As many posters on this forum are probably aware, I have been a long time booster of Volusion. If you visit their website you will note that the offer includes a 99.99% uptime guarantee.
What precisely is this uptime guarantee? When I decided to go with volusion, this was one of features that I found appealing. Personally, I thought of it as an indication of service, ie. on a yearly basis there are 8,760 hours *.9999 = 8759.124 meaning that in any given year I could expect 52 1/2 minutes of downtime.
Over the first couple of year, I must note that I did not notice any significant downtime at all; however in the last 6 months, Volusion has experienced four serious outages. The first outage occured in 9/09 and apparently was the result of a critical piece of the system architecure, a second outage occured for the exact same reason approximately 3 weeks later.
Early yesterday, one of our blade server chassis lost connectivity to our Storage Area Network. This resulted in many of our customers experiencing downtime or errors on their storefronts.
Upon identification of the issue, we immediately brought HP on-site. After extensive troubleshooting, HP engineers diagnosed the issue as a failed mid-plane within the chassis. The engineers replaced the mid-plane, and all connections were restored.
This is the second HP mid-plane that has failed in the past 30 days. While the chances of two failures of a similar nature are very remote, HP was able to confirm this to be the case. Based on the serial numbers of the two failed components, we have reason to believe that both came from a bad batch. We are researching this further with the help of HP’s labs, as well as performing a full audit on all of our HP equipment.
We recognize the impact that yesterday’s outage may have had on your business. We are working diligently with HP to prevent a recurrence of this issue in the future.
If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you for choosing Volusion!
Tells us how we're doing: Volusion Customer Service
Both failures resulted in thousands of dollars of lost sales and as a result, at that juncture I called them on the 'guarantee' - Volusion responded to this with a 'chump' credit:
Per the Service Level Warranty in our agreement (section 2C, Volusion Terms ), you are entitled to a partial refund of this month's service charge for website downtime.
We promise 99.99% uptime in a given billing cycle. When downtime beyond 0.01% occurs (approximately 5 minutes), we issue 5% of your monthly fee for each additional 30 minutes of downtime. Downtime is calculated from the time your issue is recorded in our trouble ticket system until it is resolved. Note that not all performance interruptions qualify for downtime.
A credit has been issued in the amount of $19.99. Please allow several business days for it to post to your bank records.
We assure you we are dedicated to preventing future downtime.
Volusion Customer Care" [emphasis supplied]
By the time I received the above notification, the system was operating within normal parameters and while I felt that I should've received a larger credit, I wasn't really in the mood to dispute the credit.
Approximately two-three weeks ago, we had yet another outage, this time apparently the result of a denial of service attack on the system, which was apparently resolved fairly quickly and which seemed to have only a minor impact on my sales figures for the day. In light of the fact that volusion itself appeared to be a victim and in light of the fact that any credit issued wouldn't be worth the trouble of even sending an e-mail, I decided not to bother them with respect to the 'uptime guarantee'
Finally, that brings us to today where a portion of Volusion's server's went down (according to them) which affected only 250 of their customers. Unfortunately I was one of the two hundred fifty and as I write this I have, yet again lost significant sales revenue.
While a portion of this post is merely to gripe at a 'lost day' there is also a general point fo be made:
1. Before making a hosting decision, try to understand precisely the meaning of any given uptime guarantee.
2. Whenever possible, try to research the host's uptime reliability - obviously without any experience dealing with a new company this can be difficult.
3. For webmasters dealing with more than one domain, consider diversifying your server risk by using more than one company so that a failure will only hit a portion of your websites. As a result previous failures with Volusion, instead of putting 'all my eggs in one basket' - I have begun utilizing different systems for my new 2010 websites.
4. At this juncture, I am no longer comfortable recommending Volusion until their server reliability improves.