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6 gotchas about web hosting quality and reliability


If you’re not used to thinking in terms of website availability and reliability, we hope that the insights below may help you to a greater understanding of the factors you should keep in mind when selecting a quality hosting company.
Considering that we specialize in website and server monitoring, we tend to think about these issues all day long, all year long. Several people here at Pingdom also have plenty of experience from having worked in the web hosting industry. This means that we have both the insider’s and outsider’s perspective on web hosting, so we figured we were in a good position to share some insights about web hosting that many people aren’t aware of.

  • No web hosting company will have 100% uptime in the long run. It simply doesn’t happen. They may have zero downtime (100% uptime) for a few months, but sooner or later something will happen. There are simply too many factors involved (networks, power, equipment failure, software issues, human errors, etc), and not all of them are under the control of the hosting company.
  • Maintenance isn’t included in uptime numbers. When hosting companies calculate uptime, they usually don’t include downtime caused by planned maintenance. This means that if a web hosting company says it guarantees a 99.9% uptime, it means 99.9% uptime minus the maintenance.
  • 99.8% uptime means DOUBLE the downtime of 99.9%. They look close, but a 99.9% uptime means 8 hours and 45 minutes of downtime in a year, while 99.8% means 17 hours and 30 minutes. A 99.8% uptime is acceptable, but a 99.9% uptime (or better) is preferred if your site is important to you.
  • Your site’s downtime = hosting downtime PLUS your downtime. It may seem strict to demand a 99.9% uptime or higher from a host, but keep the following in mind: Your own site problems and maintenance will add downtime ON TOP of that of the hosting company. This means that your best case scenario will be limited by the hosting company. In other words, your downtime is your downtime combined with that of your host.
  • There is no such thing as unlimited. You see it advertised a lot, with web hosts offering unlimited resources to customers. What it really means is “enough for most users”. However, if you use enough resources to disturb the performance of the other sites on the web server, your account will sooner or later be suspended. Truly unlimited options simply don’t exist. (This only applies to shared hosting, of course.) Another reason unlimited doesn’t exist is pure performance. You can only transfer a limited amount of data, use a limited amount of CPU, and only have a limited amount of active connections to your site.
  • On a shared hosting account, your site shares a server with potentially hundreds of other sites. Just as your site’s use of shared hosting resources can affect other sites on that server, those other sites can affect yours. Keep an eye out for sudden or gradual changes in performance. Shared hosting is a good and affordable entry point into web hosting, but you should be aware that it (in general) has a number of potential performance pitfalls, something we have written about in the past.

There are of course plenty of other factors that you will want to keep in mind. For example the quality of their support, what their track record is, etc. Asking around on forums such as Web Hosting Talk and doing your own research via Google can be helpful here.
Are there other “gotchas” that belong in this list? Let us know in the comments.

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