It’s been said that the devil is in the details. Well, along the same lines — and as we all know from miserable experience — when it comes to guarantees, the devil is in the small print. And there’s no better (or worse) example of this than with respect to the gleaming, confidence-inspiring claim by web hosts that they deliver 100% guaranteed uptime. Except, well, they don’t.

Here’s the thing: what you, everyone you know, and even random strangers in the street define as uptime — i.e. a website being online, operational and accessible — is not how web hosts define uptime. Confused? Of course, you are. To make sense of this, you need to think like a web host.

Multiple Pieces of the Uptime Puzzle

There are multiple pieces of the uptime puzzle: the server on which your website lives, the data center that physically houses multiple servers, the ISP that connects to the internet, and the carrier that links traffic between multiple ISPs. The uptime guarantee offered by web hosts begins and ends with the server and, if they own it, the data center. It does not include issues or problems with the ISP or carrier. As such, if there are points of failure in either of those components, then when your website does go down, your host will technically be meeting its promise. You’ve heard of a non-apology apology? Well, this is a non-guarantee guarantee — and it’s just as lousy.

Less than 100% Uptime = the Same Story

Now, you may have a website host that doesn’t sing from the 100% uptime/zero downtime songbook. It may, for example, promise 99.99% guaranteed uptime, or pledge some other Ivory soap-inspired technical cleanliness standard. Yet again, the same murky logic described above applies: as long as the host’s servers and (if owned) data center are humming along, then it’s an uptime guarantee party and everyone’s invited.

The Real Guarantee

At this point, you may be wondering — and not in a curious, childlike way, but in an agitated “what on earth is going on here!?” way — about what recourse you have available if and when your host does, indeed, bear responsibility for your website going down. That’s where the Service Level Agreement (SLA) kicks in.

Basically, in most cases, the SLA between you and your web host will entitle you to a prorated rebate based on downtime that meets two conditions: 1) the downtime is the responsibility or fault of the web host, and not the ISP, the carrier, the power company, hackers, natural disasters, wizard spells, alien invasion (or just alien visitation), or any other factor that is beyond its control; 2) the downtime can be proven.

So for example, if your business pays $100/month for managed web hosting and your site goes down for half a day— and both of these conditions are met — then you’ll either get around $3.33; most likely as a credit that will be applied to your next bill. Quite the luxurious guarantee, isn’t it?

What You Can Do About It

The bad news is that you can’t demand that your website host’s 100% uptime guarantee is, in fact, a 100% uptime guarantee as you, and pretty much everyone else, would define it. Unless the FCC and FTC decide that this is false advertising (and they haven’t done that… yet), then the splashy promise will remain– and so will the legalese fine print.

But the good news is that you can equip yourself with a globally trusted advanced website monitoring solution like AlertBot, so that you instantly know exactly when your site goes down, why it went down and for how long. You can then use this data to pinpoint problems and fix issues immediately. AlertBot’s popular health map reports deliver crucial performance metrics direct to your inbox to assure you stay on top of your sites. This will also determine whether you should change hosts to one that is relatively better at keeping their promises.

Give AlertBot’s FREE trial a try today. There’s no billing information required, no installation, and you’ll be setup within minutes. Click here.

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