Why website uptime and speed tests aren’t as important as you think

Everyone has their very own concept of what makes a great web host. Loads of options, highly effective servers, or possibly nice help, low costs, or possibly some mixture of those and different performance important to the person.

Some specialist website hosting assessment web sites additionally place a excessive weight on their very own website hosting benchmarks, although, particularly speed and host uptime (the proportion of time a website is out there on-line). That looks as if the logical factor to do however does it truly make sense?

There’s nothing improper with working these tests – certainly we have completed them ourselves – and the outcomes can really feel like worthwhile data. No-one needs a gradual or unreliable website, and something which highlights host, or warns you a couple of poor one, needs to be welcome.

However, you have to be cautious how you interpret these figures. Although the high-precision outcomes make them look goal, they’re typically primarily based on numerous very subjective judgements, and that may considerably have an effect on their reliability. In this text we’ll have a look at a number of the points you must think about on this respect.

Understanding the tests

Measuring net host speed and uptime is difficult, with many components concerned. Which servers are checked? Which websites? How typically? Is the speed determine a server response time, the ‘time to first byte’ (the time between requesting website content material), the time to load a pattern website, or one thing else?

It’s like shopping a chart evaluating the 20 high electrical vehicles. The rankings may change radically relying on the check driving model, atmosphere, site visitors circumstances, climate, temperature and extra, and till you perceive the small print, there’s no strategy to inform how related they is perhaps to you.

When a internet hosting assessment presents you with an uptime or speed determine, do not take it at face worth. Read the assessment in full and search for any clarification of the way it’s calculated. If you do not see something, search for a ‘How we check’ site-level article with extra particulars.

Just studying the reason of what is going on on can inform you lots. Is it clear what is going on on, precisely what’s being checked, how the tests are run? Do you really feel there’s sufficient data that you may perform the identical tests your self?

If it is all a bit (or extraordinarily) obscure, or there is no clarification in any respect, that alone makes the figures nearly meaningless as you’ve no concept what’s being checked. Most assessment websites do have a good clarification of what they’re doing, luckily, however that may additionally increase many extra points.

Bitcatcha Sample Speed Test Report

(Image credit score: Bitcatcha)

Speed tests

The first query to contemplate with any net host speed check is what, precisely, is being examined?

We usually benchmark a shared internet hosting plan, and nearly all website hosting assessment websites do the identical. That’s an affordable place to begin, nevertheless it would not point out what kind of efficiency you’ll see from a bunch’s managed WordPress plans, VPN or devoted internet hosting.

Even if you’re purchasing for shared internet hosting, there are issues. For instance, many hosts have a number of ranges of shared internet hosting, the place every plan will get a special degree of system sources (CPU, RAM and so on). The check designer should determine which degree of shared internet hosting to incorporate within the benchmarks.

The easiest possibility is to select the most affordable shared internet hosting product in any vary – however the hassle is, that penalizes suppliers who provide primary shopper internet hosting. Provider X might have a number of the finest high-end internet hosting merchandise round, as an illustration, however as a result of it additionally has a really primary $1 a month starter plan (which needs to be a plus), it is prone to drop down the speed check ranks.

A fairer method is to decide on equal internet hosting packages from every supplier, so the check compares related merchandise. But does ‘equal’ imply an identical worth, or options, or some mixture of the 2? There’s a number of subjective judgement concerned in figuring that out. And even when the tester by some means comes up with the proper alternative of comparable merchandise, that may all change the very subsequent day if the host updates its characteristic record or costs.

This doesn’t suggest the outcomes haven’t any worth in any respect. If host X tops the present record for baseline shared internet hosting speeds, and host Y trails behind in a distant final place, then that is helpful data. And it’s actually higher than having no data in any respect. Just remember the fact that it may not precisely characterize the speeds you’ll see together with your most popular product.

UptimeRobot.com Speed Chart

(Image credit score: UptimeRobotic.com)

What is ‘speed’ anyway?

The subsequent benchmarking subject to contemplate is how the check measures speed. There are two frequent strategies.

The first checks server response time, or how lengthy the server takes to answer a request. That’s a easy statistic and straightforward to check, nevertheless it’s principally about community speed, and would not cowl a protracted record of related components. If your server is brief on CPU energy, or RAM, or has gradual storage units, as an illustration, that is not going to be correctly mirrored in a response time, as it is not loading a full website web page.

The second possibility measures the load time for a check website, maybe a easy WordPress template. That’s an enchancment, as it takes account of extra efficiency components, nevertheless it’s nonetheless impossible to replicate your scenario. Your personal website might be very totally different to the check template, possibly runs on a special CMS, with your individual customized plugins, and none of that will likely be mirrored within the check outcomes.

Template-based speed tests are nearly at all times primarily based on an online host’s default setup, too. Does the host robotically allow Cloudflare or another CDN, say? Is it utilizing the most recent and quickest model of PHP, and essentially the most speed-optimized PHP settings?

Doing it this fashion has some worth for first-timers who’ll settle for the default settings and by no means change something, nevertheless it’s not a lot use for anybody else. If you may combine a CDN your self, change your PHP model, or make a single speed tweak, ever, wherever in your internet hosting management panel, that may very well be sufficient to seriously change your host’s check speed rating.

Picture of the Earth with a web of links over the surface

(Image credit score: Shutterstock / NicoElNino)

Location, location, location…

The additional complication with any speed check is determining the places concerned. Where on the earth is the check website, and the place are the servers working the tests? It could make an enormous distinction.

Many net hosts have a number of information facilities, as an illustration, and it is impossible that they will provide the identical efficiency. If the check website is in Los Angeles, however you’ll select New Jersey, or London, or Brisbane, or some other place, that is prone to have a big impact on the outcomes. (Most of the assessment websites we checked did not even point out the problem, so you’re in all probability not going to search out out.)

The finest speed tests are usually carried out by an automatic service which runs simultaneous efficiency checks from a number of places. For instance, Bitcatcha runs tests from the US (east and west coasts), London, Singapore, Sao Paolo, Mumbai, Sydney, Japan, Canada and Germany, and offers you a ranking primarily based on the general outcomes.

The benefit of this method is it permits you to check net hosts wherever for his or her worldwide efficiency. The drawback is that in case your website would not have a worldwide viewers – most guests are from your house nation, possibly – then the figures you want are for his or her places solely, and that might give you a really totally different ranking.

As we have mentioned above, this doesn’t suggest the figures haven’t any worth. Any check outcomes are welcome. But do not take any single speed ranking as a cast-iron assured measure of a bunch’s general efficiency – it may take some thought to determine what the information truly means for you.

HRank.com Reports Website Uptimes

(Image credit score: HRank.com)

What is ‘uptime’ anyway?

At first look, measuring website uptime appears comparatively straightforward. It’s simply the period of time your website is up and working, expressed as a share. If an online host offers you 99.9% uptime yearly, as an illustration, that interprets to eight hours 46 minutes of downtime over the yr. Simple.

Except, nicely, it actually is not. Web hosts typically outline ‘uptime’ as which means your server is accessible, not your website. For instance, HostGator’s Uptime Guarantee page says: “Just as a result of your website doesn’t work, this doesn’t imply your server has downtime. As lengthy as the server is out there to ship your content material, then the assure is met.”

Many assessment and testing websites additionally focus largely on server availability. For occasion, UptimeRobotic says it detects downtime by sending HTTP requests to a website, and searching for HTTP standing error responses, or no response in any respect.

The drawback is there are various conditions the place the server is perhaps up and working, however a website is near unusable. Just think of all of the occasions you’ve seen this. You go to a website however see unusual error messages, possibly some options do not work in any respect, or speed is so poor you hand over and go some other place.

Issues like this are arguably the worst you can get. If your website is inaccessible, folks may surprise if it is some ISP or community subject. If they’ll attain your website, nevertheless it would not work, they’re way more prone to blame you. And but, in case your server is out there and can return a web page – even when it says ‘sorry, we have got issues, come again later’ – it is potential that none of this will likely be mirrored within the uptime figures.

Uptime.com Uptime Report

(Image credit score: Uptime.com)

More uptime issues

There are loads of different potential uptime testing issues. As with the speed tests, as an illustration, it is important to know which servers are included within the benchmarks. If they’re masking a particular product solely (the most affordable shared internet hosting), they will not essentially inform you something in any respect about the remainder of the vary.

Uptime checks can generally falsely report a website is down, too. This occurs typically sufficient that Uptime.com has a FAQ page on the subject, the place it lists fairly just a few potential causes: ‘Most probably candidates embody native points, firewalls, blacklists, timeouts, and load balancer points.’

These issues might not be frequent, however they’re nonetheless one thing to contemplate. The distinction between uptimes of 99.99% and 99.98% is barely round 18 minutes a yr, as an illustration – if the check checks a website each minute, that represents solely 18 deceptive fails out of 525,600 tests over a yr, or one error for each 29,200 makes an attempt.

None of those points imply you ought to ignore uptime and speed outcomes solely. Even in the event that they’re masking primary shared internet hosting and you’re after a VPS, say, it is attention-grabbing to see if a supplier is racing forward of the competitors, or lagging far behind.

But do not assume the figures give you a whole and correct image, both. They’ll give you a basic concept of how the net host performs in some areas, however these might not be the areas most related to you, and they actually do not give you the total efficiency story.

What TechRadar advises

Always take uptime and speed tests with a handful of salt. Because they’re typically the one objective-looking numerical tests that website hosting assessment websites can carry out, they are usually put within the limelight and positioned firmly on a really excessive pedestal. In our opinion although, they need to solely be thought-about as secondary, minor, parameters when selecting which website hosting firm to go for and that’s mirrored in our assessment course of.

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