The term “uptime” describes the amount of time that a network or Internet connection is available, and is one of the most important metrics used to measure the performance of a managed service provider (MSP). As one might expect, the opposite of uptime is “downtime,” which is the amount of time that the network or Internet connection is unavailable.

MSPs’ Guarantees

A majority of MSPs offer uptime levels ranging from 99.9% to 99.999%. These levels are typically referred to by the number of nines that they have. So 99.9% is “3 nines” and 99.999% is “5 nines.”

MSPs’ uptime guarantees are formalized in their service level agreements (SLAs). Basically, an SLA is a contract that lays out the level of service that an MSP has promised to provide and the penalties that it is liable to pay in the event of non-compliance. When an MSP’s uptime guarantee falls below the agreed-upon threshold in a given month, the customer is entitled to refunds or service credits.

The Little Differences

Uptime is measured in time, but expressed as a percentage. Connecting these two figures can be tricky. To understand this better, let’s see what the different percentages actually mean in terms of service unavailability.

99% uptime means that the service is unavailable for 14.4 minutes per day, or 1.7 hours per week, or 7.2 hours per month. This totals 3.65 days of downtime every year.

99.9% uptime means that the service is unavailable for 1.44 minutes per day, or 0.17 hours per week, or 0.72 hours per month. This is only 8.8 hours of downtime every year.

As you can see, that is a huge difference between the two options, even though it is only a fraction of a percent. Similarly, 99.99% and 99.999% have even smaller amounts of downtime, making them far more preferable.

Beware of the 100% Guarantee

While MSPs can guarantee an amount of downtime that only spans a few minutes, there is no such thing as 100% uptime. Technical problems and necessary updates will crop up sooner or later, and these will force the network to go offline for at least a little while.

MSPs that promise 100% uptime are banking on the fact that most consumers won’t understand that this is an impossibility. They are deliberately trying to mislead you, and should be avoided.

Higher uptime guarantees generally have higher prices, so your company should try to find the right balance between the two. Choose the uptime level that is good enough to give you peace of mind at a reasonable cost.