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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.

Uptime Guarantee Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is an uptime guarantee?

    In the competitive web hosting industry, many web hosting companies offers extra perks, features and guarantees to entice new customers to sign up. A standard guarantee that many web hosts offer is the uptime guarantee, which promises that your website will be live a certain percentage of time (usually between 99% and 99.99%). If it’s not, you may be eligible to receive a refund for the time your website was down.

  • Does an uptime guarantee mean my website will never be down?

    It’s a common misconception that an uptime guarantee is a promise your website will be live 99% (or whatever percent) of the time. In actuality, it’s a promise to give you a refund if your website is down for more than 1% of the time. Just because a web hosting company offers an uptime guarantee doesn’t mean your website will never experience downtime.

  • What could cause website downtime?

    In a perfect world, websites would always be live and available no matter what. Unfortunately, there are many possible circumstances that could result in downtime for your website. There are a wide range of possible causes for website downtime, including malicious hacking or DDoS attacks, software errors or hardware defects, operator error on the part of the host or website owner, planned downtime for updates or maintenance, or even natural disasters that damage your server such as earthquakes, fires, or floods.

  • Who offers uptime guarantees?

    It’s now standard practice for most web hosting companies to offer uptime guarantees ranging from 99% to 99.999% uptime. Very few hosts offer a 100% uptime guarantee, and some offer no official guarantee at all.

  • What kind of uptime guarantee is standard?

    Most web hosting companies that offer uptime guarantees will detail the guarantee in their Terms of Service or Service Level Agreement documents. It will usually specify exactly what they mean by downtime, and may exclude downtime caused by “force majeure,” meaning chance occurrences or unavoidable accidents, such as a flood, earthquake, or terrorist attack (yes, some hosting companies mention this in their terms). The details will also specify how they measure uptime, how your refund will be calculated for any downtime beyond the guarantee, and how and when you should request your refund.

  • Should I trust my web host’s uptime guarantee?

    An uptime guarantee doesn’t necessarily mean your website will be live 100% of the time. You may want to research the history of your web host’s uptime and downtime before purchasing a plan to make sure their hosting service is reliable. Also be sure to check the details of their terms of service and service level agreement so you know exactly how the uptime guarantee works and how to request a refund if your website is down.

  • How do I track my website uptime and downtime?

    There are many tools available online for tracking and monitoring your website’s uptime. It’s important to track your downtime so you know if and when to request a refund for your hosting costs. However, many uptime guarantees stipulate that uptime monitoring for the purpose of the uptime guarantee will be performed internally by the web hosting company only, so you may not receive a refund if their tracking tools contradict yours.

  • What are common exclusions and conditions for uptime guarantees?

    Uptime guarantees will often exclude any downtime caused by user error, planned server maintenance by the hosting company, or “force majeure,” meaning unavoidable and coincidental causes beyond the web hosting company’s control. Force majeure can include natural disasters or attacks beyond their control to prevent. Many uptime guarantees stipulate that the web hosting company is responsible for tracking uptime and downtime internally for the purpose of the guarantee, so your downtime tracking may not be sufficient to claim a refund. Finally, uptime guarantees usually include the exact process and a time limit for claiming your refund for downtime. Some require you to request a refund within 30 days of the downtime. If you wait longer than 30 days, you’re no longer eligible for a refund.

  • How do I get a refund for downtime?

    Your web hosting company will most likely detail exactly how you should request a refund within their terms of service or service level agreement. Usually, you must contact their customer support via email or support ticket within a certain amount of time. Be sure to check for details before requesting your refund, and preferably before signing up for a hosting plan.

  • How much will I be refunded?

    The amount of your refund for downtime can vary greatly from host to host. Many will offer a refund of hosting fees only for the time your website was actually down. Usually, you’ll receive the refund as a credit to your account, to be applied to your next invoice.

  • Should I choose my web hosting company based on their uptime guarantee?

    While an uptime guarantee is not a bad thing to offer, it shouldn’t be your sole reason for choosing your web host. An uptime guarantee doesn’t provide actual proof as to the track record of your web host, so it’s worth doing some research into their reviews and ratings to see if they can really live up to the guarantee. Even if you do receive a refund for downtime, the damage to your website (such as lost revenue or subscribers) is already done. A good track record is more meaningful than an uptime guarantee.

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