Last updated: July 3, 2019
99.9% Uptime Guarantee? Here’s Why It’s Complete Nonsense In 2020.
Disclosure: Your support helps keep the site running! We earn a referral fee for some of the services we recommend on this page. Learn more
Do you know your host's uptime guarantee?
Is it 99%? 99.9%? Or maybe even 100%?
In practical terms, it doesn't actually matter.
Hosting companies make a big deal about uptime guarantees. But they rarely compensate customers if they break them. Uptime guarantees are attractive when used in a marketing pitch, but even the best guarantee won't stop your site going offline.
How Much Downtime is Acceptable?
First, let's look at exactly how much time is behind the percentages.
An average 30 day month has 43,200 minutes within it (30 days x 24 hours x 60 minutes). Let's take a look at some common uptime guarantees to see how many minutes of downtime is allowed before the guarantee kicks in.
- 99% allows your site be down for 432 minutes (more than 7 hours) per month before you can claim.
- 99.9% allows almost 45 minutes of downtime. Most hosts can do hardware changeouts in under 30 minutes, so this comfortably allows for at least one hardware failure per month. (This is the uptime promise advertised by Godaddy and Hostgator, amongst others.)
- 99.99% allows for just under 5 minutes of downtime per month. As cloud and CDN hosting become more widespread, 99.99% and 100% guarantees are becoming more common, but it's still fairly difficult to find a host that offers them.
Additionally, some hosts measure downtime over a quarter, or even a year, so a big outage would be 'absorbed' by good service in consecutive months.
How much downtime would you tolerate? Ideally, none at all. But your host is probably giving themselves more leeway than you thought.
How is Downtime Defined?
There are dozens of reasons why your site could go down, but only a handful are actually covered under a typical uptime guarantee.
Here are a few examples of downtime that doesn't count:
- User Error. Hosts won't cover downtime you've caused yourself (which is reasonable).
- Server Maintenance. Planned outages for server upkeep are not covered. If the planned outage takes longer than expected, that isn't covered either.
- Whatever your host says doesn't count. Different hosts have different rules, and some hosts allow themselves a lot of scope for downtime - even unexpected downtime. Some will only accept claims related to their hardware failing, and some won't cover you if an upstream provider has issues.
How Much Would You Be Compensated?
Getting paid what you're due could be difficult.
Hosts rarely refund the service fee for the bad month in cash. You will probably find you're only covered for the time the site was actually offline.
If you do get a refund, it'll probably be posted to your account as a credit.
In some cases, the credit won't cover anywhere near a full month's fees.
By the time you accrue enough money to warrant chasing that refund, you've done damage to your site and your business because you've tolerated downtime and poor service.
Should I Care About Uptime Guarantees?
In this article, we've demonstrated that uptime guarantees are very varied. Some are worth relying on. Some aren't. None will protect you against downtime or compensate you for lost business.
Web hosting companies advertise uptime guarantees to make their service look better on paper. In many cases, they offer a false sense of security.
To find a really good host, rely on reviews and ratings - not the figures in the uptime guarantee.