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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

dennis-johnson-sw-whtDo you want to know more about the attack against Web Hosting Talk? Or to meet some or those who made WHT the world’s leading IT hosting community? I think you would say “Yes”. So let me start the introduction to this interview like this.

“There are people who have significant influence in the fields of activity, they are engaged in – business, journalism politics, academic life, science, etc. Some of them are usually controversial figures, other are not. But most people who are involved in any form of community activities (including journalists, politicians, PR specialists) are often leaders and strong personalities who can lead others. The person you will meet below is definitely someone who has a strong character. He is Dennis Johnson (SoftWareRevue), the Community leader of Web Hosting Talk.”

I barely know Dennis… mostly from the short e-mail correspondence I had with him. However the above words are not a cheap compliment, they are result of my sense of him. Could it be wrong? Just read the interview and you’ll find out.

Hi Dennis, Good to meet you! I have spent some time searching about you on the web, and to prepare myself for this interview, but didn’t find too many articles, interviews, authoring works, or any other things that would help me. So I believe in this interview you should say some things about yourself, that you haven’t revealed before. If you ask me “Why?”, my answer is “because I believe you have many things to say”. So let’s start with this question.

I like the way your authoring style, I know from WHT newsletter. Do you know that you are good in telling stories? I mean very good. I have read you are graduated in “Electrical Technology”. Do you like reading? I’m curious what did help you to shape your writing?

I’ve always enjoyed reading – and writing. But had never considered they would be a major part of my job at any age. I have poems, short stories, songs, half-written novels and instruction manuals I’ve written scattered about in boxes, bags and drawers.

I had an insatiable appetite for literature as a child. We didn’t have the technology of today of course, so reading was my means of exploration. I loved reading anything. One day it may be Tom Swift in the Race to the Moon, Principles of Refrigeration the next, and then Principles in Psychology followed by Black Beauty. But I’d say what influenced my writing the most is my passion. I’ve always been a very emotional person. And I think that comes out in my writing.

I hope it is appropriate to ask you do you see yourself as a journalist?

No. I don’t see myself as a journalist. Journalistic prose can be a chore for me. I’m much more comfortable sitting around a campfire and sharing stories than I am addressing a room full of peers that are interested in what I have to say. I suppose you could classify me as a journalist based on my WHT Insider alone. But I don’t consider myself one.

I have asked you “Do you know that you are good in telling stories?” because being a Community Coordinator at WHT and having responsibilities to keep the forums clean and to enforce policies and rules makes you some kind of “Community Guard”, which is very much a Police job :). Do you feel like this sometimes?

When my 82 year old mother asks me what I do, I tell her I’m like the mayor of a city. And as mayor, I have to wear the Police Chief hat. Of course, around these parts, we call them Peace Officers. Sure, moderating forums requires enforcing the policies everyone’s agreed to. It’s something that needs doing. Just like moving and editing posts, answering member questions, encouraging discussion and maintaining the health of a community are all parts of forum moderation.

I have seen that you said in Iamdum.com that you “would love to have time to just surf and post”. And then you added “But, my hours are spent chasing spammers and scammers. And then there’s the bit about managing staff”. Let me ask you something. If you have to categorize members who violate WHT’s Rules, how many categories we will have? We obviously have “Spammers”, “Scammers” and then…

There’s lots of groups that make up a forum community. And some of them think our rules are unfair, because they’re not what they want. Spammers and Scammers can be found in any community. But, given WHT’s nature, we have some unique groups that can be problematic. Some members become so passionate about their community that they’re Overly Protective. That is, they can be seen as rude or disruptive because they want to prevent any harm. Before I delve into this too much, I think I’d like to hold off because I plan on writing a more descriptive measure on the topic. So let’s just say that “there are as many different types of members in a community as a forum needs”.

You said the above things in 2005 and added “I had thought that a larger staff would afford me the opportunity to have time to post as a member. But, lately, I’ve been finding that a larger staff is forcing me to manage a larger staff. Any time that is saved by having someone else respond to a reported post is off-set by time it takes to answer staff questions and concerns”. So how are the things 4 years later. Do you have time to browse and to talk to other members of WHT as well as to write more staff?

No. But my position has evolved. The current staff of WHT is great. It could be a little bigger, but they do an outstanding job of keeping the community in good health. I don’t do much of the day-to-day moderating. But I do more work off forum that I’m still not as engaged as I’d like to be.

How many hours per day do you spend working on WHT?

I’m down to about 4-10 hours a day. It really depends on how much time I need to spend on other iNET communities.

In a Hosting Tech interview you gave 5 years ago you said that you have retired but very soon you get bored and got down to new business. You have also “promised” to prepare “well written retirement plan next time”. I don’t know much about you, but from what I see and read about yourself, you don’t look like someone that would ever retire. Have you ever thought what would you do if we haven’t Internet?

I haven’t considered life without internet. I plan on being involved in some sort of Community Manager roll for a long time yet. You’re right – I’ll probably never retire. I still enjoy learning, and that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. However, if we didn’t have internet, I’d be involved in some type of customer satisfaction roll.

Five years ago you said that “The admin side of WHT is a monster. A beast with an insatiable appetite. And a lot more work than members imagine”. Can you reveal more about the team behind WebHostingTalk? How many moderators manage the forums, how the WHt is organized and how does the todays Forum looks like compared to the WHT in 2004?

We have 30 staff members. We recruit members that have demonstrated a thorough understanding of forum guidelines, have shown to be non-confrontational and are active. Not everyone who meets this criteria is recruited, and not everyone recruited accepts. WHT is a unique community due to the fact that many members are growing their business through it. As such, we have a higher ratio of the spammers and scammers you mentioned above than other help based communities. It takes a strong individual to moderate the forum and not take the personal accusations personally. It’s simply the nature of the beast that moderated members are offended they’ve been moderated.

Why WHT never turned to a media? I mean traditional online media, the way TheWHIR is in web hosting industry? Haven’t you guys been tempted to broaden the frontiers of the WHT?

We have some new stuff planned for WHT. That’s about all I’m going to say about that. But I will say that it won’t be traditional online media. iNET Interactive has current and projected projects in that arena though. Stay tuned!

Tell me something about the consequences of the attack on WHT. I’ve seen on your recent newsletter that someone told you: “Because of your email, I’m going to take a serious look at our own disaster recovery plan because we seldom do off network backups. I think this would be a good topic on WHT in the future so that other web hosting providers could learn from others.”. So it sounds really weird, but it is obviously the attack has taught a lesson. There is something to be learned for many businesses our there… because I’m sure many of them haven’t build their own recovery plans…?

You mentioned my favorite thing about this attack. It’s a shame that it happened. But it’s made so many others examine their infrastructure that it’s eerily a blessing. Not only is WHT, and iNET as a whole, secure and unequivocally able to sustain itself should it be the target of destruction again, but so many others are safer. This was a malicious attempt to destroy WebHostingTalk.com. They failed.

Is WebHostingTalk loosing credibility and business because of the attack? I’ve seen some people to say that WHT team made a mistake in its statements. “Instead of saying that it could’ve happened to anyone, they should be taking their responsibility by simply stating they screwed up”, this is something someone said in a discussion about “Attack on WebHostingTalk” in LinkedIn. So do you think that you have taken full responsibility for something that you might not avoid?

I don’t see that we’ve lost any credibility. And I don’t see where we’ve avoided admitting fault with our infrastructure. We’ve said it was inadequate for today’s needs. But our current infrastructure is about as tight as it gets.

I’ve read that you have got your first PC in January of 2001. What is your technology level now? Do you have knowledge in coding, making web pages, or doing any other tech stuff, or you are involved in moderating and producing content only?

I’m comfortable with my PC. But I’m certainly not a guru. I can build a web page, but someone else can build a much nicer one much easier. I do some work on my own servers. But I get someone that knows what they’re doing when it gets too technical.

I’m curious which web hosting companies have use used until now and which was your first web host? You can share your opinion with their services if you of course find this appropriate.

The first hosting account I got was through Yahoo! That didn’t last very long. I needed more. Without naming names, because they’re no longer in business, I bounced from one Unlimited host to another before landing on WebHostingTalk.com. The community helped me with choosing a host. A couple months later, I got a reseller account. Then it was on to hosting myself. I have servers in three different data centers. I won’t name my favorite though.

Do you still own GetMeHosted.com?

Not exactly own. But I’m still around there. Frankly it’s more of a means to keep a pulse on the industry than it is to being a host.

Can you point your finger at any web hosting providers and to say “These are the best ones”?

I could, but I wouldn’t feel right doing it. Because of my position on WHT, I try to keep my personal opinions out of who to choose and not choose. Besides, there is no best host. For years, my WHT signature has included the line, “There is no best host. There is only the host that’s best for you.”

You said in an old interview that you liked philosophy. Do you have a favorite thinker/philosopher?

I can’t say I have one favorite.

You like playing guitar. I’m curious whether you are a Rock ‘N Roll fan and if “yes”, which bands are your favorite ones?

It’s hard for me to associate myself with one genre. But I suppose it might be classified more towards Rock ‘N Roll. I probably cover Pink Floyd more than any other group or artist. If I’m just listening though, I listen to more Van Morrison or Andrew Lloyd Webber. I have to give a shout out to John Prine though. Cuz that’s more like me when I sit down with Shelly (my guitar).

Now final question. I have read somewhere that you like cooking. If you have to bring all the WHT liaisons at one place what would you make for them?

That’s a large group. So I’d probably have to fire up the grills. Of course, if my dining room was big enough, I’d likely do some lasagna and/or spaghetti. One thing I’ll guarantee though, everyone will go home full.

Thank you Dennis. Good luck with you enterprises and wish you to have a lot of energy and to keep going!

Thanks for having me, Dimitar. It’s been my pleasure.

giuseppe-grillea-namedriveSome say that there are big money in domain after market. I would admit that I used to underestimate this niche and even when I was executive of a web hosting company, we never used expired customer’s domain to park them and to squeeze some money from them. But probably I wasn’t good enough for the job. Because Giuseppe Grillea from NameDrive. I met him on WebhostingDay 2009 in Cologne and he told me that many people used to earn money from their parked domains. It is the same with the company he works for. It makes a lot of money from the domain after market.

If you have to explain what NameDrive is with one sentence what would you tell you prospective customers?

Domain monetization, we create mini-web sites for empty domains and pack them with pay per click advertisements and domain brokerage services where we buy and sell domains for our customers or we put them at auction. Wow that was a long sentence.

Who the other companies, a competitors of yours on the domain parking and after market?

Sedo, Domain Sponsor, Parked, Hitfarm and many others.

Tell me more about NDX Market?

NDX Market is our platform where customers can buy and sell domains. You can buy the domains at a BuyNow price or in an auction. It is very simple to use and it is a free service. Using NDX Market you can also ask our brokers to help with the transaction for premium domains, in exchange of a moderate fee which covers also escrow fees and all the paperwork.

You said there is no contracts. So how do you then guarantee the client’s account In terms of payments and protection of their property?

When you sign up/open an account su NDX Market you agree to our Terms of Service which guarantee the protection of payments and property.  See the link: http://www.namedrive.com/txt_terms/Namedrive_Terms_and_Conditions_en.html

By the way in parking there is no exchange of property. The domains are in our clients’control at all times. They only point the DNS to our servers.

There is something like consulting service on NameDrive’s website called MisterBlog. Would you explain what is this?

Mister Blog keeps our clients and people in the industry updated on our industry. Mister Blogs is well loved and offers advice for free.

In general you can always talk to any of our brokers who will be happy to give you all the advice you need to manage your domains at best.

How much anyone would make from parking their domain with NameDrive on average. I mean if the domain is not that popular. Let’s say I have 10 domain that receive 3,000 visitor per month. What click ratio I would expect to have?

It all depends from the amount of traffic, conversion rate and types of products advertised on your page. Finance, credit card related will get more than say food, news, politics etc…  Also the conversion rate can vary a lot. Tourism portals always have a much higher conversion rate than a finance or electronics domain. The main point is that if you have underutilized domains you should park them and test them with different companies to see where your domain performs best.

There is only one way to find out. Park with us and you will find out :-)

You said in our conversation before the interview that your clients can sell even your domain names… ?

Our corporate partners, hosting and registrar can sell our 5,000,000 domains on their platforms if they choose to integrate with our system in exchange for a big portion of the sales commission. Individuals non corporate clients cannot sell our domains… but they can buy them :D

How long does it take for a customer of yours to get their money? Let’s say someone made $120 for the month of March. When they can expect to get their earning?

You will receive your $120 on the 15th of the following month: on the 15th of  April in your example.

It was good to talk to you. Tell me now do you use NameDrive for your own domains  :)  and send your message to domain name owners.

Of course I would not trust anybody else with my domain investments but our company! Thank you for your time and interview and I hope to see you soon.

frank-stiff-cheval-capitalWe all know what investment banking is, or at least most of us have learned something about investment banking… thanks to financial crisis. Well today “Investment banker” is probably not the most appreciated job in the world. Sadly most people are tending to think that investment bankers are guilty for the current global economic slowdown. Well I’m not one of them. So when I met Frank from Cheval Capital I was interested of his business. I asked them whether he would talk to B10WH and Daw Blog readers and he said “Yes!”.

Hi Frank, good to talk to you. There is a lot of things anyone would like to ask an investment banker (or at least I think so), during the current crisis. Let me start with this one. Is the financial crisis affecting the web hosting industry? My impression is that web hosting industry looks pretty much as isolated island, that does not need bailouts… It that true?

Hi Dimitar.  Its great to talk with you as well. I think your impression is largely right (at least so far.)  We’ve talked to a lot of hosters and our sense is that while most are doing fine, growth has slowed.  A line from the recent Microsoft conference that rang true was “steady is the new growth.”

After two years of web hosting mergers and acquisitions are the investors still interested of buying hosting companies? Which is the most interesting market niche – data centers and collocation providers, dedicated and managed hosts, VPS providers or Shared hosts?

While we have seen fewer buyers, there are still a number out there.  Keep in mind that the most common type of buyer is another hosting company that is choosing to add customers by purchase versus marketing.  As this type of buyer tends to buy out of cash flow, financing isn’t a problem.

Right now, we’re being most aggressive in buying shared hosting customers at good prices.  Overall, there seems to be demand in all the sectors we work in.

Do you think that once the crisis is over, there will be a growing investor interest in buying cloud computing and cloud hosting technology producers and providers?

I’m not great at predictions.  To me, it comes down to value.  If cloud operators can add customers at cost effective rates and thus create value, then investors will always be there.  Unfortunately, the tech sector is littered with great technologies that no one would buy.  All in all though, cloud computing looks pretty good.

I have seen that Cheval Capital have completed 29 transactions in 2008. Do you think you’ll make more in 2009?

I hope the trend continues but you never know ;-).  We’ve been very fortunate since we got started in the space in the late 1990’s and have completed over 140 hosting and ISP transactions.

How big web hosting company in annual revenue should have someone to be an interesting client for Cheval Capital?

We work with companies of all sizes.  A few years ago we started a small hoster program that is working quite well.  We’ve also been involved with some of the industry’s largest transactions.  So really, all sizes.

Would you tell me which are the most important things anyone should be prepare when selling a web host hosting company?

That is really hard to answer generically.  The key is to have the information that enables you to demonstrate the value of your business and that it has reasonable risk profile.  Typically the larger the business, the great the expectation by Buyers of financial and operating metrics.

As you know, there are two broad types of buyers, “Consolidators” that want to buy customers and move them onto their own infrastructure and “Strategic Buyers” that want to purchase the whole company and operate it largely as is.  Both will want to confirm:

(1) the amount of revenue that your customers generate and the stability of that revenue

(2) your ability to add new customers at reasonable cost and the ability of the buyer to continue doing so.

The Strategic Buyer will also care about the efficiency of your business and its assets and liabilities.

The top three things all hosters must have are:

  • An general overview of you, your company, its operations, etc.  (We have a form that we ask sellers to fill out that covers all of these topics.)
  • Income statements for the last several months and for the previous year with revenues broken down by the type of business; and
  • Backup to confirm those revenues (e.g. paypal, merchant acct stmts, etc.);

What about buyers… what do they want to see when they are looking to invest in web hosting business?

It really varies by buyer and the type of transaction.  Some buyers are creative and flexible and will look at anything that gives them a feel for the two items above.  Others are less so and require the other extreme of audited financial statements, tax returns, etc.  Typically, most Consolidators require less information.  I can’t stress enough that the key is to provide the buyer with confidence in the existence and stability of your customer base.

Something about Cheval Capital. Why did you decide to form an investment bank that specializes in web hosting industry? I’m curious how an investment banker decided to come to web hosting market.

Luck.  Our specialty has been working with venture capital backed companies that are consolidating industries or markets.  In the late 1990’s we got hired by Verio and the Centennial Funds to do ISP acquisitions and it just went from there.

What is your projections about the hosting industry’s developments? Do you expect growth in 2009, or web hosting will be affected from the global crisis?

I think the industry is fortunate in that it is a recurring revenue business with strong margins and, for most, little to no debt.  It also provides a service that is absolutely core to business.  Those characteristics should protect the industry from major trauma.  However, in bad times new company formation will slow and customers will go out of business.  Whether this causes the overall industry to shrink or just grow more slowly I don’t know.

Finally, is there are any company/brand in web hosting that you’ll love to consult, sale or buy?

We’ve been very lucky to work with a lot of great companies in the web hosting business, both large and small.  My hope is that it will continue.

alexander-ovchinnikov-masterhostRussia is a huge web hosting market and one of the countries with developed software market and IT industry. I have always been very curious about Russian web hosting market and its developments. So when I met Alexander Ovchinnikov Of Masterhost.ru I knew I was gonna interview him. And despite that I missed to see him at the Parallels Summit 2009 in Vegas where both us attended (it was my fault), I’ve finally made it. So here he is.

Hi Alexander, Can you please introduce Masterhost.ru to Daw’s readers (The interview was made for Dawhb.com blog, but I decided to published it in B10WH). How long have you been in business? What kind of hosting customers do you target?

Our Company was founded in 1999 and now it belongs to holdings.masterhost the biggest hosting provider in Russia and CIS.
We offer the wide spectrum of hosting services. Our product range includes virtual hosting based on the Unix and Windows platforms and Virtual Dedicated Server (VPS), location and lease of servers, lease of Microsoft applications (Software as a Service – SaaS), registration of domain names in different zones. Besides, we offer services of access Internet for providers of wireless and broadband access to World Wide Web to end users.

For years .Masterhost services were provided to more than 150 thousand people. Among the Corporate Clients are both private users from all regions of Russia and CIS countries and legal entities, comprising of big public and commercial companies, communication operators, Internet providers and others.

One of our foreground tasks in developing services within our hosting is integration of web-statistics from the SpyLOG Company (belonging to our Holding) with the .Masterhost hosting platform. Today all .Masterhost clients have access to free statistics services. They include reports with detailed visiting statistics by different parameters.

In 2008 the .Masterhost Company became a laureate of the RUnet Prize in nomination “Technology and Innovation”. This RUnet Prize was created in 2004 and is a national award in the sphere of high technologies stimulating companies operating in high technologies and Internet and rewarding for distinguished services in information technology and electronic communications.

Your starter shared hosting plan costs around $4/month. Is it one of the cheapest ones on the Russian Market and it offer “unlimited transfer”. How do you deal with this? Do your customer use their data transfer quotes and d you impose any restrictions on monthly traffic?

Competition among hosting providers motivates them to launch new tariffs with high functionality and minimum possible price on the market. Nevertheless, the today user choosing among hosting providers makes a reasonable decision and relies both on low price of services and stability and professionalism of the provider. These qualities help our company to be among the leading ones on the hosting market for many years.

Virtual hosting is used here not only by persons and small-size private companies but also by large enterprises if their business is not inseparably associated with Internet, i.e. the site does not generate a lot of traffic. In the hosting tariff plans traffic is offered to clients free of charge provided the following conditions are met:

  • Incoming/ outgoing traffic ratio is over 1:4;
  • Summary foreign incoming traffic does not exceed summary Russian incoming traffic and summary foreign outgoing traffic does not exceed summary Russian outgoing traffic.
  • There are a few restrictions for virtual hosting, i.e. specific list of used software (applications, libraries and the like) and its settings which are determined by the provider administrators.

Do you offer Plesk only and if “Yes” can you please tell me what are the advantages of Plesk from your point of view?

To manage (administer) virtual or physical server we suggest our clients using a specialized program – the Plesk server control panel from Parallels. Thanks to simplicity of use the Plesk control panel server control functions can be performed by unskilled administrators. Using the control panel the administrator controls subsystems, applications, domains, users, and he or she can locate any site, create mail boxes for his or her colleagues and administer server parameters by analogy with virtual hosting services.

You are one of the very few web hosts that I know, who offer free web hosting for students? This is something people always appreciate, but does it pays… I mean  Why do you do this to support them and to increase brand’s awareness?

Education is the most important sphere of human activities providing forming and building-up of intellectual potential the need in which is growing by hyperbola. Internet must be a part of the program developing innovative education, a network for updating educational process.

Today we offer two free tariff plans within the educational program named “Student” in cooperation with Microsoft based on the Windows platform and “Education” based on the Unix platform. The “Student” tariff plan of .Masterhost offers free hosting services to students of institutions of higher professional education for educational and research purposes.

The “Education” tariff plan services are offered to both educational institutions and natural persons creating and supporting non-commercial projects associated with development and education subjects. Free platforms use conditions do not differ from the paid tariffs: professional equipment, 25 hour support, back-up copying and full range of services which the company offers to its clients under its motto “professional hosting”.

Do Russian site owners prefer .RU domains for primary web address for their sites? Can you rank the most popular TLD’s in Russia, or at least the ones your customers use?

In fact the users of Russian Internet prefer to register their sites on domains in the RU zones. Today the total number of registered domains in this zone amounts to 2 millions of domains.  The .Masterhost clients registered 85 000 domains in the Russian zone for the period the Company has been operating (since 1999).

The second most popular domain zone for our corporate clients is the international zone .com. Today .Masterhost  registered 10 000 domains in this zone.

Is .EU gaining popularity in Russia?

There are geographic restrictions in registering domains in the EU zone. The company must have its office or the main place of business in the territory of the European Union and the natural person must reside in EU. Russia does not belong to the European Union yet, that’s why domestic companies and citizens of our country can not register their sites in the EU zone for the time being.

I saw on your website you had at least 8 different seminars in 2008. Did they helped participants to better understand the topics you discussed and do you think that conferences help web companies to attract new customers?

Under present-day conditions of strong competition any telecommunication company must not only provide its clients with services but also show how to use these services most efficiently. At seminars held by our company our clients not only obtain theoretical knowledge but also get practical recommendations on service management, answers to questions on technical problems occurred in their business and unique methodical materials extracted from reports. Participation at seminars gives opportunity to exchange experience and make more balanced and sound decisions in choosing services of our company.

You have nice priced VPS hosting plans. I saw you use Virtuozzo Containers as virtualization technology? Why did you choose Parallel’s virtualization technology?

To realize VPS services we focused on reliable and regularly updated software which is easy to use and optimal in distributing resources of physical server among users of virtual dedicated servers. All virtualization systems have their advantages and disadvantages. Among virtual dedicated server support environments which we considered the Virtuozzo technology is the universally recognized leader.

This technology allows setting dynamic division of resources, creation of functionalities like parameters of physical server and combines flexibility in setting and control. Besides, use of this technology allows to minimize costs of the company spent on hosting services (compared to lease of physical server).

A few percents of resources of physical server are spent on virtualization using this technology, the others are to users. The used percents of resources are taken into account in filling physical server with VPS. These few percents include reserve for losses in virtualization and server control system.

Do you think that OS virtualization offers more advantages to consumers than WMware’s Virtual machines, which are based on full virtualization techniques?

These are different technologies and each has its drawbacks and advantages.

What kind of web hosting Russian site owners want much – Shared, VPS or Dedicated. Which one of these do grow faster?

According to statistics of our company more than 50% of clients choose virtual hosting being the cheapest and most popular. To administer its site the client does not need any specific knowledge, all support is given by the hosting provider.
Among our corporate clients the next most popular is lease and location of server (collocation and dedicated hosting).

The users of collocation administer their servers by themselves. The reasons are availability of a technical specialist in a company and sometimes a corporate procedure according to which access to internal resources is given only to insiders.
The most active users of dedicated and collocation services, as we think, are our operators, advertisement agencies, internet shops and suppliers of goods (dealers and distributors), game servers and the like. Ti sum up, they are representatives of the corporate market (mainly medium and big size business).

The “Virtual Dedicated Server” service is rather promising from the point of view of its functionality. The companies which “outgrew” usual virtual hosting but are still not ready to switch to “dedicated” server involving more financial expenses  for lease of equipment, support and administration, choose VPS. VPS in its essence is the intermediate option between virtual hosting and dedicated physical server.

We can point out that about 25% of users of “Virtual Dedicated Server” service of.masterhost “overgrew” virtual hosting.
VPS service is given to our clients on the Unix and Windows platforms. This technology is based on virtualization from the Parallels Company.

What is your projection for Russian hosting market and for web hosting market in general?

The main development trends of hosting market today are that conventional methods of hosting when advantages of a hosting provider are in tariff parameters (disc or mail space, number of mail boxes, address to data bases and the like) “fade” into the background.

At present potential clients choose tariffs to solve specific tasks including business ones in choosing among hosting providers.
Thus, hosting is often being considered in combination with suggested software or preset services by this or that tariff. First, we speak about ready decisions integrated into the hosting platform: professional scripts , modules, and systems.  They range from guest books, chats, forums to contents control systems for creation of online projects, for example, internet shops.
Thus, users of our company can install favorite CMS directly from the control panel by one key. And this option is active both for tariffs of virtual Unix hosting and for a new specially developed CMS Profi tariff.

The list of CMS for automated installation includes CMS systems being most popular among Russian users and is constantly being enlarged. Installation of CMS by certain tariff depends on technical characteristics of the tariff plan and software.

douglas-hannaThe model that web companies implement to organize their customer service and support is a key to their business success. this is not discovery. See what Douglas Hanna said in an interview for B10WH.com about the process of organizing business relationships with customers.  Doug is a popular specialist in customer service affairs and owner of the blog Service Untitled.

Hi Doug, Good to talk to you again. Let’s start with this… There is a very interesting advice in your latest article “The Angriest Customers”, published in Service Untitled. You said “Lower your voice. This will force the customer to lower his or her voice to hear you.” Do you think that this might work with a really angry customer?

It all depends on the customer. Some customers will continue to yell and be unreasonable, no matter what a customer service representative does or how skilled he or she is at getting customers to calm down and lower their voices. Most customers, however, will respond to a representative lowering his or her voice and will quiet down themselves.

In another article of yours “Make it easy for everyone” you urge your readers to ask themselves the question “What processes at your company could you make easier?”. Do you think that standardization is one of the keys for businesses to provide a quality customer service?

I really do. Customer service is a very process-driven aspect of business. Without understanding the processes and then working consciously to improve the processes, a customer service department won’t be able to execute well. Standardization is a result of being process-driven and is essential to customer service success. Without a dedicated focus to the processes involved with providing service, companies are going to have a hard time delivering consistently great customer service experience.

Would tell me which are the best Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and customer support applications you have seen? Do you recommend any Open source application that small businesses can use?

I have seen everything from custom solutions that were developed by one or two programmers to major solutions used in Fortune 500 companies. There isn’t really a “best” CRM system because different companies have different needs. What works really well for one company could easily be worthless to another company.

The wide array of needs makes it tough to pick just one CRM system that would work for everyone and in every situation. The best thing companies can do to successfully choose a CRM system is to test it out, examine their current and future needs, and see talk to others in the industry about what they’re using and what their experiences have been like.

Corporations spend millions in staff training and have access to different knowledge about customer support and customer care. Why do we continue to see messages like “We will respond within 1 business day”? A messages like this can be seen even within the websites of some of the major U.S. service providers…?

The idea of responding within one business day frightens customers and businesses alike. Customers expect faster responses and businesses don’t always understand why customers need a response faster than that. I don’t feel as if there is anything fundamentally wrong with replying to a message within one business day.

If companies can exceed expectations and reply faster, great. If they constantly and consistently fail to reply within the promised time frame, that presents a problem that companies have to address. A large part of customer service is about under-promising and over-delivering and the idea of beating estimated response times is a quintessential example of that.

If you need to make a decision about building a customer support department in a middle-sized or large company that provides web services (web hosting, domains, software service, or any other web based services) would you outsource your customer support in other country in order to decrease the business costs?

That is a tough question and something that many people have written books on. I don’t think companies should outsource if it jeopardizes service quality. If companies can outsource “back of the house” operations and save money that way, great. It works because customers likely won’t notice a difference. However, customers are a lot more likely to notice a difference if the “front of the house” operations are outsourced and service quality starts to diminish.

You say in another article of yours that “It is important to try and motivate encourage people outside of the customer service department to provide great service”. OK, is there a magic formula which could be implemented in any service area?

I don’t think there are any magic formulas in customer service. If there were any, you’d see me writing a book about it. In all seriousness, though, I think customer service success requires discipline, dedication, personality, and creativity. Companies need to approach their customer service and business challenges in a creative way, execute with personality, act consistently, and then be committed to continuing to do the other three things at all times. So, in terms of a formula: discipline + dedication + personality + creativity = customer service success.

Do you think that the economic slowdown would force companies to be more innovative in searching ways to improve customer satisfaction? Do you think that in times of economic crisis companies that can afford to lower their service prices should do this and to make their customers life easier?

That is a great question. A majority of customers value quality customer service, but when money is tight, they might be more likely to tolerate poorer customer service in favor of lower prices. I still think that customer service can continue to be a great and a powerful differentiator, regardless of the current economic situation.

The companies that continue to plan to differentiate themselves on customer service (as opposed to price) need to make sure their service is delivering an experience and making a difference that justifies the price disparity. If anything, a bad economy encourages people to watch their money more closely and think more carefully about to whom they give their money. If great customer service providers are providing a service that customers value, they will be a lot more likely to remain loyal.

Do you think that companies have to show to their customers profiles of customer support operators who are serving them?

Not really. For some companies, it can make the service experience seem personal, but I don’t think it is ever necessary. Even companies with very formal and focused account management processes don’t always share any profiles on their account managers.

The companies that do show profiles of their individual customer service Representatives tend to be relatively small. When these companies use profiles, it can emphasize a more personalized service experience when compared to an experience the customer might encounter with a larger company.

Final question. How many times a year, any service provider should ask its customers to participate to surveys?

It depends on the business and the relationship the business has with its customers. For a standard, consumer/SMB web host, a particular customer shouldn’t be surveyed about his or her overall perceptions of a company more than two or three times per year, at most. A lot of companies will survey customers after each interaction, which is fine, but no single customer should get an overall customer satisfaction survey more than two or three times a year.