The HostingAdvice.com team has returned from our trip to HostingCon 2014, and we had a blast!
The wealth of information available at HostingCon is overwhelming, and our team spoke with every hardware vendor, web host, and site builder with a booth.
The four HostingAdvice.com team members also attended many of the sessions and talks and learned a lot about the state of the industry.
In the article below, I will cover the hot topics of 2014 and the best sessions at HostingCon, as well as give a brief talk about the networking and nightlife this year.
2014 Hosting Provider Hot Topics
There were some common trends being discussed by a large portion of the attendees and presenters. In 2014, the small- to medium-size hosting providers are looking to provide solutions that differ from those offered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), and there are a few tenants who seem to dominate the current thinking.
1. Focus on Customer Support
One way hosting providers have been able to compete with the larger hosts is by focusing on customer support. By borrowing from the Rackspace model, these companies can attract and keep customers simply because their customers know the company stands behind their product and will even go outside of an SLA to support it.
2. Product Differentiation via Performance and/or Pricing
Another method for smaller hosts to compete in today’s landscape is by providing a higher quality of service than the bigger hosts.
Many times smaller hosts can provide more fine-grained solutions and higher performance. Companies such as Cloud Spectator are helping the industry and consumers make more knowledgeable decisions about the price and performance metrics.
3. Public and Private Cloud Growth
Many customers are moving toward public and private cloud solutions for their companies. On the private cloud side, customers seem to be utilizing the infrastructure and data storage aspects more heavily than the cloud computing options.
Development and maturation of API access to the cloud-based servers was also another hot topic. With developers now accustomed to APIs everywhere, this is becoming a necessity for hosts to attract customers.
4. Noisy-Neighbor Effect a Major Focus of Development
As should be expected, the industry is excited about the development and adaptation rate of container technology, such as Docker. With companies wanting to squeeze every CPU cycle, memory bit, and hard drive sector out of their hardware, it is becoming apparent that technology needs to evolve.
Companies such as SolidFire are attacking this problem head-on with data storage solutions. Solidfire has created a guaranteed-QoS SSD solution with automatic failovers and all the trimmings you would want from a storage solution for a datacenter.
Interesting, Candid Sessions
There were amazing sessions at HostingCon 2014. A lot of the key players in the industry had very frank and candid discussions about all of the issues mentioned above and more. Sessions ranged from small, with less than 20 attendees, to large, with more than a few hundred.
Some of the highlights included the CEO Panel with Matthew Porter (CEO at Contegix) and Lance Crosby (CEO at SoftLayer).
For me, the most interesting talk was “Build or Buy? How to Grow Your Small- to Mid-sized Hosting Business.”
This talk included panelists Hartland Ross (eBridge Marketing Solutions Inc.), Frank Stiff (Cheval Capital Inc.), Arvand Sabetian (Arvixe), and Jamie Opalchuk (HostPapa). The session covered two important paths for growing a hosting business. I will try and briefly cover the main points.
1. Organic Growth (via SEO, Ads, etc.)
With SEM becoming untenable due to the rise in PPC costs, this side of the discussion warned against trying this method of growth without fully understanding it.
It can be easy (and costly) to throw a lot of money into ads without being able to calculate the ROI, and speaking to someone with experience in the area before diving in can play a pivotal role in the success of your campaigns.
Organic growth through word of mouth seems to be the best platform for organic growth in 2014. The greatest opportunity in the industry seems to lie with application-specific hosting, where the SERPs and “best of breed” are still up for grabs.
2. Growth via Acquisition
Hosting companies are bought and sold all the time. A great way to grow a hosting business is to purchase your customers.
Often times, it is possible to not only acquire customers but also provide a service that is greater than one they are currently receiving.
An important consideration to be noted while making this decision can be taking a good, long look at customer retention and satisfaction and trying to estimate the number of customers who will leave as a result of the switch.
All in all, this talk has my vote for “Most Interesting Session of HostingCon 2014,” though it was a tough decision.
There were so many great sessions, and my runner-up was “Ideas for Launching a Managed AWS Offering,” by Antonio Piraino (CTO of ScienceLogic).
There is no doubt in my mind that the learning potential of HostingCon was invaluable to a lot of the attendees. To rip off one popular meme, there was an opportunity to “learn all the things.”
The Nightlife and After-Parties for HostingCon
As you might expect, the networking events and after-parties were top-notch. They included three-hour yacht rides, a Lamborghini and Ferrari available to drive, beachfront bars, and all of the entertainment you would expect South Beach to offer.
There was ample time to meet everyone we wanted to meet, and I believe every attendee was open to talking about their technology and hearing about other companies and players in the market.
I can’t imagine a more friendly and engaging conference. The folks over at the WHIR were receptive to us and threw a great conference!
Thank you for your interest in HostingCon 2014, and thanks to all those who attended, supported, or threw the event. We had a great time!