TL; DR: Founded nearly 20 years ago with a single server, Blacknight Solutions has grown into Ireland’s largest provider of hosting and domain registration services, now boasting upward of 75,000 customers in 130 countries around the world. Blacknight differentiates itself by running its own powerful, end-to-end network that allows the company to offer an array of services, including shared, email, VPS, and dedicated server hosting for businesses of any size — from small startups to multinational enterprises. By employing a consultative approach to customer care, Blacknight ensures its partners walk away with the hosting services that meet their specific needs and business goals. And, with a dedication to evolve technologies alongside industry trends, Blacknight is positioned to continue helping budding entrepreneurs and established businesses broadcast their brands well into the future.
At the risk of dating myself, I remember the late 1990s well. Los Del Rio’s Macarena and the pop songs of the Spice Girls dominated the Billboard Top 40, and people were just beginning to connect to the emerging World Wide Web through dial-up connections on bulky desktop computers. It was a strange time, to be sure, but the technologies that came out of the period would go on to change how the world interacts and conducts business.
Sitting at the edge of the rising web technologies and better broadband connections that came with the turn of the century, Michele Neylon found himself designing websites for small businesses in Ireland. At the time, there was very little hosting being done in the country due to large infrastructure costs, and Michele was forced to rent space with a host located in North America.
“I started having issues with my hosting service,” Michele said. “I had to choose between letting my clients down or finding some other type of hosting solution.”
Not wanting to disappoint his hard-earned customers, Michele decided to purchase his first dedicated server and, somewhat by chance, founded the hosting company Blacknight Solutions.
“I’d love to spin you a tale of some elaborate mission to start the company, but the reality is that it was more accidental than planned,” Michele said. “And we now have space in multiple datacenters across Ireland.”
Today, Blacknight is Ireland’s largest web host and domain registrar, touting more than 75,000 customers in 130 countries worldwide. The company sets itself apart from the competition through a powerful, end-to-end network, multiple product offerings, and the ability to act with agility when adapting to industry change. This, coupled with a consultative approach that gives customers the solutions they need to directly and positively impact operations and revenue, is why so many businesses — from small mom-and-pop online shops to large global enterprises — have turned to Blacknight to power their sites.
Staying Competitive by Evolving Alongside Changing Technologies
Since its inception, Blacknight has operated with the mission to adapt its solutions to the times. Michele told us how different the landscape was when he started the company.
“Back in the ’90s, a portable computer really wasn’t portable. You’d dislocate your shoulder if you carried something like that around today,” he joked. “Connections were slow, and most websites only contained static content.”
Consumer demand and technological evolution grew together in tandem and the hosts had to follow suit. According to Michele, once things started to speed up and the world became more mobile, it became imperative for Blacknight to adapt.
“On the hosting side, we’ve all had to change what we’re doing to cater to that,” he said. “The hardware we put in, in terms of how many CPUs they have, how fast they are, how much physical RAM you’re putting into servers, disk space requirements — these have all evolved.”
And it’s because of this dedication to staying at the cutting edge that Blacknight is able to maintain pace with the industry.
Differentiators: A Powerful Network, Multiple Products, and Agility
Though it’s a modest company of only 50 employees, according to Michele, that’s what makes Blacknight so strong when pitted against its larger cousins in the hosting space. Michele told us Blacknight may not have the deep pockets of companies, like GoDaddy or Rackspace, but the company is still able to compete because of its agility.
“We may not have millions of dollars at our disposal for marketing or to buy shiny new hardware,” he said. “But we also don’t have to deal with a complex bureaucratic decision-making process. If we decide to do something, we do it.”
Another very large factor in Blacknight’s success and why it’s able to serve its customers so well is the powerful network the company maintains. While Blacknight outsources some powering and cooling to outside datacenters, the company runs its network in-house.
“We run our network end to end,” Michele said. “We own all the servers, racks, and switches, while other companies rely on third parties to provide the network.”
This type of centralized control allows Blacknight to offer an array of services that zero in on customer need. The company provides its user base shared, email, VPS, dedicated server, and colocation hosting, among other solutions.
“Some clients choose us because we’re able to cater to a wide variety of what they’re looking for,” Michele said. “A domain is a domain, and it doesn’t matter where you obtain it. The differentiator is going to be around the other services we offer.”
As a result, Blacknight acts as a kind of one-stop shop for the businesses that turn to it for varied solutions. According to Michele, offering a combination of services and how they interact with customers makes all the difference.
“The Irish accent helps, too,” Michele joked. “Let’s face it. Customer service with an Irish accent’s not the worst thing in the world.”
Presenting a Consultative, Need-Based Approach to Customer Service
Going beyond the accent, Michele told us a small client who simply needs a single domain, website, and a few email addresses will choose Blacknight because of its reliability and responsive support. But, according to Michele, what really helps Blacknight stand out is the consultative approach it takes to customer service and sales.
For larger companies looking for hosting solutions, Blacknight isn’t in the game just to make a sale. The team instead seeks to understand its partners to provide them with exactly what they need to accomplish their business missions.
“Some clients will come to us and say they need a particular service, and we sit down and have a conversation with them,” he said. “We want to learn about what it is they’re trying to achieve and what they’re prioritizing before selling them something they don’t need.”
Michele used redundancy and security as examples. If clients approach Blacknight with notions that they need layer upon layer of backups and security, the team will discuss what direction is best so the clients aren’t spending money on a ton of unnecessary features.
“Being able to have this conversation with clients and tell them they don’t actually need this or that is a very helpful dialogue. It’s the kind of thing we do,” he said. “Our sales team works with our technical teams to ensure the solution we’re offering a business is an appropriate one.”
Keeping a Finger on the Pulse of Market Trajectories to Stay Competitive
Blacknight has come a long way since its humble beginnings of employing just a single server. And, just as tastes in music have changed since the days of the Macarena, the technological landscape also presents a much different environment. Michele told us it’s Blacknight’s mission to keep pace with these changes to remain competitive.
“Hosting companies need to think about what’s the next thing and where the market’s going,” he said. “Cloud is obviously growing, and we’re all going to have to worry about things like net neutrality over the next few years.”
To stay in the know on current events and changing technologies, Michele acts as chair-elect of the Internet Infrastructure Coalition. There are several working groups within the organization covering a wide variety of disparate topics that affect an array of stakeholders.
“On the one hand, you have to look at different technologies as they evolve, and, on the other, you have governments trying to restrict what you can and cannot access,” Michele said. “The Internet Infrastructure Coalition has been very useful in keeping up with what’s going on in the industry.”
It’s forward-thinking like this that has enabled Michele and Blacknight to stay relevant and will surely be the key to continuing success for decades to come.