Uptime is like air – you don’t think about it until it’s not there.  If you’re like most webmasters, uptime is probably something you take for granted.  But it’s really something you should be very aware of.  In this article, we’ll look at what uptime actually means, and why it’s so important.

As the name suggests, uptime is the amount of time that a web server runs without interruption.  This continuous running of the server keeps your website visible on the web to anybody who wants to look at it.  Most web hosting companies say they can achieve 99%, or even 99.9% continuous uptime.  If you ever come across a company that says it can achieve 100% uptime, avoid it.  They’re basically saying they’re perfect, something which no organization has ever achieved in the history of humanity.

Uptime vs Downtime in Hosting Server

The opposite of uptime, of course, is downtime.  Web hosting companies frequently schedule in downtime to maintain their servers and to install security patches.  This is normal, and you’ll usually be told about it in advance.  Downtime is only troublesome when it occurs unexpectedly.  This can happen for any number of reasons, from power failure to technical malfunction.  A good web hosting company will have put contingency plans in place to deal with this type of event.  They’ll have emergency generators to restore power and clustered servers that can take over if a single server fails.

As a webmaster, you need to know that your web host is able to deal with emergencies, because your business may depend on it.  Uptime literally keeps your website running.  Your website needs to be available to anybody in the world, twenty four hours a day.  If they can’t see it when they try to visit, they’ll go elsewhere, and you’ll lose money.  If you think about the global scale of the internet, you can see that even a minute of downtime could represent thousands of lost dollars overall.
Downtime doesn’t only affect large businesses.  Small consumers are affected too, if their orders can’t be processed or if important communications are lost.  If you’re running a personal website, you might not lose money if the hosting server goes down, but you might lose credibility.

Of course, web hosting companies are well aware of how important server uptime is.  Their business depends on it too.  If their servers crash for too long too often, then their customers will desert them.  A web hosting company that gets a reputation for not being able to host websites will pretty soon find itself out of business.

For this reason, most web hosting companies offer a service level agreement (SLA) to their customers, setting out the amount of uptime that they will deliver and the recovery time should the unexpected occur.  This SLA may outline a compensation scheme should the company fail to meet those standards.  As a webmaster who is justifiably concerned about uptime, you should always look for this SLA before signing up to a web host.

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