What Does Reliability Really Mean?

By: Chris Witt

We have all seen the TV commercials from Comcast and Verizon for their business Internet and phone services. These sound very attractive because of the low cost but buyer beware. Don’t get me wrong, these types of services are appropriate for some very small businesses, especially ones who maintain home offices. These are businesses that do not rely on stable Internet or phone service.

In the ads from these companies, they tout their uptime – 99.9%? Does everyone really know what this means? People outside the business probably don’t. It looks good in a TV commercial or in a print ad; 99% of anything is pretty good…Right? Let’s look at the numbers:

Availability% Downtime per year Downtime per month Downtime per week
99% 3.65 days 7.20 hours 1.68 hours
99.9% 8.76 hours 43.8 minutes 10.1 minutes
99.99% 52.56 minutes 4.32 minutes 1.01 minutes
99.999% 5.26 minutes 25.9 seconds 6.05 seconds
99.9999% 31.5 seconds 2.59 seconds 0.605 seconds
100% 0 seconds 0 seconds 0 seconds

So, back to the TV commercial. Is 99.9% acceptable? One of the critical questions we ask our clients is “How much downtime can you tolerate?” The last thing we want is to have our clients spend more money than they have to. However, we also don’t want the irate call when they have lost their service.

No Internet or phone provider is perfect. They all experience outages at some point. The second major item to consider – What is the SLA (Service Level Agreement) relating to service recovery?

The so-called business services are referred to as “best effort”. This means they guarantee nothing. They will make their best effort to restore the service. This is contrasted by true commercial-grade service which typically includes guarantees and financial penalties for non-performance.

So, when considering your Internet and phone service, be sure to take into account how much downtime your business can accept, and how downtime is handled by your provider.

Remember, you get what you pay for!

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