Can Your Website Handle the 24/7 Stress Test?Today’s media consumers are more mobile, and more demanding than ever when it comes to the speed and reliability of their content delivery. This increasing demand is putting more stress on websites and applications than ever before, since users are viewing more videos and images, streaming more audio and downloading more files to their mobile devices, laptops and PCs.

If you manage an ecommerce, advertising site, social media app, or any other type of streaming media delivery site, you know that slow page loads can drive your users crazy, and can even result in lost revenue – as much as 7 percent in lost sales conversions for every second of delay.

If you have hundreds or thousands of users across the globe simultaneously downloading large files, this can put a major strain on your site. That’s why it’s important to make sure your web hosting provider is reliable – and an open cloud-based provider coupled with a Content Delivery Network (CDN) can help achieve that.

With Rackspace Media Hosting, for example, video, images, audio and other file types are delivered at blazing speeds using cloud object storage empowered by the Akamai CDN. A CDN is a series of globally distributed servers that store static content. When users want to access your site, the static aspects of your site – images, files, even video and audio – are delivered from the server that is geographically closest, which speeds up web page load times.

And because the Rackspace solution is based on the OpenStack cloud solution, reliability is a given. An open cloud is built using open source development standards; a community of dedicated developers contributes code, code fixes, debugging and other functionality changes to the solution, ensuring that the solution is reliable, scalable, and easy to use.

These factors give your media a stronger chance of staying available during a high traffic event or even a DDoS attack, said Jerry Schwartz, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Rackspace.

Of course, all hosting providers will suffer from downtime — even if it is just for a few seconds, said Tarun Bhatti, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Rackspace.

“One hundred percent uptime is not something any hosting provider can deliver consistently,” he said. “Even ‘Six 9s,’ or 99.9999 percent uptime requires million-dollar, continuous-availability servers” that not many traditional hosting providers can afford.

You always should carefully investigate any provider’s service level agreement (SLA) to determine how much uptime they can guarantee — and work to maximize that uptime. Just remember that the greater the uptime, the more costly the managed hosting solution, Bhatti said.

He suggests asking any potential managed hosting provider how they measure their uptime; some providers measure monthly, while others do so more frequently. On a day-to-day basis, some providers measure every thirty minutes, while some check as frequently as every five seconds. Ask your potential provider how and how often they measure uptime, and make sure it’s spelled out in your terms of service.

In addition, Bhatti advises finding out how (and how much) you will be compensated if you do experience downtime that exceeds what the provider has guaranteed. You also can track providers’ average uptime using freely available tools like Netcraft, Bhatti said. Netcraft tracks the uptime of all major hosting providers every fifteen minutes.

Downtime can be an unsettling experience for your business, but with a CDN, a solution based on an open cloud architecture and, of course, being prepared for the eventuality can make the reality of downtime much easier to handle.

Sharon Florentine is a freelance writer who covers everything from holistic veterinary care to data center technology and occasionally blogs for cloud provider Rackspace Hosting.