This week's question comes to us from a new client who, while vetting us, asked: "What is your hosting uptime?" Hosting reliability has become of such importance on the internet that most of us take for granted that everything all works with minimal effort. But outages do happen, even to the biggest players. Just last week, Google Calendar went down for 4 hours.
As usual, there's a short answer to this question and then we'll take a little more time to dive into some of the issues surrounding website hosting uptime.
At The Modern Firm, we are partnered with a top tier hosting provider with a Service-Level Agreement (SLA) of 99.95% uptime. This means that, over the course of a year, there may be about 4 hours of downtime. Most of the downtime is planned during non-peak hours, but sometimes unexpected things happen. So far this year we're doing better than 99.95% and have experienced just 2.5 minutes of downtime between January 1, 2016 and the writing of this post, which translates to 99.99934% uptime.
As stated earlier, we're partnered with a top tier hosting provider in a top tier data center. This means that our clients' websites are housed in a location with some spectacularly awesome equipment and staff all working together to ensure that services hardly ever go down.
Most SLA guarantees refer to hardware availability, but there are many things that can impact whether a particular website is up or down.
Software Updates - Sometimes websites need to be pulled offline to perform software and security patches. Technically, the hosting service is not down, but the website is temporarily not available while the updates are performed. When we perform updates, sites are usually offline for just a fraction of a second.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) - ISPs are what connect your home and office to the internet. Sometimes they have issues causing your internet to go down, to be flaky or to have problems. This may give the appearance that a website is down, however what's really going on is that the website is up, it's just that your own connection is down.
Whoopsies - Because humans are involved in making hosting work, stuff happens. Common things that can impact hosting are when construction workers accidentally cut fiber optic lines that lead to data centers, or network administrators make human errors.
Hacking - Websites of all kinds are under threat of hacking. Because websites are hosted on super powerful computers, they make good targets for hackers because, once compromised, the hacker has a powerful server on a very high-speed network to leverage. Depending on the hack, the website may be defaced or taken down, but often the hosting is still up, because the hacker wants to use it for his own purposes.
Yes! It's kind of like trying to make a car that won't injure anyone: possible, but VERY hard.
99.9% Uptime is 9 hours of downtime a year
99.99% Uptime is 50 minutes of downtime a year
99.999% Uptime is 5 minutes of downtime a year
99.9999% Uptime is 31 seconds of downtime a year
Each time you add a 9 to these percentages, you are increasing the hardware and staffing requirements by multiple magnitudes. For example, to provide failover (that is, standby equipment which automatically takes over if the main system fails) for one server failure at the datacenter, you need a redundant server sitting idle. But to prevent failure at the datacenter level, you need a redundant server at another datacenter. And if you're worried about country-wide problems, you may need a redundant server or two in other countries or on other continents. Each of these requires battery backups, generator backup, additional staffing and so on. So, at some point, you just have to say it's good enough.
Most website downtime is attributable to human errors, hacking or software patching, not hardware failures. The three easiest ways to ensure you have solid uptime are as follows:
We hope you enjoyed this week's question and answer. Thank you to The Cantor Law Group out of Miami, Florida for submitting this question. The Cantor Law Group is a boutique practice focused exclusively on the representation of high-net worth international private clients and family offices.
If you'd like to submit a question, you can do so on our question submission page.