November 8, 2019 By Matt Zentz
Twenty years ago, it didn't matter much if your website went offline. Most people weren't using the web like they do now. But today 88% of consumers do their research online before making a purchase decision. When their research leads to your website, you can't afford for it to be down.
For most small businesses, website uptime is only considered when something goes wrong. That low-dollar hosting company is great until your website goes down. Trying to untangle the mess of who is responsible can require some detective work most people aren't equipped to handle.
There are so many factors that could be causing an issue, it helps to have a reliable partner on your side. Quite often, the agency that built a website is no longer involved. They build the site, install it on their hosting platform of choice, and leave it to the end customer to manage going forward.
To avoid this chasm of uncertainty, you'll need a hosting partner that provides uptime guarantees. You may also want to vet the long-term viability of your agency partner. Make sure they're the type of agency that sticks around and helps out long after the initial website is built and deployed.
Uptime is the amount of time a website is accessible divided by the total amount of time available expressed as a percentage. For example, a typical month is about 720 hours. If your website is up for 710 hours during the month (i.e. down for 10 hours) then the total uptime is 710 ÷ 720 = 98.6%. And that's a terrible uptime percentage.
You want your website uptime to be as close to 100% as possible. Just keep in mind, however, that 100% is unachievable. Since we live in a world where humans make mistakes and catastrophes happen it will always be under 100%. And the closer you get to 100% the more it will cost you.
There are all sorts of tactics you can employ to ensure maximum uptime. One of the simplest things to do is to make sure you have a reliable hosting partner who is always monitoring your site. Before your site ever goes live, make sure you know the best way to get support fast if the site goes down. If you're using a low-cost provider then be aware you may not get a response back for a couple days. It's low-cost for a reason - usually because they skimp on expensive support and technical staff.
Your hosting partner should provide some type of monitoring for your site, so if there are problems they can be resolved quickly and efficiently. Without some type of monitoring mechanism, you'll have to rely on your own site checking, or even worse, hearing from a customer or prospect who couldn't reach you.
If your hosting provider doesn't offer monitoring for your site then you should think about using a system like Pingdom to send alerts when your site becomes inaccessible. Pingdom will send you an email and text message and keep track of your total uptime percentage.
Two culprits that affect website availability are too much traffic and failed servers.
Too much traffic can be easily handled by load balancing your web servers. This means there are two or more web servers that handle each request. When a web request comes in, the load balancer decides which server to send them to based on the total traffic and load for each server.
Keep in mind that too much traffic may not reside solely from your site visitors. Most websites reside in a shared environment and any site in that environment can have a negative impact on the overall availability.
Load balancing also acts as a failover since there is more than one server to handle requests. If a server fails, the load balancer detects it and sends traffic to the other available servers. Databases, however, often reside on a single server so failover is handled differently. This typically involves a second database server that is an exact mirror of the first. Setting these up can be costly.
For business critical websites, you can also implement disaster recovery solutions where an exact replica of your production environment is located in another part of the country or world. When the primary system goes down you can essentially flip a switch and have the backup system take over. This too can be very costly.
Open-source CMS platforms like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal do not have an inherent hosting component tied to them. They are, after all, just software. So every site is a one-off installation of the software and there are thousands of hosting options available. This makes it difficult to compare content management systems, especially when you compare open-source to software-as-a-service platforms because software-as-a-service systems, like Marketpath CMS, automatically include the hosting of the software and website.
More often than not digital marketing agencies use the lowest cost hosting provider. So who cares, as long as it works, right? Well, you'll certainly care when it crashes and you can't contact anyone to get it back online. And then let's hope your agency setup offsite backups so you can restore your site to another provider.
Marketpath CMS provides a 99.9% uptime guarantee. Every website is automatically load-balanced with multiple database failovers. We monitor your site traffic 24/7 and automatically adjust our capacity to meet demand. Even better, you're always using the most up-to-date version of our system so you're not responsible for unpatched security or performance issues.
Matt Zentz launched Marketpath from a small Broad Ripple bungalow in February 2001 with a focus on custom web application development. He built the first, basic version of a hosted CMS called Webtools and shortly afterward expanded his team and created the first version of Marketpath CMS.
Matt has worked for a national consulting firm, taught computer programming to high school juniors and seniors , and led the information technology arm of the auxiliary business units at Indiana University.
Matt graduated from Indiana University in 1999 with a B.S. in Computer Science and has built custom web applications since 1995. Matt is husband to an amazing & supportive wife, has three beautiful children, and supreme master to Archimedes (Archie) the dog. He coaches various kid sports, enjoys building furniture, and plays guitar and piano. Matt is very active within his church community and several area not-for-profits.
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