Is 99% Software Availability Good?

Jan 17, 2022·

2 min read

If you ever took at test at school, you’d probably be really happy with getting a 99 grade. After all, it’s almost a perfect score.

But when you’re talking about software systems, is 99% availability good?

Well, if your system needs to be available 24/7 everyday, 99% won’t cut it.

Downtime Table

Take a look at the below table. It shows how much downtime (in time) equals a given percentage.

Availability       Annual Downtime
99%3 days, 15 hours, 40 minutes
99.9%8 hours, 46 minutes
99.99%52 minutes, 36 seconds
99.999%5.26 minutes

What's this Mean?

If your system should be available at all times, a 99% availability means that your system can have almost 4 days of downtime per year! For a system that needs to be available, that is a terribly long time.

Imagine if you have a business critical system that fails. If it was down for almost 4 days, your company could lose millions/billions of dollars! Take for example, when Facebook was down in 2021 for about 7 hours. Their stock dropped 5%, or $40 billion dollars! This was only for a 7 hour outage. Can you imagine if they had just 99% availability and Facebook was down for 4 days?

What should you aim for?

This depends on your system, and usually a probability or downtime measurement (rather than percentage) should be given. "Five 9's" is a common "standard" that systems try to aim for. That is 99.999% availability (hence five 9s). Standards is in quotes because it really isn't a standard, it's just what's commonly mentioned in the industry as a goal to achieve.

Check out this Wikipedia article for more information.

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