TL; DR: Since 1999, Fasthosts has been shaking up the market with its cutting-edge web hosting, domain, email, website builder, and cloud services. And few know this better than Fasthosts Development Team Leader John Brownbill. We recently spoke with John about how the UK-based host’s lasting startup culture enables employees to develop the groundbreaking web solutions that are propelling both the company and industry forward.
From automated control panels that optimize the customer experience while maximizing productivity, to a next-generation cloud platform, Fasthosts is delivering the tools customers need to successfully manage and power their businesses online.
Back in 1999, John Brownbill had two goals when he stumbled upon a job in technical support at a local hosting startup: to take a year off before university and put some change in his pockets while doing it.
“I didn’t really know what a web hosting company was at the time or what technical support really meant,” John said.
Nevertheless, he showed up for the interview and got the gig. The next day he was officially part of the technical support team at Fasthosts, tasked with taking phone calls and answering emails. The environment was sink-or-swim, and John was excited to jump right in.
“There was no training — no formal introduction,” he said. “I started with zero knowledge, literally learning from talking to customers.”
John found the startup environment energizing and quickly learned to navigate its waters. But when the time came to head off to uni, things didn’t seem quite right.
“In that time, the company was growing madly,” he said.
So when Fasthosts offered him a new role in software development, John knew he had to stay.
“It’s been a fantastic alternative to university,” John, who is now Development Team Leader at Fasthosts, said. “I had the university education while doing the job — a very different course than I thought I was going to take.”
John’s subsequent tenure with the UK-based company is a testament to its enduring startup culture, which has served to attract and retain the talent needed to produce cutting-edge web hosting solutions since 1999.
The rapidly growing company strives to employ the latest technology at all times to create an efficient and optimal customer experience. From its award-winning control panel, which enables users to self-manage services, to its next-generation platform for virtualized servers and cloud hosting, Fasthosts is catering to the ever-changing needs of businesses, web agencies, and developers.
Delivering Cutting-Edge Hosting and Web Services Since 1999
At the age of 17 — and just six months before John’s unique introduction to the company — Andrew Michael founded Fasthosts as part of a school IT project. After an unsuccessful search for a suitable Windows-based hosting service to use for the project, Andrew and a friend decided to build their own.
“They thought they might be able to sell this if there’s no one else doing it,” John said.
And the company took off from there.
“There was obviously this gap in the market, and they found it,” John said. “They were the right people in the right place at the right time, and they just went for it.”
Since then, Fasthosts has expanded its range of web solutions to include hosting, domains, email, website builders, and dedicated servers. The company’s two ultramodern datacenters, both in Gloucester, England, are used to host more than 1.4 million domains, 835,000 customer mailboxes, and 400,000 websites. All 260,000 active customer accounts can rely on 24/7, UK-based customer support.
In retrospect, John said that the company’s culture was vital to building the business.
“At the time, I didn’t realize what the company was going to be like — how big it was going to get — but I can now look back and realize that the early strong culture really helped build the business,” he said.
Rapid Growth Spurred by an Atmosphere That Cultivates Innovation
John told us many of the employees present in the company’s earliest days remain there today.
“Those who invested in the company and worked really hard in the early days are all still there,” he said. “There was a really strong team spirit, with everyone pulling in the same direction.”
The company has grown since then, now comprising a staff of 170 and three separate development teams. But the startup feel remains — sometimes surfacing within specific projects or between product and development teams.
“It’s almost like inside a project you get this startup feel again, where a small team of people are really enthusiastic about a project or an idea, and it becomes less product people telling the development people what they want, and more a team of people working together,” he said.
And, according to John, that excitement is key to driving innovation.
“Those are the projects where everything goes a lot quicker because everyone’s excited and enthusiastic about it,” John said. “As a result, you get a product at the end that you’re proud to deliver because it’s the sort of project you’d buy and want to use yourself.”
Driving Efficient and Optimal Experiences Through Automation
Through the years, Fasthosts has successfully employed automation to maximize productivity and provide an optimal customer experience. And, according to John, this was an integral component to the company’s growth.
“There was nothing manual about operations,” he said. “That allowed the company to be small, develop things quickly, and build up a large customer base much faster than competitors.”
The automation strategy is used externally, through public-facing tools, such as the award-winning Fasthosts control panel, which enables users to fully manage their Fasthosts services. The control panel allows the full orchestration of all account components, including account details, servers, sites, domain names, and email. And, as John noted, management tasks are quick and easy.
The Fasthosts team is also finding automation to be of great value internally. According to John, this frees up staff so they can focus on more creative endeavors.
“You take the burden off having a lot of people doing manual tasks,” he said.
CloudNX: A Next-Generation Platform for Virtualized Services
John told us Fasthosts has some exciting developments on the horizon, specifically within the area of virtualized servers.
Last year, the company launched CloudNX, a next-generation, scalable cloud platform with high-performance servers that can be provisioned in just 55 seconds and scaled on demand. The platform features flexible pricing based on resource usage, an easy-to-use mobile and desktop control panel, and 24/7 customer support, as well as a wide range of additional features.
In Fall 2017, Fasthosts announced the addition of multiple services to the CloudNX platform, providing customers with even more options and control. Alongside cloud servers, managed software stacks and pre-installed applications now deliver a complete range of virtualized solutions. All this comes with the security, reliability, and performance clients have come to depend on from Fasthosts’s datacenters.
“One of our teams is working quite a lot on the cloud products that we are producing,” John said. “There’s a product we put out called Managed Stacks where you’re using a containerized system to deploy things, like WordPress, to customers, and we have some products in that area that the team is working on that are very exciting.”