Web Hosting

Hosting the World

In the early days of the Internet, the predominant geo-demographic was the United States. As the Internet has spread quickly and encompassed the entire globe, demand for web hosting accounts has risen worldwide as well.

Although international web hosting demand is rising rapidly, often in countries outside of the U.S. the infrastructure to serve this demand has yet to adequately develop. Further, websites developed and owned by international entrepreneurs are likely targeting the web traffic from the broader Internet community – many of whom are based in the U.S. Therefore, hosting with a U.S. based provider yields the lowest latency and best site response.

PingZine queried several thought leaders in the web hosting industry to get a sense of how the international web hosting marketplace is evolving, and where the growth opportunities are for the future.

With more than 180,000 customer accounts, Affinity Internet has had vast experience with both the domestic and international web hosting markets. While Affinity has mainly focused on the U.S. market, approximately 15% of the company’s customers are international. The company also sees the international marketplace as a significant growth opportunity going forward.

According to Affinity Vice President of Marketing, John Enright, all of Affinity's services, from dedicated servers to managed pay-per-click marketing campaigns are available internationally to web professionals and small businesses.

Additionally, Affinity has data centers in Miami and Los Angeles, which Mr. Enright asserts provide excellent connectivity and low latency to Europe, Latin America, and East Asia. Domestically, Affinity has over two gigabits of connectivity with multiple tier one carriers. Affinity customers, therefore, get optimal throughput and responsiveness both within the United States, and internationally.

Mr. Enright is currently bullish on the international web hosting marketplace, “The world marketplace for hosting is definitely on an upward trend. The worldwide growth of active web sites has been fairly steady over the past few years, and appears to be accelerating.”

As the 5th largest web site hosting company worldwide, IPOWER, Inc. is well versed in providing web hosting and web services to 500,000 customers in over 100 countries.

Approximately 10% of IPOWER's web hosting accounts are currently located outside of the United States. Despite the large numbers involved, the company believes that the percentage of international accounts will continue to grow well into the future.

According to Executive Vice President of Marketing, T. Griffin Conrad, IPOWER, Inc. is keen to serve the international hosting marketplace, “With the recent strong upsurge in non United States-based accounts, IPOWER is taking many steps to better serve these customers. One is by providing live chat, which will allow our overseas customers to experience significant telephone bill savings. We are also increasing the breadth of our bilingual staff and translating our vDeck Control Panel as well as support tutorials
into multiple languages.

We would like to get closer to our customers in regions that we see as having high growth potential. IPOWER recently opened an office in Singapore and we will be announcing new locations in the near future.”

IPOWER has seen strong growth in its international business, with a large portion of international accounts located in predominately English-speaking countries such as Canada, England and Australia, and also in European countries where English is considered a strong second language.

According to Mr. Conrad, IPOWER customers cite two primary reasons why they choose a hosting provider based in the United States, “The first reason is reliability and the second is that many of these companies primarily service the United States marketplace and therefore their websites respond faster for their customers with a United States-based hosting provider than they would with a local host.”

Another web host with a strong international presence is HostMySite.com. In the 9 years since HostMySite.com was founded, the company has generated more customer accounts internationally than it has in its home state of Delaware. In fact, the company boasts one of the highest percentages of international customers of the hosts contacted by PingZine for this story. Lou Honick, Chief Executive Officer of HostMySite.com explained, “Currently, 23.11% of our customer base is international. Given the explosion of demand in emerging markets, we are expecting a steady increase in demand from international clients. Although demand is particularly strong for shared web hosting, we expect to see further increases in demand for managed hosting as well.”

HostMySite.com has built its reputation with a strong customer focus and outstanding customer service. Mr. Honick revealed the advantages of uncompromising support with regard to the international hosting customer, “We have a very strong network to ensure excellent connectivity and a responsive experience for customers all over the world. We are also firmly committed to true 24x7x365 support. Our overseas customers appreciate the skill and attentiveness of our support team, as well as our flexible support options including phone and live chat. Live chat is particularly popular with our international clients during "overnight" hours in the U.S.”

Focused squarely on the web hosting reseller marketplace, Florida-based HostGator has grown quickly, and adopted an inclusive world view regarding geographically distant clients. The company estimates that as much as one third of its customers are based outside the U.S.

Brent Oxley, Founder and CEO of HostGator explained the company’s approach to international web hosting markets and how HostGator overcame some cultural challenges as well, “Many international customers are incredibly talented and entrepreneurial, but sometimes lack access to the right connectivity and equipment to provide hosting service in their own countries. Since Host Gator is focused on providing reseller services, our service is a perfect solution. While some hosts shy away from international hosting, we consider it a niche in the marketplace that's worth tapping. We estimate that approximately 1/3 of our customer base is international at this point.

The nature of the Internet really mitigates much of the impact geographical boundaries have on serving international customers. There will, however, occasionally be some challenges. Those challenges are primarily related to language barriers or cultural
differences with the way business is conducted.

We've found that some customers feel more comfortable dealing with us in their native language. For that reason, we are always looking for bilingual employees. Many international customers are surprised to find that among our staff, we have technicians who speak Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Arabic.

We also have staff dedicated to our ticket-based and chat-based support systems 24/7 and really focus on quality control in those areas. Remember that international phone calls can be quite pricey. For that reason, many customers appreciate the fact that they can
avoid the cost of those calls and communicate with us online.

The core services provided to international customers are really no different than the services provided to US based customers. When it comes to international customers, just take some extra time to try to respect and accommodate their unique needs - it's really that simple.”

In addition to the web hosting companies themselves, another key market sector in guiding international customers into the right hosting plans is that of the web hosting directories. These sites act as advocates for the customer – insuring that the companies listed are reputable, trustworthy, and reliable.

One of the largest worldwide web hosting directories is Web Host Directory based in the United Kingdom. According to the company it has expanded further into the international marketplace in the past few years.

Lee Brant, Account Manager at Web Host Directory explained, “We realized that although the U.S. was generally our main target audience, we were actually getting many visitors from the rest of the world and needed to offer a more targeted service. We have expanded from a single U.S. site to now offer a U.K. web site and a Canadian website to target those markets - with an Australian website to follow. We realize the importance of offering the visitor the most relevant information they are looking for and will continue to expand our geographical presence to ensure our visitors are highly qualified. This offers not only the visitor a great resource when searching for a hosting company, but also offers our advertisers the highest quality leads.”

Another internationally-based hosting directory that has a long established market niche is HostSearch. John Hughes, Editorial Director with HostSearch acknowledged the importance of the international web hosting market, “HostSearch is one of the original web hosting directories and offers the Internet’s largest source of information on providers. In the same way WebHostDir operates out of the U.K., HostSearch operates out of Thailand and covers every aspect of the web hosting industry. Despite our location, there is no specific bias towards the Asian market and, in fact, most of our users and customers are in the U.S. In addition, the bulk of the site’s content covers the U.S. web hosting industry. Aside from providing pertinent information about web hosts, HostSearch offers the international web hosting consumer the benefit of other people’s experience. Visitors who have been directly involved with a particular host might leave a rating and a review with comments that other visitors can consider when establishing which company to use. There is no real alternative to having access to firsthand experience, and that’s what HostSearch provides.”

Another leading directory, Compare Web Hosts, was founded and is run by Russian programming genius Leon Belenky. His unique insight into the international marketplace has led to a number of interesting features and approaches at the Compare Web Hosts site.

Mr. Belenky has observed that the international web hosting industry is vibrant and growing. Additionally he notes that often customers will live in one market, but prefer to host in another, “Today, there are many international customers hosting at geographically distant firms for a range of different reasons - stability, performance, service, and taxation, just to name a few. Compare Web Hosts offers the unique ability to compare and choose the leading companies for web hosting and web reselling around the globe – regardless of geographic location.”

Mr. Belenky notes that Compare Web Hosts currently sees nearly 23% of its traffic coming from international sources – this is up from 5% only a few years ago. When asked about the velocity of international hosting growth, Mr Belenky opined, “About quarter of our traffic today comes from Europe, Asia, Canada and Eastern Europe. I expect this number to grow significantly in future years due to global Internet expansion.”

The consensus of the web hosting community points to ongoing growth in the international web hosting marketplace. Those companies which position themselves to serve international web hosting consumers will be the ones to benefit from accelerating Internet and web hosting adoption worldwide.

About the Author

Derek Vaughan is a web hosting expert and freelance feature writer. He is a partner with TechPad Agency – which operates a web hosting publishing a network including: www.WebsiteHostDirectory.com, www.CheapHostingDirectory.com and www.TheHostingNews.com.

Mr. Vaughan will be speaking at HostingCon 2006 on “Best Practices in Acquiring Web Hosting Customers” at 11:30 am on July 17 – and will also be available at the TechPad Agency exhibit booth #423.

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