Open-Xchange & Hostway: How Their Custom-Branded Tools are Boosting Engagement & Lowering Churn for Hosts

Hostway hosts Open-Xchange OX App Suite

TL; DR: By allowing users to customize their own customers’ #1 touchpoint, their email interface, Hostway and Open-Xchange have empowered telcos, service providers, and web hosts to boost their engagement rates, customer retention, and revenue.

Open-Xchange (OX) is an open-source, cloud-based solutions provider that works with businesses as well as the web hosts and telcos that serve them. The company has developed a series of scalable, customizable applications designed to enhance internal communications and collaboration, as well as engagement with customers. Services include:

  • Email, Address Book, and Calendar Applications
  • Document Sharing, Editing, and Collaboration Tools (similar to Google Drive)
  • OX-as-a-Service

Hostway provides cloud, dedicated, and shared server hosting, as well as managed, email, and application services. Companies of varying scales have entrusted their business’s web presence to the Hostway team for over 25 years. Today, more than 500,000 consumers rely on Hostway for scalable and secure hosting solutions and infrastructure support.

We got a chance to chat with Open-Xchange’s SVP of Sales and Business Development, Bob Krulcik, and VP of Marketing, Chris Latterell, as well as Hostway’s GM of Web and Application Services, John Enright, to discuss the value proposition these two premier companies offer web hosts, service providers, telcos, SMBs, enterprises, and all of their customers.

The OX App Suite Reengages Customers with your Brand

The solutions that Open-Xchange has developed can be packaged per the needs of individual hosts, service providers, or businesses. Open-Xchange’s flagship product, OX App Suite is a customer engagement platform intended to bring what Open-Xchange has coined “the three Rs” to their customers: Reengagement, Recirculation, and Retention.

So how are they doing this? Well, the tools of the OX App Suite can be customized to include unique branding and content, so users can offer services to best target and benefit their own customers. Each of the white-labelled apps within the suite is designed to help reengage customers with a brand — customers who may have looked elsewhere for services.

“We saw a 42% reduction in cancellations on email-related products in August (post OX launch) compared to June (pre OX launch). We’ve also seen a 10% increase in our customer satisfaction ratings on those same products over the same time frame.”
John Enright, Hostway GM of Web & App Services

These applications are sleek and easy to use too, which helps keep customers happy. By providing an intuitive user experience that can be branded per individual marketing needs, the suite helps service providers and web hosts reengage customers and retain their loyalty, recirculate custom messages and updates to those users, and ultimately boost revenue.

Hostway Teams Up with OX, Exemplifying the Perks for Users & Hosts

Recently, Hostway, a leading hosting solutions provider for businesses, has joined forces with Open-Xchange. Hostway offers a hosted solution for Open-Xchange’s collaborative platform, while Open-Xchange serves as Hostway’s primary webmail interface.

Headshots of Open-Xchange's Bob Krulcik and Chris Latterell and Hostway's John Enright

We interviewed Hostway’s John Enright (Center) and Open-Xchange’s Bob Krulcik (Left) and Chris Latterell (Right).

For Consumers: Enhance your Business with Email, Collaboration Tools, & Security

Prior to Open-Xchange, Microsoft Exchange was the only option for shared calendar functionality and enterprise-level email. There were basic email services in which each mailbox was independent from others, but those didn’t offer options to collaborate or share information. “Open-Xchange really fills that gap,” John said. “I’d say it goes even farther than Microsoft Exchange.”

Open-Xchange offers all the email and collaboration tools that professionals want and need to run their business, and presents them in a very elegant and easy-to-use interface. “We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from a customer satisfaction perspective, and also we’re seeing a large drop-off in customer cancellations, especially with our email-oriented services,” John said.

At this year’s OX Summit, Open-Xchange announced the initiation of their new “Trusted Email Services.” Chris explained that this is a set of criteria to help hosters and telcos deliver even better protection and privacy measures to their audience, while promoting existing security products.

For Web Hosts: Constant Client Contact via Email Interface & New Revenue Models

John explained that the vast majority of Hostway customers are utilizing basic email and web hosting services, and email is the #1 touchpoint for them. “By far, the most important part of their service is email,” he said. “I mean, it’s such a critical component of any business these days.”

Open-Xchange also recently partnered up with Dovecot and PowerDNS, two other powerful open-source community contributors. The merger has enabled Open-Xchange to offer telcos and service providers even more enhancement options for their infrastructure. “Once you migrate to a Dovecot and a DNS backend, you can now get into a whole new revenue model, which is Open-Xchange’s key value proposition: upsell triggers in the OX App Suite,” Chris said.

Easy-to-Use, Customizable Email Interface vs. Infrequently-Used Hosting Control Panel

While hosting customers may log into their control panel every week or so, they’re engaging with their email constantly. “Open-Xchange enables us to drastically improve that element of the customer experience, because the web interface is so elegant and easy to use,” John said. “It also provides an easy way for us to communicate with customers, because we can actually highly customize that interface.”

Through the email interface, hosts can push content and display messages to customers upon login. They can suggest services that might be of interest or present upgrade opportunities. Having that ability to communicate with users so frequently keeps customer satisfaction up and churn rates down. “We just did a churn analysis and the results were very significant,” he said.

Upsell Triggers & Update Notifications

The leading benefit for hosting and service providers alike is that their customers are happier. The Open-Xchange applications are intuitive for users, but they’re also customizable and can be self-branded. “The product itself has the ability for customers like 1&1 to upsell products within the application,” he said. “That’s very attractive for gigantic telcos and hosting providers like 1&1.”

Models of OX Drive desktop, laptop, mobile, and tablet versions

Open-Xchange products can be self-branded to enhance the engagement with customers and upsell services.

Chris explained that 1&1 saw value in the Open-Xchange product, which inspired their $20 million investment. Today, as a satisfied client, web host, and Open-Xchange investor, 1&1 sees that value realized when dealing with their eight million inboxes of email customers.

New Revenue Model with Dovecot Infrastructure & PowerDNS Security

With the added security functionality of Dovecot and PowerDNS, web hosts and telcos can engage their target audiences in entirely new ways, enter brand-new target segments, and create new revenue streams as well. With the security functionality that PowerDNS brings to the table, the backend security from Dovecot, as well as the IMAP filtering and archiving, Open-Xchange has the ability to enhance even more areas of telcos’ and hosting companies’ infrastructures.

New Version 7.8 Functionality: Real-Time Project Collaboration

“What’s really interesting about the latest version of OX App Suite for hosters,” Chris added, “is that hosters can now use their customer base as a real-time viral sales force.” He explained a new functionality found in version 7.8 of OX App Suite.

OX users can now send links to non-OX-users for their review and collaboration. With the right permissions in place, link recipients can edit and comment on documents, entering into a real-time editing session with revision tracking. “As that functionality evolves, it becomes a way for a hosting company to virally advertise just by allowing two people to connect,” Chris said.

Hosts can custom-build their own offerings as they take advantage of the Open-Xchange tools. “They can bundle, package, and price this any way that they want,” Bob added.

Implementation: OX Sits on Top of Hostway’s Existing Infrastructure

“Open-Xchange sits on top of our existing core mail architecture,” John told us. With a million mailboxes to contend with, Hostway has a very large, highly redundant mail cluster, and the Open-Xchange framework sits as a software layer on top of that.

Problem: A Huge Customer Base, A Million Mailboxes, & Customers Hate Moving

Hostway has over a million customer mailboxes to contend with, so the understandable fear would be having to move those mailboxes or migrate those customers for any reason.

“There’s nothing that customers don’t like less than moving or migration,” John said. “Especially among hosting companies, moving customers from one platform to another is the most dreaded project!” Thankfully, the Open-Xchange integration didn’t require moving any mailboxes.

Solution: A New Mail Cluster Means No Migration or Moving Mailboxes

Open-Xchange’s product sits as a separate cluster, with a separate application replacing the webmail interface for Hostway clients. Users receive their mail through the Open-Xchange framework, which then augments webmail with data from other collaborative services, like the shared calendar.

These are tasks POP and IMAP are incapable of managing, but the underling POP/IMAP mailbox is there underneath. “It’s in the same exact location, same exact mail cluster,” John said, “so it’s pretty easy integration.”

The Faces of Open-Xchange & Hostway

For over 20 years, Hostway has grown to be the go-to resource for complex, managed hosting solutions for businesses in particular. Since 2005, another trend-setter, Open-Xchange has paved the way in building scalable, cloud-based solutions for web hosts, service providers, and SMBs.

The Team Behind Open-Xchange

Headshots of the Co-Founders of Open-Xchange, CEO Rafael Laguna and EVP Frank Hoberg

Co-Founders of Open-Xchange: CEO Rafael Laguna (Top) and EVP Frank Hoberg (Bottom)

With three main offices based out of beautiful Nuremberg, Hamburg, and Cologne, Germany, Open-Xchange consists of a team of about 160 members. “Being an open-source, community-based company, we also have folks like myself who work out of office,” Chris said.

With freelancers in Berlin contributing to the open-source code, a few commuter offices in the US, and a handful of employees in the Netherlands, Open-Xchange has approximately half of their team working on the development side of the business.

Two leaders worth noting are Open-Xchange CEO Rafael Laguna and Executive VP Frank Hoberg. As co-founders of the company, Rafael and Frank are hugely responsible for getting Open-Xchange and their open-source solutions to where they are today.

Open-Xchange’s passion for the open-source community extends beyond the beautiful office spaces. Every year the company hosts OX Summit, a networking event where cloud providers and telcos can connect and find new solutions. “We like to say it’s a very ruthlessly open culture at Open-Xchange,” Chris said.

The Team Behind Hostway

The Hostway team features approximately 60-80 development experts: around 30 software developers and 30-50 engineers. Being a part of one of the three largest hosting companies in the world is competitive and challenging, but the Hostway team will tell you it’s pretty fun too.

The Hostway Team consists of approximately 30 software developers and 30-50 engineers, who know how to play hard and work harder.

John has a history with Hostway dating back to its roots. In 1995, he founded a company called ValueWeb, one of the first (and very successful) hosting companies in the US, which was later bought out by Affinity, which was later purchased by Hostway.

“When we started ValueWeb, I was the technology guy,” John said. “I wrote our original control panel, the order form, and the account provisioning script.” Over time, John’s role in the company morphed — transitioning to product management, sales, and marketing — before ultimately landing in his current job position. As GM of Web and Application Services, he maintains a balance between dealing with the technology and business aspects of the company.

“I think having the technology background keeps you grounded in terms of what’s possible, what’s exciting, and what’s really innovative and important to customers,” John shared. As for the marketing aspect of his current role, he says, “these days marketing is as much of a science as it is an art form.” John’s many hats worn throughout his Hostway career certainly bode well for Hostway customers and team members.

Open-Xchange & Hostway In Review

Together, Open-Xchange and Hostway offer a flexible and easy-to-manage collaborative hosting environment for businesses of all scales. “We have 20 years of experience in this space and have seen just about everything,” John said, “and that perspective is a huge part of what we offer customers.” As Open-Xchange provides the #1 touchpoint for Hostway users, both companies can remain in constant communication with their customers — helping them help their own users.

With Open-Xchange’s recent merger with Dovecot and PowerDNS, they now offer added security functionality and privacy solutions, allowing them to help telcos and hosting companies eke out that much more performance, and get into a whole new revenue model. “This is a very, very powerful story right now,” Chris said. “We’re the only company in the world that can deliver that stack at an open-source level.”

PJ Fancher

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