Industry Trends

You’re Hosted By…Who?

I remember a day when you needed certain qualifications to run a company.  You needed a track record in business, the ability to grease palms and sell your ideas, and most importantly you needed a business plan!  My how times have changed.  Today there seem to be hundreds of new hosting companies popping up around the world every day.

Who is behind them?  What is their history?  What is their future?

To put some perspective on things, I started ServInt in February of 1995.  I spent nearly a year prior to that planning to start the business.  A great friend of mine at the time used to spend hours each day discussing it with me.  Many other friends would provide a nice brainstorming group.  I had several meetings with folks from the SBA, various business professors at my university, and a number of business leaders I was fortunate enough to have access to.  The first check ServInt ever wrote was to a lawyer and the next meeting I had was with an accountant.  Then, I ran back to the business leaders for a while longer until I wrapped up my nearly 100 page business plan.  All that in 1995 with little to no direct competition.  All that, and still miles away from what many businesses in other industries had done at the time.

Now back to present day.  You’ve picked your hosting provider from a seemingly endless list of companies.  They have a crazy deal — check — amazing price — check — specs look good — check — and they have an AJAXy website with lots to play with.  You’re sold!

But who on earth is behind that company?  Downloading a slick website template and knowing how to lease a dedicated server somewhere with Parallels running on it doesn’t translate to knowing how to run a business.  These companies are usually motivated by the thought of a quick buck, fueling the false conception that the seemingly low barriers to entry in the hosting space translate to running a hosting business, and the false conception that success will be easy and quick to follow.  Business is competition, just like any other.  My son knows how to ride a bike, but he’s not itching to enter the Tour de France.

Choosing a hosting provider should be a major decision.  You should want a provider you can stay with for a long time, that you can grow with, and one who will grow with you.  You want a provider who has been around a while–or to make me seem less biased, one who is run by people who have a proven track record.  You should also choose a provider who can handle problems effectively.  Every provider is vulnerable to problems, but not every provider has the mettle to handle them efficiently and decisively.

So when you go off to the budget host, the new start-up that lacks a business plan or a solid management team, and you get starry-eyed at the “deal” they’re offering, and you forget to do your research and find a solid, reputable, trustworthy brand to do business with, don’t blame them when your site goes down, or when the provider disappears.  Blame yourself.

After all, on the internet, there are a thousand ways to say “I told you so”.

Photo by lecates

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  1. Michael, You are absolutely right, there are many fantastic companies that are very small. The point of the post, however, is to reinforce that not all companies are created equal, and that you should be sure to know who you are choosing to do business with. I understand very well that nothing about being small makes you bad, just like nothing about being big makes you good. Good companies are good, bad companies are bad, and sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.
    Reed Caldwell /
  2. I have serious issues with your post. You assume that web hosting companies that aren't huge, old-time industry players are run by incompetent buffoons who have no idea what they are doing. I know plenty of webmasters who are absolutely satisfied by their small web hosting company, and I know plenty of people who have had horrible experiences with large, corporate companies like ServInt, HostGator, and Burst.Net. In fact, HostGator, the largest web hosting company in terms of sheer websites hosted, started as one of those "fly-by-night" operations. The same thing happened with LiquidWeb, Matthew Hill started the company as a "fly-by-night" hosting operation, and LiquidWeb has grown to a massive company with three wholly owned datacenters. You simply have to start somewhere. Don't think you're better because you're bigger and older. I know a lot of start up companies that could crush your prices, service, and reliability.
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