Nothing is more irritating than not being able to load a website because the server is unavailable. Because we, too, are annoyed by this, we tested the server availability for popular website builder providers back in 2011. In our test, Jimdo came away as the winner, with only 33 minutes and four seconds of downtime over a period of four months.
As illustrated in our blog entry on page speeds, the amount of time a customer or visitor has to wait between entering a web address and actually seeing content is more important than ever – especially when using a mobile device. The winning combination is the shortest possible waiting period with maximum availability. If your site doesn’t load within just a few seconds, it will be closed with a single click. And your competition wins thanks to its faster loading speeds.
How was server availability tested?
As with the previous test, we used the service Pingdom.com to check the server availability of popular website builders over a period of five months (April 15 to September 15, 2014). Once per minute, we pinged test pages created with Jimdo, Weebly, Wix, 1&1-MyWebsite, Webnode, Squarespace, Shopify, and WP Engine.
As a premium WordPress hosting service, WP Engine (read review) is not a website builder. We simply took WP Engine into account as a point of reference in order to see what kind of response times a premium provider can offer.
A PING check determines the status of a site or server with the use of ICMP packets, and considers a site to be down if 3 out of 5 packets get no response.
Which provider is the most reliable?
The result is somewhat surprising – the provider Webnode moved from its last place in 2011 to first place – beating even WP Engine. It must be noted, however, that in this year’s test, all providers achieved availability ratings of over 99%.
Here is a comparison, sorted by availability:
|Company||Uptime %||Downtime||x down||Response Time US||Response T. Europe||Server Locations|
|Webnode||99.99%||24m||18||716 ms||205 ms||CZ|
|Squarespace||99.99%||29m||15||361 ms||465 ms||USA|
|WP Engine||99.99%||30m||4||317 ms||410 ms||USA, UK, JP|
|Weebly||99.95%||1h 59||46||290 ms||727ms||USA|
|1&1 – MyWebsite||99.93%||2h 26m||75||619 ms||767 ms||USA, GER|
|Shopify||99.91%||3h 23m||25||206 ms||378 ms||USA|
|Jimdo||99.87%||4h 55m||10||522 ms||1183 ms||USA, GER, JP|
|Wix||99.51%||17h 56m||155||231 ms||435 ms||USA|
Notes: ms – milliseconds, JP – Japan, CZ – Czech Republic, GER – Germany
Why does a server fail?
There is a difference between scheduled and unscheduled downtimes. Scheduled downtimes include maintenance or update downtimes, and usually occur at times when the servers are not in high demand. This can, of course, become an issue when a visitor in the USA wants to access a server located in Europe. Due to the time difference, a server might be down right in the middle of the workday in the USA.
Unplanned downtimes are problematic for any provider and require immediate action. This includes power outages and technical issues, server overloads, or, in the worst case, attacks by hackers. A provider will not be able to schedule these, but will have to react quickly in order to make the server available again.
Does the server’s location influence its availability?
Apart from WP Engine, none of the hosting services allows its customers to choose the server’s location. Jimdo and 1&1 do have several server locations, however. The site is automatically hosted wherever the most traffic is generated.
Sometimes, this leads to very different response times, as is the case with Webnode: If someone accesses your website from the United States, their response time is almost double what a visitor from Europe experiences.
Our conclusion to the server availability test:
- Values above 99% are generally very good for all providers. No provider will be able to guarantee 100% availability in the long term.
- A server’s loading times greatly depend on its location. However, unless you are a WP Engine customer, you cannot influence the server’s location.
- An expensive provider does not necessarily mean better availability, as can be seen when comparing Webnode and WP Engine.
- Some downtimes are not due to scheduled events such as server maintenance, but due to unplanned issues, e.g. technical problems.
Our advice: If you want to run a website that targets people outside of the United States, we suggest that you host the website in the target country.