Web hosting uptime and reliability are critical factors when choosing a web host. Downtime can cost businesses thousands of dollars in lost revenue, so it’s essential to thoroughly evaluate a host’s track record for uptime before signing up. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about assessing web hosting uptime and reliability.
What is Web Hosting Uptime?
Web hosting uptime refers to the percentage of time a website hosted on a particular server is accessible online. If a website is online and loading properly 100% of the time, it has 100% uptime. Most quality web hosts aim for 99.9% uptime or higher, which allows for less than 1 hour of downtime per month.
Some key uptime metrics to look for when researching hosts include:
- Monthly uptime percentage – Look for hosts that guarantee 99.9% uptime or higher.
- Frequency of outages – Check records for how often downtime events occur per month or year. Less frequent is better.
- Length of outages – Compare the average and max lengths of downtime when outages occur. Shorter durations are preferable.
- Time since last outage – Consider when the last major outage occurred. More recent downtime could indicate ongoing issues.
Why is High Uptime Important?
Striving for maximum uptime is critical for any website, but especially for businesses selling products and services online. Here are some of the major reasons you should prioritize web hosting uptime:
- Lost revenue – Downtime directly prevents customers from accessing your site and making purchases during an outage.
- Lower search engine rankings – Google and other search engines may penalize sites that load slowly or intermittently.
- Loss of customers and reputation – Frequent downtime will cause users to lose trust in your brand and take their business elsewhere.
- Inability to collect analytics – Outages mean you lose visibility into key site analytics like traffic sources, conversion rates, and sales.
- Higher switching costs – Migrating a site from an unreliable host usually requires significant time and money.
How to Check a Host’s Historical Uptime
When choosing a web host, you’ll want to look at its track record for uptime over a significant period of time such as the past year. Here are some ways to verify historical uptime:
- Uptime monitoring services – There are many free monitoring tools like UptimeRobot that ping sites continually and record uptime data. They usually provide reports and graphs showing a site’s uptime trends over specified timeframes.
- Third-party reviews – Web host review sites like HostAdvice often conduct uptime monitoring and detail hosts’ uptime track records. Look for consistent uptime levels over years.
- Status pages – Many hosts provide status pages detailing all their system outages and incidents. Review outage reports going back at least 12 months.
- Server hardware – Look into the server infrastructure that the host relies on. Uptime tends to be higher with premium hardware, redundancy, distributed servers, and climate controlled data centers.
- Domain registry records – Check domain WHOIS records which include the site’s full downtime history. Look for complaints and periods of no record which could indicate outages.
Web Host Support for Maintaining Uptime
In addition to monitoring historical uptime stats, you’ll want to look into the support and measures a host provides to maximize uptime. Some key capabilities to look for include:
- 24/7/365 monitoring – Around the clock manned monitoring is essential to detect and address issues immediately.
- Proactive server maintenance – Routine security patches, hardware checks, and updates help avoid many outages.
- High level redundancy – Multiple servers, data centers, networks, and power supplies prevent single points of failure.
- Load balancing – Distributing traffic across servers ensures maximum stability and uptime.
- Auto scaling – Adding server capacity dynamically based on site traffic spikes prevents overload outages.
- Rapid support response – Fast answers to support tickets allow problems to be resolved before downtime occurs.
- Uptime SLAs – Financial guarantees promising 99.9%+ uptime indicate a host’s confidence in reliability.
Compare Reliability of Shared vs VPS vs Dedicated vs Cloud Hosting
Not all web hosting platforms are created equal when it comes to uptime. Here is how the main types of hosting compare for reliability:
- Shared hosting – Multiple sites on single servers increase likelihoods of downtime from neighbor resource overuse. But quality providers minimize this risk through resource throttling. Average uptime is 99.9%.
- VPS hosting – Resources are guaranteed through virtualization, but hardware issues can still impact uptime. Performance depends heavily on the provider. Uptime averages 99.95%.
- Dedicated hosting – No neighbors and dedicated hardware improve reliability. But hardware defects and network issues remain risks. Uptime averages 99.95-99.99%.
- Cloud hosting – Distributed infrastructure mitigates localized hardware failure risks for high redundancy. Leading cloud platforms offer 99.99%+ uptime.
Use Uptime Monitoring Services
One of the best ways to evaluate and compare the uptime of different web hosting providers is to use third-party monitoring services. These services continuously ping your site and log any outages or slow load times. Here are some popular options:
- UptimeRobot – Free plan pings 5 minute intervals from 5 locations worldwide. Paid plans add more frequent pings, locations, and uptime reports.
- StatusCake – Provides comprehensive uptime reports plus page speed monitoring. Free plan pings every 15 minutes.
- Pingdom – Detailed uptime stats and performance monitoring. Free plan pings every 5 minutes from 3 locations.
- NodePing – Integrates uptime with network infrastructure monitoring for IT teams. Generous free plan.
- Freshping – Worldwide ping locations and intelligent tracking of network issues leading to outages. Free plan available.
To compare hosts, set up monitoring for test sites hosted with each provider. After a month, compare detailed uptime reports and downtime events. This will provide data-driven reliability comparisons.
Ask Detailed Questions About Redundancy and Scalability
To fully evaluate a host’s reliability, you’ll need more insights into their systems and infrastructure. Here are some suggested questions to ask sales and support reps:
- What server hardware do you use and how often are upgrades performed? New enterprise-grade hardware improves reliability.
- How distributed is your server infrastructure globally? More diverse locations reduce correlated downtime risks.
- Do you rely on cloud infrastructure in addition to owned servers? Cloud platforms like AWS and Google Cloud offer excellent uptime.
- Are critical systems set up in an active/passive failover configuration? Redundancy prevents downtime if one system fails.
- How many data centers and networks do you operate? More physical locations and connections increase redundancy.
- What is your capacity headroom during traffic surges? Extra capacity prevents overload outages.
- How quickly can you provision additional capacity when needed? Rapid scaling keeps sites stable during traffic spikes.
- What types of load balancing do you provide? Load balancing distributes traffic minimizing disruption from any single server outage.
- Do you overprovision resources or implement resource throttling on shared servers? This prevents “noisy neighbor” site overuse from causing downtime.
Check Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for Uptime Guarantees
Many web hosts provide monetary guarantees promising a minimum uptime percentage, also known as a service level agreement (SLA). Typical SLAs offer credits on hosting fees if uptime falls below 99.9% to 99.99% per month.
When comparing hosts, look for ones that offer strong SLAs of at least 99.95% monthly uptime. Be sure to read the SLA details carefully – some exclude certain types of outages from the guarantees. Also confirm what percentage of a credit is offered based on the amount of downtime incurred. Robust SLAs provide greater financial assurance that the host is committed to maximizing reliability.
Prioritize Reliability Over Cost
It can be tempting to choose a cheaper web host to try to save money. But low cost, low quality hosting inevitability results in high costs of downtime. The old adage “you get what you pay for” rings true when it comes to web hosting reliability.
Spending a little more per month for proven, premium hosting will repay that incremental cost many times over by avoiding revenue losses from outages. Make uptime a priority in your hosting selection process for the long term health of your website and business.
Evaluating web hosting reliability requires thorough research into providers’ infrastructure, redundancy, support capabilities, historical uptime, and financial guarantees. Prioritizing uptime over cost leads to hosting choices that create a rock-solid foundation for your website. Use the guidance in this article to make an informed decision when selecting a reliable web hosting provider. Your business’s online presence and revenue depend on it.