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The most reliable (and unreliable) blogging services

Millions of people who blog don’t want to deal with hosting their blog themselves, so they use a blogging service instead. There are many things that factor into the choice of blogging service, but one of them should always be site reliability. After all, if people can’t access your blog, it won’t get read.

For this survey we have monitored the websites of nine blogging services for a period of four months to see how much downtime they have. The included services were Typepad, Blogger, WordPress.com, Blogster, Blog.com, Vox, Squarespace, Windows Live Spaces and LiveJournal.

As you can see, we included both “pure” blogging services, like Typepad and WordPress.com, as well as services such as LiveJournal and Windows Live Spaces that mix the blogging with other aspects of social media. Since we focused on blogging, we didn’t include any microblogging or lifestreaming services.

Uptime for blogging services, 10 Nov 2008 – 10 Mar 2009 (4 months)
Site Uptime % Downtime
Typepad 99,99% 14m
Blogger 99,99% 20m
WordPress.com 99,99% 20m
Windows Live Spaces 99,86% 4h 10m
Blogster 99,84% 4h 39m
Squarespace 99,82% 5h 13m
Vox 99,77% 6h 36m
LiveJournal 99,52% 13h 50m
Blog.com 98,75% 1d 12h 15m

The “big three” platforms dominate

If there is one thing that the results immediately show, it is that the “big three” blogging services, Typepad, WordPress.com and Blogger, stand in a league of their own when it comes to site availability. All three offer an impressive 99.99% uptime, which means that they will have no more than (approximately) four minutes of downtime per month on average.

We have previously shown that both Typepad and WordPress.com (not to be confused with the stand-alone WordPress software found at WordPress.org) are quite popular choices among the top bloggers. Typepad is used by 16 of the top 100 blogs, and WordPress.com is used by 5 of the top 100. Blogger is used by 3 of the top 100 blogs (one being the Official Google Blog). Their high reliability is no doubt one of the reasons they are popular.

One interesting thing to note is that two of the services included in this survey, Typepad and Vox, are from the same company (Six Apart), yet show very different availability. It is possible that Typepad has been given more internal resources than Vox (or simply has a totally different infrastructure), and this causes one platform to be more stable than the other.

Blog.com, the service that ended at the bottom in this test, did so largely due to having had a very problematic January.

(On a small side note, two of the services included here, LiveJournal and Windows Live Spaces, were also part of our 2008 social network downtime report.)

Conclusion

Judging by the results of this survey, the larger, more established blogging services have been able to leverage their resources to provide very stable platforms for their users. For example, WordPress.com has servers in three different data centers and Blogger has the massive resources of Google at its back. It isn’t easy for smaller companies to match that kind of setup.


Methodology and limitations

The test period was 10 Nov 2008 – 10 Mar 2009, i.e. 4 months. The sites were tested once every minute.

A site was considered down if it, from at least two different locations, could not be loaded within 30 seconds or returned an HTTP error code (5xx or 4xx).

It should be mentioned that a limitation of this survey is that we only monitored the home page of each service. The ideal way to perform this test would have been to monitor a large number of actual blogs on each platform and use that as a basis for calculating the uptime, but we felt that this was a bit outside the scope of this (admittedly quite small) survey.

That said, if the homepage can’t be loaded properly, the odds are that the blogs can’t either, so this survey will still give a decent indication of the site availability for these services.



24 Comments

Two major things:

“It should be mentioned that a limitation of this survey is that we only monitored the home page of each service.”

This is a major thing. Squarespace is the only service in the above list that actually uses its own system to power its own site. Blogger, WordPress, TypePad, et al. don’t use Blogger.com, WordPress.com and Typepad.com the application to run the pages you’re actually running the test against — so you’re more or less testing some sort of Datacenter uptime with this report, and not service uptime. The system could have the application you’re testing down, but their homepage up. You should be testing against a hosted blog on each platform. It’s easier to keep a regular homepage up than a user service.

Further, you’re reporting our service as down for 5h during these 3 months — but this is incorrect as it doesn’t take into account *scheduled* downtime. Aside from a 1H – 1.5H datacenter power outage in November — you’ve tracked our scheduled downtime as part of our overall downtime — since you’re just polling our homepage.

We’ll pull a report from Gomez (our 3rd party monitor) and post to our service blog shortly.

Further on Squarespace — we pulled our report from from Gomez (http://www.gomez.com/) that tests our system from 10 national and international locations. The service operates like pingdom but is more granular. These numbers are averaged and actually *include* scheduled maintenance:

TestTime ResponseTime (seconds) Availability (%)
11/01/08 0.29 99.95
12/01/08 0.44 99.92
01/01/09 0.44 99.93
02/01/09 0.31 99.92

Ha, so much for squarespace’s “99.98%” uptime they claim

@A. Casalena: Thank you for taking the time to comment. We clearly stated how we performed the survey and what the limitations were, so I won’t get into that, but you mention that we included downtime caused by scheduled maintenance as if this was something incorrect on our end. Yes, we did include all downtime, no matter what the reason was (does it matter to the end user why the site is down?). All sites were treated equally, so that should not be an issue in this case.

Regarding the numbers you included from Gomez, it would be helpful if you disclosed what they were measuring. How often were tests performed? What was the timeout limit? What (exactly) did you test (network uptime? site uptime? what URL? what were the critera for downtime?).

Without that information, the numbers won’t make much sense, and comparing numbers that way simply becomes a case of comparing apples and oranges.

@Marah Marie: Thank you for commenting. You are of course correct that other relevant considerations when choosing a platform include things such as pricing, features, etc, but this test was about site availability (and again, we clearly specified the methodology).

We’re also not sure what data you are basing the LiveJournal comment on, but according to our monitoring that simply isn’t the case. To name just one example, within the period we tested, the site had close to three hours of downtime on Nov 18 (which was the expected result of a DC migration). January actually saw less downtime than both December and February, at least for the site itself.

Squarespace is by far the best blog service.

Squarespace is so much better than the other services tested it hurts.

(Re-posting)

“but you mention that we included downtime caused by scheduled maintenance as if this was something incorrect on our end. Yes, we did include all downtime, no matter what the reason was (does it matter to the end user why the site is down?).”

This isn’t true — of course this matters from an end user perspective. Maintenance scheduled and planned for at 1-3AM EST is completely different than unexpected intermittent availability during working hours of the day.

“Regarding the numbers you included from Gomez, it would be helpful if you disclosed what they were measuring. How often were tests performed? What was the timeout limit? What (exactly) did you test (network uptime? site uptime? what URL? what were the critera for downtime?).”

The reason this is an Apples to Oranges comparison is that you actually tested our application service, but tested the static front pages of the remaining services. Squarespace is the only provider listed that uses its own hosting service for it’s front page. Why not test an actual TypePad blog, including the back-end application availability?. If you’d like us to set up a front page disconnected from our real application that you can test against for future tests of this nature, let me know. We’d rather just test the real service though.

To answer your Gomez questions specifically:

> If you disclosed what they were measuring. How often were tests performed?

They’re testing our application availability (www.squarespace.com availability, which is an account called ‘www’). The tests are conducted against a live page from our application, and test that the page is served in a reasonable amount of time. Tests that take too long to complete (over 2 seconds) are considered failures. This isn’t a simple ping or some sort of network level test.

The timeout limit is actually tracked 4 different ways — depending on what’s really timing out (socket read, socket connect, etc). These vary from 12-60 seconds, but are ultimately irrelevant, as the tests are against if the dynamic page is sent completely in a reasonable amount of time.

Further, the tests are conducted every minute from 10 geographically diverse nodes (some US, some elsewhere). Thus, it would seem the test is actually more sensitive than yours.

As a final point, can you explain how you’ve only tracked 20 minutes of blogger downtime during this period, when their own status blog seems to indicate more downtime than that from only scheduled maintenance (http://status.blogger.com/) — though this could be the “not testing the actual service issue” from my previous point.

@Marah Marie: We’ve specified exactly how the measurement was done in the methodology part at the bottom of the post (you asked where we got our figures).

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