The Importance of Uptime: Why It Matters and How to Ensure It
If a website is unavailable, does it exist? More than just a smart aleck philosophical question, this query points out why uptime is the most important metric in the Internet and IT universe.
Whether you are a multinational corporation or a blogger, a small business or a nonprofit, a retailer or news site, if traffic can’t reach your web site—which of course does exist when servers are working—it is effectively closed for business. And that, in a nutshell, is why hosting uptime, the percentage of time a given site is available to Internet users, is a critical concern for every website.
This leads us to another question: How can a site ensure it has 100% uptime?
It isn’t easy. But companies must own a cluster of load-balanced servers to even begin to have a shot at doing this. Multiple servers allow for individual boxes to be upgraded, or patched and rebooted; if one server fails, there are others to carry the load.
That said, these companies have a slew of other maintenance concerns when it comes to uptime. Climate control—making sure the temperature stays between 65 – 81 degrees—for servers is extremely important, as is the steady flow of electricity along with a system to filter power spikes. So a backup power system must be in place with instant switchover capability. Without that kind of redundancy, 100% uptime can never be assured.
Even with those concerns covered, there are other nightmare scenarios that must be guarded against, such flooding, which may require a pumping system. And, then of course, there is the issue of staffing. Ensuring 100% uptime means that someone is watching the operation at all times.
Getting ahead of the game with hosting providers
Given these potential points of failure, the cost of maintaining servers, and hiring staff, many companies opt to hire hosting companies. Figuring out which one to go with can be a tricky business. Many services “guarantee” between 97% and 99.9% uptime, and just as many say they will pay a penalty or rebate if the level of service isn’t upheld. Those numbers and those promised compensations for downtime, however, are often subject to fine print restrictions in the hosting company’s Service Level Agreement (SLA). So read the SLA very carefully before signing with a provider.
One way to get a handle on the quality of hosting providers is to browse the Tier Certifications List of the Uptime Institute, a company that has created a set of standards to evaluate data centers, including one for Operational Sustainability. The Institute certifies providers according to a four-tiered system. You can find their list of certified service providers here.
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