Web Hosting Uptime Guarantees and What They Really Mean

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You see it in their ads. Our web hosting plan comes with a 99% uptime guarantee. Or how about a 99.9% uptime guarantee? Better still, how about 99.999%? Actually, you can even get a web hosting plan that comes with a 100% uptime guarantee. Does it really mean that much? Not really. While it sounds great, when you read the fine print you may be disappointed.

The truth is: Sooner or later some stuff is going to happen and your website will be down and unavailable. Having a huge uptime guarantee doesn’t mean that your site will never go down. Usually, the fine print says that in the event of an outage, you can get compensated for the downtime. Since the amount of downtime is probably a few hours here and there, not many people claim their comp time.

Taking a closer look at the numbers, even if you have a 99% uptime guarantee, your website could theoretically be down a few days during a year and still be within the limits (in a 365 day year, that means your site is up a little over 361 days). I’m not against uptime guarantees. The point I’m trying to make here is that while a 99% uptime promise seems like your site will almost never be unavailable, that’s not the case. That’s why I laugh when I see articles touting the Best Uptime Guarantees.

Nobody can guarantee that their servers or network will never go down. As I mentioned above, what they can guarantee is that if you do experience downtime, you can get credited or compensated for that time. For example, take a look at GoDaddy’s guarantee policy:
We offer a Service uptime guarantee of 99.9% (“Service Uptime Guarantee”) of available time per month. If we fail to maintain this Service Uptime Guarantee in a particular month (as solely determined by us), you may contact us and request a credit of 5% of your monthly hosting fee for that month. The credit may be used only for the purchase of further products and services from us, and is exclusive of any applicable taxes.

Now, I’m not picking on this company here. I’m just pointing out an example of what you really get with web hosting uptime guarantees.

If you really want to further safeguard your website against downtime, there are a couple of steps you can take. First, look for web hosts that include multiple redundant networks in case of a data center link going down. Also, you can purchase secondary DNS service so if your primary provider is not available, your web traffic is served by the secondary provider. While secondary DNS gives you the most protection, it can also be expensive.

While uptime guarantees don’t necessarily mean your website will never go down, what we can do here is take a look at some of the stated web hosting uptime guarantees along with my experience with their hosting uptime availability. Here’s a list of some web hosting uptime guarantees along with some notes on whether I’ve experienced any downtime issues with that company. Please note that I’m not implying that those listed below as having no problems never have any downtime. I’m just relating that I’m not aware of any issues with my websites there being unavailable at some time.

Web HostGuaranteeNotes
A2 Hosting99.9% Uptime CommitmentNo Problems
DreamHost100% Uptime GuaranteeOccasional Issues in the Past
GoDaddy99.9% Uptime GuaranteeThere have been a number of reported incidents where GoDaddy was offline.
GreenGeeks99.9% Service UptimeNo Problems
HostGator99.9% Uptime GuaranteeOccasional Issues in the Past
InterServer99.9% Uptime GuaranteeNo Problems
Lunarpages99.9% Uptime GuaranteeSome Issues in the Distant Past
Namecheap100% Uptime SLANo Problems
SiteGround99.9% Uptime GuaranteeNo Problems

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