Web Hosting

HostMySite.com Chief Executive Speaks His Mind

Website Hosting Directory met with Lou Honick, Chief Executive Officer of HostMySite.com - a Newark, Delaware based web hosting provider, to discuss the future of the web hosting industry.

The Company

Founded in August, 1997, HostMySite.com currently hosts more than 40,000 websites. Staffed with more than 100 employees at its headquarters and two datacenters, the company's impressive growth has been attributed largely to strong word of mouth referrals due to a continued commitment to outstanding service.

WSHD: What are your responsibilities within the company?
Lou Honick: I am responsible for developing the strategic vision of HostMySite.com. In conjunction with our leadership team, I shape our strategies relating to product development, marketing, and sales. I am heavily involved in all aspects of our business and make sure that our service philosophy is carried across all departments. In addition to managing our leadership team, I am also heavily involved in managing the finances of the company and planning major expansion projects such as datacenter builds and office space construction.

WSHD: How long have you been with the company?
Lou Honick: I founded the company in August of 1997 with my business partner Neil Heuer. I serve as our CEO while Neil serves as our CTO We have been here since the beginning. In fact, we were a ''two man operation'' for our first two years in business.

WSHD: What did you do before working for the company?
Lou Honick: The majority of my professional life has been spent on HostMySite.com, but it wasn’t my first job. Prior to becoming a full-time entrepreneur and business leader, I was a consultant at Computer Sciences Corporation working on their DuPont account. The four years I spent there taught me a great deal about how to run a professional operation and what to expect from my staff. Many people believe the myth that entrepreneurs are ''unemployable'' however Neil and I learned to run a company by first being good employees for someone else. I’m also a graduate of University of Delaware with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science.

WSHD: Approximately how many employees?
Lou Honick: We’ve just passed the 100 employee mark with 110 staff members.

WSHD: Where is the company located?
Lou Honick: Both of our datacenters are located in Newark, Delaware.

WSHD: Are there multiple locations?
Lou Honick: We out grew our first location about two years ago and recently built a new state-of-the-art datacenter. Both locations are on the same LAN and are connected with a Gigabit fiber.

WSHD: Briefly describe your data center.
Lou Honick: Each of HostMySite.com's facilities was designed with redundant technology to maintain 100% uptime. Specially-designed complimentary systems maintain and protect an ideal environment for peak server performance:

• Multiple Tier 1 Gigabit Ethernet Connections
• Diverse Fiber Conduits for Physical Redundancy
• Redundant Cisco Routers and Carrier-class Juniper Firewalls
• Fully Redundant Critical Gateway Devices and Services
• Central Powerware UPS System and Diesel Backup Power Generation
• Multiple Redundant Liebert Environmental Control Systems
• FE-25 Gas Fire Suppression Systems
• Restricted Keycard Access and Fully Monitored Facilities
• 24x7x365 Onsite Dedicated Server Engineers

WSHD: What is the company's core strategy?
Lou Honick: We focus on two things as our core strategy. We focus on providing the absolute best customer service in the industry, and we focus on taking great care of our employees. Employees and customers are the two most important elements of the success equation for any business. Web hosting might be a complex and fiercely competitive industry, but the fundamentals still apply.

Products and Services

WSHD: What are the core products and services?
Lou Honick: HostMySite.com offers a full range of hosting services. Unlike many hosting providers, we provide shared website hosting, application hosting tailored for developers, Virtual Private Servers, and managed dedicated hosting. We like to call that our web hosting eco-system. Over the years we have had many clients grow from basic brochure-ware websites to complex managed hosting platforms. We are grateful to be able to provide our clients an easy way to grow their businesses while still enjoying the support and stability offered by HostMySite.com.

WSHD: How many different types of hosting accounts do you currently offer?
Lou Honick: Our shared hosting accounts are available on Windows and Linux platforms. We also offer virtual private servers, managed dedicated hosting, and co-location services. E-commerce capabilities can be added to any shared hosting plan. We support a broad range of application platforms including ColdFusion, PHP, .NET, and many others. As a result, our service has a loyal following in the web application development community. Although some hosts have chosen to operate multiple brands or to focus on a single niche platform, we feel that a single brand with a broad feature set is the best approach for us and our customers.

WSHD: What differentiates the products offered by your company?
Lou Honick: We promise to our customers the best service, and we deliver. From our very humble beginnings, we built our corporate culture around providing outstanding service. We realized very early on that strong word-of-mouth was the key to acquiring new customers in a very competitive industry. When we started in 1997, support in our industry was non-existent. Things have improved since then, but we still lead the pack by a wide margin. We offer true 24x7x365 toll-free phone support with zero hold time and without confusing voice menus. Customers call our support center and get a knowledgeable support representative on the phone right away. They don’t have to press a single key or answer a single voice prompt.

WSHD: Are there products that are unusual or leading edge for the industry?
Lou Honick: We always strive to offer our customers cutting-edge features while providing them with a stable and reliable environment. This can present significant challenges, but we leverage strong partnerships with our vendors to allow us to be early adopters safely. Just last year we worked closely with Microsoft to be among the first web hosts to offer SQL Server 2005 and .NET 2.0. In fact, our customers had access to the beta .NET 2 platform months before it was officially available. We also worked with Macromedia to offer an exclusive ColdFusion MX 7 beta program to the developer community, and we were the first web host to offer a stable, commercially viable offering of ColdFusion MX 7 when it was released.

WSHD: Are you currently running any 'special offers' that new customers should be aware of?
Lou Honick: We are currently offering 2 months free, free setup, and a free domain name with all quarterly or annually paid Virtual Private Server hosting plans.

WSHD: What is the single strongest aspect of your company from the customer’s perspective?
Lou Honick: Sorry to sound like a broken record, but customer service is the answer again. Our customers call in for support and reach a knowledgeable person in three rings or less. They receive a resolution to their issue the first time they contact us. The first technician they speak with can help them. Our support technicians actually like what they do and look forward to talking with customers. I receive numerous testimonials on a daily basis telling me how our staff has gone to extraordinary measures to take care of our customers.

WSHD: Briefly describe the role of customer service/support at your company.
Lou Honick: Technical Support is the most important job at HostMySite.com. I don’t think anyone in any other department would argue that fact, or take issue with me saying that. More than 60% of our staff works in our Customer Support Center. The main difference between our Support Techs and those at other companies, is that our people are empowered to fix problems. We have invested in state-of-the-art systems to provide the security and accountability necessary for allowing our techs to log in to servers and fix problems on the spot. We also invest heavily in training to make sure that the HostMySite.com tech support team is the most capable in the industry, and it really shows.

WSHD: How does your support after the sale benefit the customer?
Lou Honick: We offer a number of great support options. We have 24x7x365 toll-free phone support, live chat, and very responsive email support. Of course, we also recognize the importance of good ''self service'' tools, especially for our tech-savvy users. We offer a fantastic control panel that has been developed in house to give our customers exactly what they need. We also have an extensive array of support articles and Flash tutorials that has been said to rival some of the biggest and most well-known knowledge bases online.

Target Market

WSHD: Who are the ideal customers for your company?
Lou Honick: Since we offer a full range of services, we have plans that are appealing to a wide variety of customers. We invite customers to start small and grow with us. Or if you have outgrown your current web host’s ability to support your business, we invite you to make the switch and try us risk free. We are one of the few hosts out there to offer shared hosting as well as fully managed dedicated servers and co-location. Most hosts that offer shared are strictly unmanaged in the dedicated space. We promise you will be extremely satisfied and we back that up with an unconditional money-back guarantee.

WSHD: Briefly describe the ideal customer.
Lou Honick: Our services are broadly accessible. In our marketing efforts, we do frequently target application developers and those customers who require high-end managed hosting. Those customers stand to benefit the most from our high-quality service, but it really is something that everyone can enjoy. We target application developers and high-end customers because the mass-market tends to be very saturated with advertisers. However we do offer a plan for just about everyone.

WSHD: What do you offer to that customer that is superior to your competitors?
Lou Honick: I have talked quite a bit about our service philosophy, so I’ll talk a little bit about the other strengths we bring to the table. Of course service is our focus, but we also have a fantastic infrastructure. Unlike many hosts, we design, build, and maintain our own facilities. When you need support, we have staff on-site and ready to respond 24x7. Unlike hosts that co-locate, we have immediate, direct access to our equipment. We also have an extensive stock of backup equipment, allowing us to provide an aggressive hardware replacement SLA on anything we deploy. Our average time to replace a failed component is less than 45 minutes from start to finish, with many repairs completed in 15 minutes or less. Our model allows us to provide a level of security and responsiveness that smaller companies can’t easily replicate.

WSHD: What do you see as the greatest challenge(s) facing your customers?
Lou Honick: The number one reason we lose a customer is because their online venture was not successful. We need to find new ways to help our customers maximize their value from our services. Last year we rolled out a number of tools for both individuals, small businesses, and application developers to reduce their maintenance costs and to help them establish a successful website. We have many exciting new developments planned in this area for 2006.

The Future of the Industry

WSHD: What trends or developments do you think are likely to emerge in the industry?
Lou Honick: I think the biggest trend in hosting right now is the transition to software delivered as a service. SaaS as it is frequently called, is going to change how we do business over the next few years. Our model is changing from ''ping, power, and pipe'' to focus more on the value and services that we can deliver to our customers. I tell our staff all the time that the days of selling megs and gigs of storage and bandwidth are rapidly coming to an end. It is far more important to help our clients succeed on the web with useful ancillary services than it is to find a way to provide them a extra few gigs of storage.

WSHD: Are there any new products, services or initiatives that you are preparing to deploy?
Lou Honick: We have a large in-house development staff that is continually working on new service offerings for our customers. We have many product launches planned this year focusing on SaaS, hosted messaging and collaboration, search engine optimization, and that is just the beginning. In some ways we feel that the dedicated hosting segment of the industry has not kept pace with shared hosting in terms of richness of features and platform. Much of the dedicated server industry is still very customer directed, relying on customers to expend excessive effort to deploy and maintain their applications. We have several significant technologies in development to help us take a leadership position in reshaping the industry.

Editor's Note: To learn more about HostMySite.com or to sign up visit: www.hostmysite.com.

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