Web Hosting Availability & Uptime: Simple Things Business Owners Need to Know

Small and medium businesses, in the changing corporate dynamics are offered either with tremendous opportunities or with severe threats. It is a matter of chance; you may catch or miss that multimillion dollar deal. Therefore, it is important to be up and highly available in all the aspects. The same holds true to your websites as well.

Business web hosting, in the present day, demands a very stringent compliance of ‘Seven Nine’ Availability and 100% Up-time standard. For small and medium businesses, Availability of their website, on which their entire business dwells, is necessary in the 24×7 mode.

A few hours of downtime can cause loss beyond imagination. When we talk about ‘Availability’ and ‘Uptime’, it is imperative for business owners, especially those who operate online, to understand what do they really stand for and what is the cost model to calculate the cost they pay to the service providers. The digit ‘9’, as mentioned in the following series represents the standard of measuring web hosting Availability:

  • 90% – “One Nine”
  • 99% – “Two Nines”
  • 99.9% – “Three Nines”
  • 99.99% – “Four Nines”
  • 99.999% – “Five Nines”
  • 99.9999% – “Six Nines”
  • 99.99999% – “Seven Nines”

Practically, a hosting service is called to be Seven Nine, if it is down for availability only for 3.15 seconds in the entire Year; i.e. 0.259 seconds in a Month and 0.0605 seconds in a Week. Though seems unattainable, few good business web hosting providers really have set this benchmark. High Availability, which world class data centers ensure is primarily a system design approach and related service inclusion that must be maintained throughout the contractual measurement period.

While business owners pay in huge amount to the hosting provider, it becomes a common query how the billing is done for Unavailability and down times. However, most of the people misunderstand between ‘Uptime’ and ‘Availability’, which have their own meanings. A system may remain 100% up throughout the year, while it may not be available all the time. This becomes a key point in the monthly billing cycle. Remember to agree upon AVAILABILITY not Uptime.

web hosting availability
Photo Credit: gaspartorriero

The Economics of Web Hosting Availability, Uptime, and Payment

Considering that a system is up for 365 days in a non-leap year faced network failure for 9 hour during peak usage period in that year, apart from the scheduled/routine maintenance. The business owner sees the website unavailable for the customers for those 9 hours, whereas the administrator may emphasize on his claim of 100% uptime. As per the Availability standard, the system falls under the ‘Three Nine’ or 99.9% available.

Added to that, if the system is encountering performance issue, it may become partially or completely unavailable for the customers against the fact that it continue to function. If we take a holistic approach, some applications at any particular point in time may become unavailable for the customers; should also count to the overall unavailability, which usually is overlooked by the administrators as well as in the bill prepared for that particular month. An excellent web-hosting provider must follow a holistic approach towards measuring Availability.

Is Seven Nine (99.99999%) Availability a Myth

High available systems such as credit card processing, e-commerce sites need to be available all the time. To measure the availability they incorporate instruments that show the availability status all the time. However, it is a common question among business owners, whether 99.99999% availability is practically attainable. The answer is though affirmative may put a bit load on your wallet. To provide Seven Nine availability, hosting service providers need to ensure 100% in everything.

Accurate system design plays the most vital role in ensuring high availability. This does not indicate to complex systems. More complex systems with added components are potentially more failure-prone. Even to attain Five Nine, i.e. 99.999% availability, the service provider has to get its customers agreed for 1-second downtime per day. Excellent use of redundancy (parallel service assurance) can ensure building a high-available system. It is equally important to guard on the reasons for unavailability. Unavailability is an effect of a number of factors (something you may check for in your service provider) such as:

  • Avoidance of Internal Applications Failures – Basic applications responsible for the service may conflict at certain times
  • Avoidance of External Services Failure – The entire system must be efficient to manage the numerous apps that it is supposed to handle
  • Faulty Operations – This is more of the hardware issues that affect the performance
  • Improper Monitoring of Relevant Components – Hardware will malfunction suddenly, if not monitored regularly
  • Unsuccessful Avoidance of Network Failures – Network plays the most critical part; must be monitored its performance
  • Infrastructure Redundancy – A second set of infrastructure is always helpful to ensure smooth operation
  • Technical & Process Solution of Backup – While backup is the key to mitigate the disaster, failing to ensure technical and process solution can create chaos
  • Storage Architecture Issues – Must be simplified and less resource consuming
  • Physical Environment – Physical environment of the setup
  • Physical Location – Areas under influence of natural calamities are less. favorable

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One thought on “Web Hosting Availability & Uptime: Simple Things Business Owners Need to Know

  1. Dave says:

    Great Post for businesses at all levels. Really the article addresses very ground facts about uptime and availability, economics and things to consider.

    Thanks a lot for sharing.


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