99.9% uptime guaranteed!

Saturday, 29 January 2011

This site has had three homes. The first was so long ago at this point it escapes me. I can’t remember why we moved. The second was Dreamhost. They’re friendly, responsive, sometimes know what they’re doing, and offer a lot of value for the money, but they have a record of fairly serious outages. Last night most of my sites, about 15, were down for hours. Sedition·com was fine because we went to linode last year. There has been one outage since then because I’m too stupid to rotate logfiles and filled up the partition/VPS I’ve got.

It reminded me I wanted to talk about the guaranteed 99.9% uptime that is floated around.

  • What does guaranteed mean?

    • Oh, it means you can get back the prorated cost of your website for the time your business wasn't functioning. Let’s say you spend $50 a month on your site. That means if you site crashes for three days in the first week of December, your host owes you $1.86 refund to make good on their guarantee.
  • What does 99.9% mean?

    • 99.9%, AKA three nines, is an uptime figure you see a lot in low-end hosting. In professional, commercial hosting you tend to hear five or six nines more often. You know why?
    • Because a year is actually quite a long time and three nines is a full business day’s outage over that year. 99.9% uptime could mean your site is completely down for the 8 hours following your Black Friday mass email. And your host would be living up to its promise and you’d be an asshat to complain.
  • What does uptime mean?

    • Not what you think. Availability and uptime are not the same. A host without redundancy can have 100% uptime while network, DNS, or latency issues could mean your site’s a dog half the time.

So remember, kids. Advertising and marketing is the art of making you think you need stuff by making the stuff sound much better than it is and it’s always a value proposition. You get what you pay for. Though for all we know they meant 99.9% of a sidereal year which would make the downtime a minute or two shorter. We’re such pricks to assume otherwise.

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