By Emily Miller
If you own a brick and mortar store, you’re the one who decides what your business hours will be and then hangs the sign on the door. And if you run a mom-and-pop shop, you may even be there during most of those hours. As a store owner, you’d never open late or close early. The hours on your door serve as a guarantee to your customers, and if they can’t trust you to be open when they come to you, they’ll find another place to shop.
When you have a website that sells or promotes anything, whether it’s a service or product, that website is essentially a store that potential customers expect to be open all the time. That’s the magic of the Internet: to be able to find whatever you want whenever you go looking for it. If your website is down, your store is closed, and a store that’s often closed when it’s supposed to be open will lose customers and turn away potential new ones.
That’s why it’s essential as a website owner to research the uptime information and guarantees from potential providers. By finding the host who’ll keep your site up most of the time, you can reduce customer dissatisfaction and prevent any loss of sales.
Is it really worth it?
According to uptime-monitoring site Pingdom, a 99 percent uptime with a hosting company equals more than seven hours of downtime each month, or more than three and a half days each year. How much profit, or how many potential customers, might you lose during that period? Is it worth spending the extra time on research to find a hosting company that comes in closer to 100 percent? Is it worth spending several hundred more dollars each year?
Only you can decide what uptime is worth to you. How much will three and a half days of downtime cost you? Keep in mind that no company is up 100 percent of the time, but some companies come close.
When researching uptime, keep in mind the different available server options. Many businesses think that paying for dedicated servers will fix the problem, because then another company’s problems won’t affect their company. Although hosting companies monitor their servers, both shared and dedicated, they do take their eyes off them every once in a while, so if your server goes down, it may take hours for either you or the hosting company to notice. When you share a server, such as in the case of a virtual private server, you actually have more eyes on the services, which can prove beneficial to uptime.
Understand the guarantees.
An important thing to remember about the uptime claims provided by hosting companies is that, even though they’re accurate, they still tell only part of the story. Scheduled maintenance isn’t included in downtime numbers by most hosting companies, which means any downtime for your site is in addition to any downtime for maintenance.
Uptime guarantees may also be attractive, but it’s essential to read the fine print. A hosting company that offers a 99 percent uptime guarantee can have your site offline for more than seven hours a month before they’re in breach of the guarantee, and most companies issue refunds based only on the downtime that exceeds the seven hours.
Instead of relying on guarantees, the best course of action is to do your own research. Find the stories of the website owners who have had real experiences with hosting companies and know how often downtime occurs. Just be wary in your research, because many hosting companies offer affiliate programs, meaning people might review something highly just to make a profit. Stick to message boards for some of the best advice.
Having a site that’s down frequently is like having a 24-hour drive-through that’s regularly closed. If your customers want a milkshake at three in the morning and your window is closed, they’ll drive down the block to find out who else is open. Doing your best to be online and available as close to 100 percent of the time as possible will increase your company’s profitability and allow you to be seen as dependable and trustworthy by your customers. Depending on your company’s resources, you can determine how your downtime is handled and controlled, but leaving it to chance will cost you in sales and reputation.
Emily Miller is a marketing professional and small business blogger who contributes regularly to Professional Intern. Her educational background is in Marketing and Small Business Management, and she is especially fascinated by how technology can be used as solutions for startups and small companies.