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Can Your Website Have 100% Uptime?

Published:
September 3, 2021
Updated:
September 7, 2021

Clients can sometimes ask for ridiculous things without realizing they're ridiculous. Often they're not tech-savvy and have hired you as their tech professional, and so they don't realize when they make a request that is either impossible, or way out their budget. One such request that we hear a fair bit is for 100% uptime.

If you work in tech, then you know that having 100% uptime is a laughable requirement, equivalent to demanding that your car always starts, or your lightbulbs don't burn out. While 100% uptime is kind of (theoretically?) possible if you were to have multiple redundant systems, working failovers, and have your infrastructure spread out across the world to avoid things like natural disasters - the reality is that anything can happen. Failovers themselves can fail, redundant systems can crash, and natural disasters can spread out further than you anticipated. If you think about it, even Google and its services go down from time to time - so unless you have more staff, expertise, and infrastructure than Google, you're not going to be able to have 100% uptime. This coupled with the often low budgets of clients that can't even afford a single redundant system, let alone the team of people that need to run and maintain it, means that their dreams of having their website available to the world at all times is just not going to happen.

On the podcast, Mike and I discussed clients asking for this ridiculous requirement from our perspective, a small web development agency. Not only do we not have the staff to cover 24/7/365, we just can't be available all the time. There are things in life that take your full attention, like going on a vacation, or long drives on a road trip in which you don't have a laptop at the ready and might be outside of an internet coverage area. We know that some people do work in 24/7 scenarios with their phones, laptops, and beepers at the ready even when on vacation, but that's not something that we're willing to offer to our clients, at our current level of compensation. The way we look at it is that if we need to have such complete coverage of a website, or a web app, then the client needs to pay for the person that's watching their stuff all the time. We can't justify extensive coverage for the monthly hosting, or monthly maintenance fee that we charge some repeat customers. If someone is paying us $200/month, we're not going to be rushing home from a day trip in Niagara Falls because their site went down while we were there.  We need to be compensated at a level that makes sense for us to remain "plugged in" all the time. Even if a client doesn't call all weekend, the anticipation of a call rolling in at any minute prevents us from getting the relaxation that we need.

I realize that for some people this sort of support offering may seem lazy, or maybe even as bad customer service. Some people just love their jobs, or their companies that they've built, and they want to make the experience as smooth as possible for their clients. As one of the founders of our company, I completely get that mentality. You want to keep customers happy, so that new customers come in from the good reviews and word of mouth, so you always go the extra mile, even if you didn't promise support on evenings, weekends, and holidays. This also applies to those of you who work as employees for a company - you may go the extra mile to try and get noticed by your boss, or get that promotion a little sooner. I totally understand both of these perspectives and even agree with them depending on your context. For me though, being constantly plugged in to work was doing a number on my mental health and while I certainly don't shy away from every call and email that comes in after hours, I had to remove the expectation that I would be available at all times so that I could have some time to decompress and relax.

If you'd like to hear Mike and myself talk about this topic on the podcast, you can give the video below a listen/watch.

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