TL; DR: Web development has shifted dramatically in the last two decades, with hosts making tools accessible to everyone. UK-based hosting provider 34SP.com launched in 2000 and offers a competitive suite of features while differentiating itself through service and sustainability initiatives. The company’s customer-support ethos removes barriers for entrepreneurs by seamlessly serving thousands of accounts. In 2021, the company intends to migrate to a faster and more scalable platform based on Kubernetes.
In the early days of the internet, developers hand-coded sites using HTML and uploaded files to servers using FTP. Special scripts, including visitor counters, required access to a dedicated directory. The process was straightforward but inaccessible to many entrepreneurs who had minimal practical experience with web development.
In the early 2000s, hosting companies began to spring up, offering simplified solutions and specialized control panels that demystified website building for a new generation of entrepreneurs. They delivered tools, including content management systems, one-click deployments for email, graphical file uploaders, and related tools.
Those providers forced the first wave of independent web developers — who developed sites for small businesses, schools, and other institutions — to take a back seat.
UK-based hosting provider 34SP.com launched in 2000 to encourage that shift.
“The state of the internet two decades ago was very much a Wild West version of today,” Stuart Melling, 34SP.com Business Development Director, wrote in a blog post for the company. “No smartphones, no TikTok, no memes, no weird protocols like WAP. What hosting companies did exist were, on the whole, hyper-spammy, misleading, or at best mediocre. We decided we’d be none of those things, and 34SP.com was born.”
34SP.com offers four tiers of standard hosting, a reseller hosting plan, and domain registration services. The company’s approach mirrors that of the markets it serves: steady and straightforward.
In recent years, the hosting industry has settled into two primary models, one emphasizes container-based hosting with easy-to-use management tools, and the other focused on virtual private servers controlled by the customer.
Even as the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant corporate shift to the cloud, the container-based hosting market has remained mostly unaffected by the cloud revolution. 34SP.com serves those who require hosting services, and it plans to improve its speed and scalability in 2021.
The Pace of Website Technology Evolution Has Slowed
Modern container-based hosting relies on the same technology that has powered personal and small business websites for more than a decade. WordPress represents roughly two-thirds of the CMS market and nearly 40% of all public-facing websites.
“We’ve seen a lot of technologies come and go over the years. I think our initial hosting plans came with Perl, JSP, and FrontPage extension support, three items you never see these days,” Stuart said. “We’re always tracking what our clients are working on and what they ask for. A decade ago, many were writing for the web in PHP, hosting sites on WordPress. Now, in 2020, we’re still using WordPress, and we’re still reliant on PHP.”
Internet technology continues to evolve rapidly, as exemplified by the growth of social platforms and migration to cloud services. The hosting space for businesses has fragmented into three segments: traditional container-based hosting, hosted PaaS ecosystems, and social media.
“The modern hosted services environment is different with website builders such as Weebly, and hosted services like Shopify,” Stuart said. “Indeed, you don’t even need a website in today’s world, some smaller businesses do just fine with a Facebook page.”
Stuart notes that this odd mix of evolution and solidification has affected many companies, including 34SP.com. Initially, the company cast a wide net and aimed to serve everyone. Today, its services are tailored to select website owners who need comprehensive hosting packages and robust support.
In 2009, 34SP.com realized that being a budget provider limited the company’s potential for growth.
“We ditched our budget hosting proposition and the a la carte model of billing,” Stuart wrote on the company’s blog. “I still believe now what we decided then — people will pay a fair price for a great UK-based service. As part of the update, we wanted to offer everything a typical website needed out of the box and not have those moments of telling the client they had no backups as they hadn’t paid for the upgrade.”
Customer Service and Community Engagement Lead to Brand Loyalty
The hosting market is largely a commodity market, with functionally similar offerings, so one of the primary differentiators is service. That’s why 34SP.com prizes its customer service team.
“We were founded on the principle that everyone should get great service, and that is still the key to everything we do,” Stuart said. “We try to turn around most cases the same day, if not just a few hours. And if we can’t help a client because the issue lies with third-party code, for example, we will always point them in the right direction to solve the matter. We have a support charter that promises our commitment to service.”
The support charter lays out timelines for various types of queries, including immediate handling of problems related to offline sites, a 24-hour turnaround for billing or routine service inquiries, and a 72-hour turnaround for more complex or unusual situations. The company maintains a support team in the UK, at its headquarters in Manchester, England.
“We try to remove as much hassle from our products and service experience as possible,” Stuart said. “We want our clients to forget we exist for the most part. We want them to run their businesses and blogs and never have to worry about the backend. For anyone who has fought with a company to resolve a problem, the peace of mind we offer is priceless.”
34SP.com also values its community partnerships with organizations like Woodland Trust. The company is committed to sustainability, and its Manchester datacenter uses 100% renewable power. Through Woodland Trust, it plants enough trees each year to remove 300 tons of carbon from the atmosphere. Those partnerships help make 34SP.com a carbon negative company. Stuart adds that 34SP.com also gives away 10% of its platform’s paid capacity to charities based in the UK.
34SP.com: Seamless User Experience with Excellent Service
Internet standards and tech platforms always change, but hosting provider services have stayed relatively consistent for a decade. Tools like WordPress installations, email, automated backups, and easy-to-use control panels are standard in the industry.
In an environment where platforms compete on cost or service rather than features, 34SP.com thrives with its service-oriented business model. The company helps entrepreneurs with best-in-class tools that power small businesses at an affordable price and with all the options they need included in their service tier.
34SP.com also has a well-documented support charter and a commitment to partnerships for clean energy. And it has some enhancements planned for 2021.
“We’re set to launch our brand new hosting platform built around Kubernetes,” Stuart said. “2021 will see us transition our clients to the new technology that will allow us to deploy services in a faster and smarter fashion. And the distributed nature of the platform will make for more reliable services.”
34SP.com will offer a range of new services, including ones that can scale up on demand.
Despite the myriad options small businesses have, container-basedhosting endures, and it revolves around simplified control panels, moderate costs, WordPress optimization, and domain management. That’s why 34SP.com remains committed to offering best-in-class services in those areas.
“After such a long time in business, we still ask ourselves existential questions,” Stuart said, “To that end, we’re keen to give back and help as many of the communities we participate in as possible.”