When 100% is not 100%

Rackspace Managed Hosting is well known for their support and their 100% network uptime guarantee. One night last week, between approximately 23:31PDT and 23:51PDT there was an outage which affected Rackspace’s authoritative DNS servers and possibly other parts of their network. As a result, any site that uses Rackspace’s nameservers may or may not have worked during that time period. As my own personal domain uses Rackspace nameservers and was not working, I inquired about the outage and received the following reply from a Rackspace account manager:

“… Our SLA provides a 5% discount off your monthly fees for every 30 minutes of network downtime you incur. Your DNS connectivity problems lasted for a total of 20 minutes, therefore not constituted under the SLA as grounds for a discount.”

I guess that means that although they have a 100% network uptime guarantee, they don’t have to do anything about it as long as the outages occur in blocks of less than 30 minutes. Something about this doesn’t sound right to me…

25 responses to “When 100% is not 100%”

  1. […] When 100% is not 100%, this is related to one of the things I mentioned in my presentation yesterday at Future of Web Apps. You would think for how much they’re charging Rackspace could afford a less draconian interpretation of their “100%” promise, either that or they should invest more into their infrastructure. « Crazy Egg […]

  2. Ha, they sure fooled you! And they think their policy is good for business?!

  3. Never knew that Rackspace was known for their support. I thought they were known for hosting well known, long time spammers and password scammers.

  4. They’re too much overpriced for my liking. I’ve been with other companies and have been quite happy with the uptime, less than an hour in the past 5 months. No one can guarantee 100% *all the time*, it’s impossible.

  5. 30 minutes a month, 6 hours a year works out to be an SLA of 99.95%, which isn’t that great

  6. That’s not unusual for service companies to promise the moon and then have a week compensation for a failed sla. I worked for a company who promised on-site service in 3 hours knowing full well we’d miss that sla 50% of the time. Their comp to the companies was one extra day added to their yearly contract. I asked my manager if he thought the customers wanted an extra day or if they thought they should get 3 hour service–I was told I was welcome to work somewhere else. Nice.

  7. Nik, I think you’re being generous.

    365 / 12 = 30.41666666667 (days/month)
    30.41666666667 * 12 = 730.00000000008 (hours/month)
    29 / 60 = 0.48333333333 (non-refundable hours of monthly downtime)
    (1 – (0.48333333333 / 730.00000000008)) * 100 = 99.933789954% (percentage uptime guaranteed)

    And that’s only true if the guarantee applies to non-contiguous 30 minute intervals.

    I guess that means that although they have a 100% network uptime guarantee, they don’t have to do anything about it as long as the outages occur in blocks of less than 30 minutes.

    This sounds like you’re saying the guarantee only kicks in if the 30 minutes happens contiguously — all at once, and I just talked to a Rackspace person who thought that to be the case.

    If it does have to happen contiguously (the SLA is vague, I e-mailed my account representative to clarify, as the person I talked to before was hazy on the details), the uptime guarantee is much less than 99.93% percent. If you treat one minute as the smallest measured increment, and consider a 29down/1up repeating scenario, you could have a month with only 24.33333333334 hours of uptime with none of the 1,411 half-hours of cumulative downtime being refundable!

    Now, it should be noted that Rackspace uptime is awesome, but if their uptime guarantee is as you stated (requiring 30 contiguous minutes of downtime before any refund), their guarantee is worthless. Their uptime could fall to almost 3.33% without them having to refund a dime.

  8. I’ve been with Rackspace for years, and I must say that their “Network” uptime” and support is awesome (worth every penny compared to “other” hosting experiences). However, when there has been issues with connectivity, regardless of the duration, I’ve always seen compensation. Even if it’s just a minute, they’ve honored it if for no other reason than to be “fanatical”.

    That said, I know Rackspace also offers DNS services for FREE, however I don’t know if this is really part of the “Network Uptime” SLA, which is why I run my own DNS. Sure DNS is a critical service, where it can simulate an outage, but it’s not the network.. I don’t know, maybe that’s splitting hairs.

  9. Surely you new that 100% was rubbish when you signed up.. but would you have had a different perspective on the matter if you had gotten a conversational reply instead of a quoted SLA?

  10. Yes, everyone knows that 100% uptime is not possible, but a 100% uptime SLA is not all that unreasonable. The idea behind it is that that the figure “100%” in your marketing material will generate enough revenue to more than offset the SLA credits that will be given out when there is an outage. I am just surprised that they didn’t stand behind the SLA or that they interpreted it this way. Not sure about the argument about DNS being a “free” service and not covered by the SLA, that wasn’t mentioned in the reply. I guess I should also mention in the interest of full disclosure that I worked at Rackspace for 2 years. When I was there, a 1 min outage resulted in a credit if a customer requested it. The reply I received was so opposite the previous policy, I felt I should post it.

  11. EasyDNS is good as is UltraDNS, I have been using EasyDNS for over a year now with no downtime – give the job to the guys who know what they are doing

  12. Total of 30 Minutes downtime in 365 days is quite reasonable for lesser mortals like us. My sites are down until I file a support ticket – LOL. I guess the FCC laws for telephone networks is the most stringent. I forget the exact period, but its in minutes for a period of couple of years.

  13. UltraDNS is the only company I know of that offers a 99.999 SLA that has never been violated. From what I hear they are by far the best DNS. Having never gone down is pretty impressive. If your revenue is affected by downtime I couldn’t see using any other DNS provider. It just doesn’t make sense.

  14. Hello,
    There is a recomendation in setting up DNS servers:
    – you must have at least 2 DNS server.
    – they must be located at different geographical locations
    – the must not be on the same class A/B/C network.
    If you have been hit by rackspace DNS downtime probably you did not follow one of these rules.
    Nikolay Kabaivanov

  15. Rackspace’s name servers are actually geographically diverse, load balanced, and redundant. Unfortunately, the problem was a systemic one and affected all of their name servers at the same time.

  16. found this on basecamp customer forum from back in MARCH 07

    >Rackspace is currently experiencing some network problems. We’re on the
    >phone with them loudly. We’ll have it resolved as soon as possible.
    >We’re very sorry for this 😦

    Mar 28, 2007 5:08pm
    David Heinem…

    We’re back again. The network outage lasted 8 minutes. We’re investigating this with our hosting partner and will get to the bottom of why this happened.

    the same rackspace with this guarantee?

    >The Zero-Downtime Network™
    Zero Downtime means you get nothing less than 100% Network Uptime. It’s not wishful thinking—it’s exactly what our network was designed to do. We guarantee it never will go down. Ever.

  17. Stop putting Rackspace down! They have fanatical support and i have never had any bad feedback grom them. They are awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. 100% is a pretty lofty goal. I think that refers to network redundancy into the data centers–which means there are potentialy other issues (network devices etc).

    Do other hosting companies actually compensate you for any down time? That sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

  19. Wow, I find that hard to believe. ServerBeach doesn’t advertise 100% uptime because we know that our customers know that is impossible. However, we do advertise 99.999% network uptime so if your server goes down for 26 seconds, we will credit you. I can’t imagine someone being down for 29 minutes and not eligible for some sort of credit.

  20. I apologize, I meant to say if our network goes down for 26 seconds, not necessarily your server. Your server could go down for various reasons.

  21. Rackspace customer Avatar
    Rackspace customer

    I am a rackspace customer and it followed up with them on this. They stated that there hasn’t been any DNS outages because if there was then their thousands of customers would have been affected then more people surely would have called in and it would have been all over the internet and I can’t find anything on the internet stating a dns outage. power issues yes, but no DNS.

    Are you sure you weren’t running your own DNS server and that failed. So it wasn’t covered under their 1 hour hardware SLA. That is what it sounds like to me there. Because if network goes down for a second with a 100% guarantee then you get credited. For hardware it would have to be over an hour so that is where I think you are confused on. I hope this helped you.

  22. @Rackspace customer

    There is no confusion. This post is over a year old. In September 2006 there was a DNS outage. The person you spoke with likely did not work there in September 2006, therefore the reason they didn’t know anything about it.

  23. […] “100% uptime” doesn’t mean what you think. Rackspace suffered a (short) DNS outage in September 2006. Last fall they suffered two outages due to power issues — the most colorful one was caused […]

  24. Rackspace ROCKS!!!! They serve a most valuable service to their customers and come to work everyday to WIN!! Stop all the hating on DNS outages, perhaps GLobal LBing would have fixed the original issue? There are 3rd parties out there which offer this SaaS you know.


    1. Haha. This post is from 9/2006. But thanks for the Rackspace promo. I guess the fact that your IP is a Rackspace corporate IP wouldn’t play into your enthusiasm at all 😉

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