each month, which translates into more than 8.5 hours each year. This does not mean that hosting clients should expect to see their websites down for nearly an hour each month or for a period of eight hours in a single day during the year; it is more common to see downtime periods lower than 1.4 minutes each day with an uptime rate of 99.9 percent.
Shared web hosting downtime is an issue that has been greatly minimized in recent years. Ideal uptime rates are achieved with optimal hardware and software configurations that are properly maintained along with strategies that can keep websites up and running in case of emergencies. The standard procedures used these days help to keep shared web hosting downtime as low as possible, which is how some companies can guarantee 100 percent uptime for several months.
When it comes to shared and cloud hosting configurations, potential clients should inquire about their hosting providers’ hardware infrastructure and whether it is properly set up for expansion, upgrades and scalability. Software management is also crucial in the sense that downtime can be reduced with regular updates the operating system and core applications as well as with server scripts that are properly coded.
In the end, high uptime guarantees should not be limited to the marketing materials of Web hosts. What matters is when the uptime is clearly stipulated in the TOS or SLA contracts. It is a good idea for clients to inquire about high uptime rates promised by Web hosting companies; the correct answers should indicate the use of remote storage, disaster management procedures, active mirrors, synchronicity, regular maintenance, etc.