Does a guaranteed uptime Service Level Agreement put money in your pocket?

Fri, 18th February 2011, 18:28

Google recently announced that it would drop the “scheduled maintenance clause” from its service level agreement (SLA) for paying customer of its Google Apps. Google apps is a bundled service providing email, calendar, and more to business clients. Microsoft, Salesforce, and others offer similar packages.

Google says it will now pursue 99.99 percent uptime for services. The previous threshold before issuing customers a service credits was 99.9 percent.

“Unlike most providers, we don't plan for our users to be down, even when we're upgrading our services or maintaining our systems. For that reason, we're removing the SLA clause that allows for scheduled downtime. 

"Going forward, all downtime will be counted and applied towards the customer's SLA. We are the first major cloud provider to eliminate maintenance windows from their service level agreement." Matthew Glotzbach, Google Enterprise Product Management Director stated.

Google claims that last year Gmail was available to both business and consumers for 99.984 per cent, putting its email close to but not quite on par with the reliability levels of phone lines. Glotzbach took the opportunity to compare Google's effort with Microsoft's rival platform - Business Productivity Online (BPOS) - noting that it has recorded 33 planned downtimes.

While clients may initially believe that Google is raising the bar to new heights for the web hosting industry, a closer look at their SLA shows that potentially the announcement is more marketing hype, and an opportunistic kick at their Microsoft rival than substance.

Customer Must Request Service Credit. In order to receive any of the Service Credits described above, Customer must notify Google within thirty days from the time Customer becomes eligible to receive a Service Credit. Failure to comply with this requirement will forfeit Customer’s right to receive a Service Credit.

Maximum Service Credit. The aggregate maximum number of Service Credits to be issued by Google to Customer for all Downtime that occurs in a single calendar month shall not exceed fifteen days of Service added to the end of Customer’s term for the Service. Service Credits may not be exchanged for, or converted to, monetary amounts.

Google SLA limits liability to 15 days of credit, and only then if the customer submits a request.

Googling for Microsoft elusive SLA  netted frustration. (maybe I should have used Bing). I did find a statement attributed to  a Microsoft spokesperson stating " “Microsoft Online Services offer the industry’s most rigorous SLAs (service level agreements).  We guarantee 99.9% uptime, or we give customers money back.  And, we count any service issue as downtime.  Microsoft Online Services have averaged 99.9% or better uptime since the start of this year.  While competitors cite similar SLAs, they only count outages that exceed 10 minutes, and thus, they can claim 100% uptime even when they experience frequent short outages in 9 minute increments. We know our customers expect guarantees they can trust, and that’s what we deliver.”

For comparison purposes, I have checked and copied the pertinent section of the Service Level Agreements of five random hosts listed on While the bundled services may not be the same, the availability of service should be comparable.

The following list is in no particular order, has been edited for brevity, and should not to be construed as an endorsement of services provided. Before considering using any provider of web hosting services or products,  a potential client should read and understand the complete SLA of the hosts they are considering.

CirtexHosting: 99.9 Uptime Guarantee

"fails to meet it's 99.9% uptime guarantee, and it is not due to one of the exceptions below, credits will be made available to each client, upon request, on a case by case basis. CirtexHosting does not credit a full month's service for minor downtime. This would not be financially healthy for CirtexHosting, and in turn would only negatively affect the service level CirtexHosting provides to you. "Partial refunds for partial downtime" is our standard policy."

(Editors note: The list of exceptions mentioned in aforementioned quote is ten very inclusive points)

Aspiration Hosting: guarantees a 99.9% server uptime

credit schedule applies (for the next hosting invoice):

  • 99.50 - 99.89 = 50% service credit
  • 99.00 - 99.49 = 60% service credit
  • 98.00 - 98.99 = 70% service credit
  • 95.00 - 97.99 = 80% service credit
  • 93.00 - 94.99 = 90% service credit
  • 90.00 - 92.99 = 100% service credit

"Customers claiming credit under our uptime guarantee must do so by opening a ticket within 72 hours of the incident"

Hostgator: 99.9% Uptime Guarantee

"uptime of the server is defined as the reported uptime from the operating system and the Apache Web Server which may differ from the uptime reported by other individual services. To request a credit, please contact [email protected] with justification. All requests must be made in writing via email."

"Dedicated servers are covered by a network guarantee in which the credit is prorated for the amount of time the server is down"

Fused: 99.9% Uptime Guarantee

For any month that your web hosting service is not available for ~45 minutes, we'll give you a free month in return. We hold ourselves accountable.

Media Temple:

Availability of service. Customer understands and agrees that interruptions of Web Hosting Services may occur due to scheduled maintenance and repair by Provider, or by strikes, riots, vandalism, fires, inclement weather, third-party provider outages, cable cuts , power crisis shortages, acts of terrorism, and or uncontrollable acts of God, or other causes beyond Provider’s control, as defined by standard practices in the industry. Customer agrees that under no circumstances will Provider be held liable for any financial or other damages due to such interruptions. In no event shall Provider be liable to Customer or any other person for any special, incidental, consequential or punitive damages of any kind, including, without limitation, refunds of fees, loss of profits, loss of income or cost of replacement services. Such failure or delay shall not constitute a default under this Agreement.

HostPapa: 99.9 Uptime Guarantee

HostPapa offers its clients a 99.9% network uptime guarantee for customer satisfaction purposes and also to ensure that your business is running problem-free. HostPapa will try to maintain maximum uptime. HostPapa is not responsible for any downtime caused by the client. Web Hosting


Share this article:

divider graphic