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Server Reliability: The Rule of Nines

Server Reliability And its Importance

When considering a shared web hosting service or dedicated web hosting service, you are going to want to be sure of the level of server reliability that you are going to be provided with as to enable you to draw a rough picture of the level of uptime that you can come to expect from your chosen web hosting service.

Server reliability is something that is governed by how well a server is managed, with the best managed servers being the most reliable and offering the best uptime; in order to manage a server properly you need to be well versed in server management skills and larger web hosting providers tend to offer the best support technicians around, although smaller web hosting companies aim to put more emphasis on how well their servers are managed.

Some often argue that your choice of operating system can affect how reliable a server is, but at the end of the day there are a number of different factors internal to a server that can affect the level of uptime that it provides; as well as the number of websites hosting affecting the load, the resources available can be a major cause of server downtime in most situations.

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Importance of Uptime

Uptime is one of the most important factors for businesses choosing web hosting packages because if their web hosting service is unavailable because of downtime, then their website will be inaccessible. The general rule is that downtime costs businesses money and so any good web hosting provider will be taking all the precautions that they can to ensure that they are able to meet the uptime guarantees that they apply to their web hosting services, with most attention being paid to the web hosting services that will be most appealing to businesses such as server hosting services.

As a VPS server or dedicated server hosting customer you are responsible for the uptime of your own web hosting service because unless you have chosen to use a server that is provided with full server management, it is up to you to manage your server hosting environment properly.

There are several external factors that can affect the uptime of a VPS server or dedicated server, such as the network that your server is hosted on as well as the power systems that your server is running off; web hosting companies will do all they can to create multiple backup power systems and networks to ensure that if either of these do fail, there will never be a chance of complete failure.

The Rule of Nines: Why You Need 99.999%

What does 99% uptime mean? 

Most availability solutions deliver 99 percent — which may sound surprisingly good to most organizations until you realize 99 percent means 87.6 hours of unplanned downtime per year. According to research from the Aberdeen Group, the average cost of downtime due to data loss can amount to more than $163,000 an hour for companies. Thus, the Rule of Nines: for every “9” an IT team can achieve in increasing their availability, the more they can reduce downtime and increase system profitability. Let’s look at how each additional “9” is being achieved today, and how it impacts business performance.

99.9% is Good Business Practice

There are plenty of availability solutions delivering average results — for example, an x86 server can be counted on to deliver 99% availability if that’s all your business is looking for. But with today’s availability solutions, 99.9 percent is very attainable. Affordable servers more powerful than the average x86 can be combined with redundant power supplies, fans, a RAID array, and of course, good business practices to maintain and protect your system.

The result?

99.9% translates to around 8.76 hours of unplanned downtime per year. That’s a massive improvement over nearly 90 hours of downtime at 99 percent, but for many companies, losing a business day in productivity per year is still too much for their bottom line to bear.

What does 99.99 availability correspond to?

The secret to achieving the next “9” for 99.99% is cluster technology. Often referred to as high availability solutions, clusters are essentially two or more physical servers connected in a single network. If one server fails, application support resumes on a second server.

Clusters can range from 99.95 to 99.99% availability depending on how well built the cluster is and how quickly a failover can be achieved. Some clustered applications such as databases can’t failover quickly enough because they must check file integrity and replay transactions logs after a failure, which delays application start-up.

How do you get five nines availability?

Now imagine your business was able to add the most elusive “9” to achieve 99.999% availability. What would that take? Fault-tolerant systems are delivering the “Holy Grail” of availability today by working through faults and continuing to run without disrupting applications at all — preventing any downtime resulting from a system failure.

Fault-tolerant hardware solutions deliver 99.999% availability or better, translating to less than five minutes of unplanned downtime per year. Software fault tolerance delivers similar results using industry-standard servers running in parallel, enabling a single application to live on two virtual machines (VMs) simultaneously. If one VM fails, the application continues to run on the other VM with no interruptions or data loss. Thus, virtualization delivers the fifth 9.

All that being said, not all fault-tolerant solutions are created equally. Some emulate fault tolerance but end up creating lots of overhead, which drags down performance. You need true fault tolerance to avoid performance problems and meet all your application requirements.

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