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Warning: Upfront honesty ahead - no fine print or "lawyer speak"
As a web host, we spend a lot of time looking at what other hosts are offering. One of the most humorous things we run across are other hosts so-called "uptime guarantees". The vast majority consist of a number the marketing department thought looked good - 99.8%, 99.5%, 99.95% - take your choice - and then a long section of fine print.
Most companies should rename their uptime guarantee to an "uptime goal" or frankly an "uptime wish". Servers run 24 hours a day with constant drive access. We've seen RAID array suddenly fail in ways that eliminate any chance for a hot-swap (ie. fix without needing to bring the server down first). We've seen drive corruption that can only be fixed by a total restore (30 minutes minimum downtime plus more to stream all the customer data back to the drives).
You shouldn't be shopping for a uptime guarantee - you should be shopping for an experience guarantee. A promise that the people working on your servers have the skills and upfront planning to make downtimes as quick and painless as possible. We stopped offering a particular uptime guarantee years ago. We realized that it meant nothing in reality. Most uptimes are a historical average for overall service. They have little to do with specific instances on specific servers. Those specifics are what matter when it is your server that is down and your website users who are not able to get through to your site.
A few things to keep in consider:
Even .1% of downtime is over 8 hours a year. A webhost promising 99.8% uptime is allowing themselves 16 hours a year of downtime. The truth is that most companies just pick a figure and go with it. To be blunt: servers will go down. Planning and quality equipment can minimize it, but even then, some amount of downtime will occur. Many companies will not admit this to you - many won't even admit it to themselves. This is no way to run a serious hosting company. The realities of dealing with a large server farm must be acknowledged and planned for.
Our uptime? Near 100% on most servers. As low as 99.9% on others. Uptime is all about handling problems. Most new hosts have no idea of the many problems that can come up in the day to day operation of a large server farm. We do.
For example, our network uptime is 100%. No questions at all - we have BGP'd bandwidth coming in from tens of different providers. Aside from a broken router or switch (quickly hot-swapped) or a bad network cable or card, the network connection is always up. But that doesn't do you any good if the actual server is crashed or slowed. This is where experience and good procedures count.
A hosts uptime is determined by the unpredictable things that happen every day. With a large server farm there is hardly a day that goes by without some server running into a problem. We have the experience to handle those problems and get the server responding to incoming requests as quickly as possible.
The honest truth is that a lot of new hosts think that setting up RAID array, etc. will stop all problems. It doesn't. Even the best attempts at redundancy fail. We've seen it happen, felt the pain, and learned from it.
Here's our bottom line: We work day and night to keep your server responding quickly to every incoming hit. Most of the time you'll never know when things go wrong. RAID arrays keep running, failed hardware falls over to hot spares, and all is well. But for those rare times when even all the redundancy fails and you feel we've let you down - let us know. No need to pour through our fine print and document the problem. No need to file a refund form. Just open a ticket and let us know about the problem - we'll happily and quickly refund you 100% of the downtime (your hosting rate per minute times the number of minutes of downtime times 1). Please note, the maximum refund can be no more than your monthly fee.
We are a close-knit company and when you become a client we do our best to treat you like a friend. Tell us you are unhappy and we'll fix it. It's that simple.
If the honest talk above sounds like what you've been looking for, please give us a try and sign up for our hosting. You can cancel and get a full refund at any time in the first 30 days. We would really like the chance to show you first hand what we have to offer.