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-Uptime Guarantees. Not all are equal.-
I recently found out that not all uptime guarantees are equal. There are two major species of uptime guarantees: network and server. Server is better. First I'll explain what the two types mean and why server guarantees are better than network guarantees. Then I will discuss those percentages, what 99.9% uptime really means. Last I'll talk about free, low cost, and premium hosting and how much each really costs. For this article, we are just talking about shared hosting.
Network vs Server Guarantee
When they say "99.9% uptime guarantee" you think that means that if your server is down .1% of the month, they have failed their promise, right? Not necessarily. As I said, there are two breeds of guarantees. With a network guarantee, they guarantee that their network will be up 99.9%. So, if 99.9% of the network is up, they are within their promise. If they have 1000 servers and 1 is down for a month, but the other 999 are running without problem, they are fine. Of course, your site happens to be on that one server that is always down and there is nothing you can do, except find a new host.
Server guarantees work a bit differently. They actually guarantee that your server will be up during the promised time. Usually that means, the entire server. So if the mySQL server daemon is down, but the rest of the server is running smoothly, they are out of compliance. Like I said, this is better. If you want your site up all the time, get a server guarantee.
Lets do a little math here. If you get a 99.9% uptime guarantee, what does that mean? First, lets take an average 30 day month. There are 43,200 minutes in a 30 day month. .1% of that means that your site can be down for 43.2 minutes each month. That of course can be during your peak hours, and if it is maintenance, and they tell you ahead of time, then it does not count. The table below shows the most common uptime guarantees and how much time each one can be down during a month.
Costs of hosting
There are plenty of hosting companies out there. Some are free, some are very cheap, others are more costly. You have to decide what is more important to you, cost or reliability. Some of the cheap sites are fairly reliable for the cost, but for just a couple dollars more a month, you can get a really reliable service. If you don't mind occasional downtime, save the money. If you do, spend the extra.
How much does downtime cost? That is something only you can answer. If you are running a site just for fun, then a low, or no guarantee hosting company will be your best choice as they are usually the cheapest as well. If, on the otherhand, you want to make sure your site is up most of the time, look for a server (or site) guarantee with a high (100%, preferably) uptime guarantee. It is a sign of a dedicated company who will be there for you if you need them.