How Much Website Downtime Is Acceptable?

Within the pages of this blog we talk a lot about maximizing your website uptime and what to do when the inevitable downtime occurs. What many of our readers wonder is just how much downtime is acceptable. Alertra customers are notified when their websites go down, so they know exactly how much downtime they are experiencing – planned or not. Now it’s time to understand if the downtime you’re experiencing is acceptable or not.

How Much Is Too Much?

You can’t expect an uptime rate of 100%. No web host will promise you that, and if they do run in the other direction because they aren’t being honest with you. In the long term, zero downtime is impossible. You can come close to zero unplanned downtime, but there will be times when unplanned downtime is inevitable and there will be times when you need to take your site offline to perform maintenance and upgrades.

Even the Biggest Sites Suffer from Downtime

In June of this year Google suffered an outage of approximately 10 minutes. According to some calculations, that 10 minutes cost the company nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in lost revenue. In 2010 Yahoo suffered an hour’s worth of downtime and 28 of the 59 big U.S. ecommerce sites suffered downtime during the 2011 holiday season. With such massive amounts of money at stake, you know that these businesses are doing everything they can to avoid downtime – but downtime isn’t something that can be completely avoided; even when it comes to the biggest names on the Web.

Understanding Downtime Percentages

You may think that downtime percentages above 99 percent are perfectly acceptable. The truth is that there can be a big difference between a host with an uptime record of 99.9 percent and a host with an uptime record of only 99 percent. If your web host boasts uptime of 99.9 percent, that’s about 9 hours of downtime a year. If a host boasts uptime of 99 percent, that’s website downtime of 3.65 days per year. It’s mind-boggling just how big the difference can be, even when the website uptime quoted is within the same percentage range.

How Much Uptime Should Your Site Strive For?

If you want to minimize website downtime, look for a host that promises uptime of 99.999 percent (but make sure it’s a reputable host that won’t inflate numbers). Website uptime of 99.999 percent means that you can reasonable expect only 5 minutes of unplanned website downtime each year. That is what you want to aim for, if possible. Anything more and you’re losing profits by the minute for each extra minute that your website is offline due to issues with your hosting provider.
Remember, downtime is indeed inevitable. As an Alertra customer, you will be notified when your site goes down. If you’re being promised 99.999 percent uptime and you get notifications from us proving otherwise, it’s time to either have a talk with your hosting provider or look elsewhere for hosting services.