TL; DR: Among the trailblazers of high-powered managed VPS and dedicated hosting, ServInt continually innovates to provide premium support and one-of-a-kind availability. The veteran hosting provider has grown from a college dorm room in Virginia to serving thousands of upscale hosting customers after more than 20 years in business. Boasting 99.999% uptime, 60-second hardware replacement, and white-glove managed services, ServInt recently launched proprietary high-availability hosting environments that remove the headaches and high costs of migrating to the cloud.
Vice President of Sales and Marketing Devon Rutherford prefers to avoid the term, but longtime hosting provider ServInt continues to push the label of boutique web hosting to new lengths.
The privately owned web host boasts a surprising slew of innovations during more than two decades of existence: ServInt was among the first providers to offer managed dedicated servers and was also on the leading edge of server virtualization.
According to Devon, the company was the second host to market a VPS product around 2003 and, later, the first to launch a Jelastic Platform-as-a-Service cloud offering.
No matter the technical innovations, however, ServInt employees have concentrated on providing top-tier managed support, often even jumping into customers’ code to help troubleshoot problems.
“Our focus is very much on the client relationship and making sure that the client’s hosting and management needs are fulfilled,” Devon said. “We really go that extra mile to handhold the customer to make sure they have what they need. We offer more of a turnkey solution than your average hosting provider. There’s not a whole lot of those companies left.”
The Story of ServInt: Starting and Growing a Hosting Pioneer
It’s an all-too-familiar story in the tech industry: Future college dropout Reed Caldwell began a hosting and ISP business out of his dorm room in 1995. The company had one employee, a $10,000 family loan, a few credit cards, and a Pentium-90 web server running Linux 1.2.9.
From there, Reed initially scaled ServInt by investing heavily in a content delivery network. A reorganization following the dot-com bust 2000 shifted attention to providing enterprise-class hosting and managed services.
“Frankly, it’s one of the best hosts on the planet,” Devon said. “We have a good platform, good technology, good people, and a great customer base. These are the sort of things that keep me engaged and excited about redefining the managed hosting experience for our clients.”
3 Tiers of Managed Support Create Turnkey Server Administration
For most of ServInt’s history, Devon said the company offered “everything, including the kitchen sink” to all customers through managed services.
A few years ago, however, the company reached a breaking point when business scaled to a critical mass. Time-intensive phone support became harder to scale.
“We realized phone support takes considerably more time than chat or ticket support, and we ran into some challenges into scaling that management,” Devon said. “We found a few nice ways around that by splitting our managed services into core services and upgrades for concierge service, which allows us to be a little more white-glove and spend more time with the client.”
1. Concierge Managed Services Approach White-Glove Treatment
With ServInt’s top-level managed support, the company’s technical experts will hop into customers’ code and databases to troubleshoot problems — oftentimes, they’ll even take care of the solution, according to Devon.
“If you need someone to jump into a command line terminal and install a third-party software package for you, we can do it no problem,” he said. “If you want us to troubleshoot why you’re getting a certain PHP error, we can tell you that you may want to check a certain call.”
Beyond troubleshooting web, FTP, mail, and database servers, signature components of ServInt’s concierge service include phone support, cPanel migrations, DDoS setup and configuration, and an hour of database management consultation per month.
“Essentially, concierge service includes the things we found didn’t scale well,” Devon said. “This allows us to really concentrate on our customers’ specific needs.”
2. Managed Support Covers Core Needs
In addition to 24/7/365 ticket and chat support, ServInt includes proactive monitoring of up to six services, along with updates and patches to the customer’s operating system and control panel.
ServInt experts will provide backup restoration and malware scanning and cleanup on request, along with some basic troubleshooting assistance.
“We may point you in the right direction, but, technically, we don’t support MySQL or client code,” Devon said.
3. Self-Managed Service Gives Users Total Control
At the lowest level, ServInt’s self-managed service includes the installation of the base operating system, hardware maintenance, and replacement, as well as around-the-clock remote hands assistance. Additionally, self-managed customers can schedule time with ServInt engineers.
“It’s a pretty comprehensive package if you’re pretty careful about the administration of a server,” Devon said. “If you’re not, then our managed or concierge support can make up the difference.”
High-Availability Solutions Reduce Cost and Complexity for Customers
Recently ServInt noticed an uptick in the number of customers requesting high-availability features, along with related components such as failover capabilities and load balancing.
“Although that’s something that can be achieved on a cloud platform, not everybody wants to move to a cloud stack,” he said. “I’ve grown up on Linux. I’m a CentOS guy, and I like running cPanel. It makes administration really easy, and to do something like move to the cloud is a difficult process.”
High-availability hosting solutions introduce extra infrastructure to guarantee a customer’s information is consistently available, even in the event of hardware failure or malfunction.
High-availability hosting customers typically have to pay extra for the additional infrastructure, along with the tools and programs to carry out failovers and data replication.
In May 2017, ServInt debuted high-availability dedicated servers running proprietary services that simultaneously require less configuration, speed up recovery processes — and cost less than other high-availability products from competitors. Boasting more than 99.999% uptime, ServInt followed up with a similar solution for VPS plans in June.
“The goal with this product is to remove the costs and complexities and make it a single managed server,” Devon said. “It’s the same interface you’ve always known. You don’t have to code to some other platform, and your applications are going to work the way they’ve always worked.”
According to Devon, ServInt can produce highly available dedicated servers for about one-and-a-half times the cost of regular servers, while most other hosts double or triple the price tag. In multi-tenant environments, ServInt offers high-availability VPS hosting with solid-state drives for essentially the same price as hosts with regular SSD VPSes.
“It basically means we’re throwing in the high-availability services for free,” he said. “Essentially, we’re giving VPS clients the ability to have an always-on server, or at least the closest thing possible, and not have to pay an arm and a leg for it. It’s kind of uncomfortable for people to pay two-and-a-half times what it would normally cost for failover, particularly since it’s something they hope to never need to utilize in the first place.”
How ServInt’s SimpleScale Tech Guarantees 99.999% Uptime
Devon didn’t want to spill too many details on how ServInt is able to deliver 60-second hardware recoveries and less than five minutes of downtime per year — “No one has figured out how we’re doing this yet, and I don’t want them to,” he said with a laugh — but he still gave us a little peek behind the curtain.
For ServInt, high availability rests on the company’s SimpleScale platform, which is a software layer that sits underneath the Linux operating system. SimpleScale, originally built with seamless scalability and migrations in mind, makes content portable.
“We’ve coded it in such a way that we have lots of redundant pieces of hardware in a cluster,” Devon said. “We created a cluster of host nodes, but then we’ve got basically a virtualization cloud storage system. If your hardware fails for any reason, the system senses it and instantly spins up a new instance on a new host node and points all of your storage to that.”
Fast-Growing Services and the Search for New Customers
ServInt has rolled out a bevy of new products, partnerships, and features in the past year and a half, including the new managed service packages and dedicated Windows hosting. New partners include SiteLock for security and Cloudflare DDoS protection and content delivery network, along with DNS and frontend optimization.
Upcoming added services could include services optimized for WordPress and WooCommerce, as well as enhanced load balancing between server instances.
Unsurprisingly, Devon said ServInt’s high-availability products have heavily resonated in the eCommerce world, where uptime being critical seems like an understatement.
The high-availability VPS services debuted a week or so before we talked with Devon, who said he is still identifying new audiences for the platform. The revenue impacts of uptime naturally will draw a lot of small to medium businesses, along with hosting resellers.
“We want to bring high availability home for more than just those handful of people who really, absolutely need 100% uptime and put it in the hands of people who would really appreciate the redundancy and stability,” he said.