Before we even dive in, let’s start with something a bit more basic. Something as basic as what the heck is an SLA. SLA is just an acronym for Service Level Agreement, which is an agreement between you and the web host on issues like the level of service (no pun intended) they will render to you, and what kind of compensation they will provide if they do not meet promised service level. Things like web servers going down for an extended period of time, getting crashes and whatnot are well within that list.
Most hosting companies will offer some sort of compensation, usually either a credit to your account or money back. So the key here in an SLA, at least from a customer’s point of view, will be the type and amount of compensation received. After all, when customers pay for something that is supposedly reliable it is only fair to receive some sort of compensation.
Most SLA will hover around the number of 99%, 99.5% or 99.9% uptime. After failing to achieve that uptime, the SLAs will state that compensation is in order. However, these numbers are more of a marketing gimmick than an actual level of uptime they achieve. There are many hidden clauses, or they simply won’t publish site uptime and server downtime statistics. This sort of practice is especially more common with your average cheap hosting companies.
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Okay, so let’s break down those numbers. What does 99% uptime mean? Or 99.5%? Or even 99.9%? 99% is pretty good enough, isn’t it? Not exactly.
You see, 99% means that 3.65 days a year, or on average 1.68 hours a week, there will be downtime. That’s 7.20 hours a month if you are calculating. 1.68 hours a week downtime is in fact quite a lot. Yes, even for a cheap hosting. Do you want your site to be down for a whopping 100.8 minutes every week?
Then, there is this 99.9% uptime. You might think that it is only 0.9% difference. But alas, if you calculate it, it will show you that the downtime is just 8.76 hours per year, 43.8 minutes a month or rather 10.1 minutes per week. See the difference? From 100.8 minutes to just 10.1 minutes a week. That’s a lot more reasonable level of downtime covered by the SLA.
So there is no debate here. If your website is not a hobby that you don’t mind to seeing down every week, then you gotta choose a web hosting company with a 99.9% uptime guarantee. Downtime can cost quite a lot to your website, and any client sites you are hosting on your account. So don’t ever go with 99% or 99.5% SLA guarantees.
Now that you know what these uptime percentages really mean, let’s move on to the compensation part. You see, these uptime guarantees mean that those web hosting firms really have to achieve the promised uptime. If they do, all is well and happy. You are receiving the service you are promised for your money. All is good.
What if they don’t? Then that’s where the compensation kicks in. The SLA has to clearly state that. As in, how much they will give you back, and what type of compensation.
Why? Because a downtime can cost you a lot of money. Reputation, sales, visitors and even SEO rankings can take a hit. That is not good at all.
You are essentially entitled to get a reasonable level of compensation for your losses. The SLA must state that. It is important, and if your SLA stops after stating the uptime they promise you, you will have to move on and find another host.
But a lot of cheap hosting companies with no reputation to uphold will try to play tricks here. A lot of times, they will typically credit your account or pay you the difference between the promised SLA and the actual uptime they achieved. Confused? It basically means that if their uptime is just 95% for this month but promised a 99.9%, they will just pay you 4.9% of your monthly hosting fees back to you. Or just credit to your account, which is worse.
Now 4.9% is not a lot. We are talking about your run of the mill cheap web hosting firms here. Their prices are like $3 or so a month. So we are talking about a whopping $0.147. Yup, that’s a gigantic amount. Isn’t?
This is like an anecdote of a lot of true stories we have seen time and time again on WebHostingTalk and many other places. This is the ugly truth of SLA from your average cheap hosting firm. They will advertise you and promise the world, but give you peanuts when there is downtime. Awesome, yes?
A lot of those companies will use twisted words and vague paragraphs in their SLA, so that they won’t get sued. But let’s be serious. Who will sue them for a few cents? But still, that’s what they do. So whenever you sign up for a hosting service, it is important to read all fine details of the whole Service Level Agreement. Or else, you are going to get conned, or worse. Just don’t trust on the face value of big 99.9% words on their website.
What about a real SLA? That is for another article entirely but in short, it will offer you at the very least the whole month hosting plan fees back to you, not just a small percentage with some hosts even offering additional compensation. Those are the companies you want to go with. They may not be so cheap like just $1 or $2 a month but a few extra bucks will be well worth it.
If you truly want no downtime though, then you will have to look for cloud hosting options with redundancy. They are more expensive, and usually will start from $20 to $30, but they are good. Because downtime is a website suicide. When there is a downtime, you are already making losses. So just make sure if you go with a cheap shared hosting firm, even with big names, make sure you will be well compensated for your losses. Never tolerate a company for its incompetency. If there are problems, go to WebHostingTalk and complain loud. That’s the way to get their attention.
Compensation back to customer, and the chances of bad PR in a well-known public forum like WHT are incentives for those firms to not mess up. Seriously, you gotta do that, amigo.
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