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Downtime for major news sites in 2008

Traditional news media have embraced the Web, and these days we have a lot of great news sources online. We here at Pingdom have surveyed 13 of the top news websites in the world, monitoring the likes of CNN, Reuters, the New York Times and Times Online. The survey ran for the first half of 2008, i.e. January 1 – June 30, and focused on measuring the availability of these websites (their uptime).

Millions of people visit these websites every day to read up on current events. If one of them is down, basically any time, day or night, a lot of people are bound to notice.

As this survey shows, the majority of these websites take availability very seriously, but some have occasionally stumbled a bit more than the others. Read on to find out which ones.

The websites monitored in this survey were Forbes, CNN, New York Times, Voice of America, Washington Post, Bloomberg, BBC News, Guardian Unlimited, Reuters, ABC News, Christian Science Monitor, International Herald Tribune, and Times Online. As you can see there are both US- and UK-based websites, although the majority of them are US-based.

(The links in the paragraph above are the pages we monitored for each website.)

Overview

To give you a chance to compare all the websites in the survey side by side, we have added this diagram for an easy overview of the downtime for each website, but we will take a closer look at the data further down.

Downtime for major news sites

The best-performing websites

Five of the websites in the survey had less than an hour of downtime during these six months. Notably, the Forbes website didn’t have any downtime at all, which is very impressive. Both the New York Times and CNN websites were also close to having no downtime, being unavailable a mere 20 and 25 minutes respectively.

Eight of the websites in the test had a 99.9% uptime or better. Uptime is usually shown in percent, where 99.9% is considered a highly respectable score. This is often called “three nines”. It should be mentioned that for a website to have a 99.9% uptime during a six-month period, it can only be unavailable for a total of just over four hours.

Forbes, since it had zero downtime, was the only website with a 100% uptime.

Here is the list of websites with a 99.9% uptime or better:

  • Forbes: 100.00%
  • New York Times: 99.99%
  • CNN: 99.99%
  • Voice of America: 99.98%
  • Washington Post: 99.98%
  • Bloomberg: 99.96%
  • BBC News: 99.94%
  • Guardian Unlimited: 99.93%

The websites with the most downtime

These websites were the five websites in this survey with the largest amount of downtime.

  • Times Online: 23h 31m (99.46% uptime)
  • International Herald Tribune: 15h 0m (99.66% uptime)
  • Christian Science Monitor: 14h 46m (99.66% uptime)
  • ABC News: 13h 36m (99.69% uptime)
  • Reuters: 5h 40m (99.87% uptime)

There are many different things that can cause downtime, and sometimes the reason can be planned site maintenance, though this does of course not change the fact that the website was unavailable to its readers.

The longest continuous outages

These were the longest continuous outages (periods of unavailability) that were recorded for the websites in the survey.

(For our US readers, CET is GMT+1. Subtract 6 hours to get the time in EST.)

  • International Herald Tribune: 10h 53m (starting 07:03 CET on April 6)
  • Times Online: 8h 45m (starting 00:29 CET on June 10)
  • ABC News: 8h 25m (starting 08:46 CET on Jan 24)

The longest outage after that was BBC News with 1h 23m, starting 15:30 CET on May 17.

It should be noted that the downtime here was mostly at night time in the areas where you can expect most of these websites’ readers to be (ABC News and International Herald Tribune in North America and Times Online in Europe). This could either indicate that they were performing some form of planned maintenance, or possibly that they had issues and for some reason were unable to get the website back up and running until the morning.

Conclusion

This survey tested a mix of different popular news websites, and clearly shows that a majority of them have excellent availability. This is perhaps not so surprising, considering how “visible” these websites are, but it’s not easy to really know this for a fact until you have done some real monitoring, which is what we did.

What was surprising, however, was to see that the highly respected Times Online ended up being unavailable for a total of close to 24 hours.

About the survey

Tests were performed once a minute around the clock. If a website did not respond, or loaded too slowly (if the HTML page could not be loaded within 30 seconds), or responded with an error, it was considered down. Downtime was always double-checked from two different locations. All testing was performed using Pingdom’s uptime monitoring service.

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