TL; DR: Originally launched as a reseller hosting provider focused on local markets in the Netherlands, HostSlim has drastically expanded its product portfolio and customer base in the past 10 years. The full-service host now offers the range of shared, virtual, cloud, dedicated, and colocation services to more than 20,000 customers worldwide while emphasizing high rates of automation and personalized service. Founder and CEO Ralph Karseboom explains how tech expertise, dedication to support, and eco-friendly practices mean a small company like HostSlim can take on massive corporations.
The move to cloud hosting is undoubtedly and persistently one of the web hosting industry’s biggest trends. But it’s another challenge that frustrates Ralph Karseboom, the Owner and CEO of HostSlim.
Particularly in Europe, where HostSlim is located, a few large companies are buying up the smaller hosting companies HostSlim competes with. Venture capital and private equity firms, along with large hosting corporations, are seeking a larger market share, meaning that HostSlim operates in a rather lonely space.
“They’re basically buying all the competition before our eyes,” Ralph said. “The problem with those companies, though, is they don’t really have the technical background to manage the companies they buy, which, of course, results in problems with the host’s services and clients.”
As an independent host, HostSlim has grown beyond its Netherlands roots to maintain a global footprint of customers. The company owns all of its servers, routers, and other network equipment and handles setup, support, and maintenance with a hands-on, high-touch approach rooted in automation.
HostSlim’s experience and success meant that it could acquire U.S. hosting provider HostSlayer in early 2018, and Ralph said he’s looking into buying others companie. However, he’s quick to point out that the companies continue operating separately.
“There are competitors who are trying to buy the whole market, so we have to push back,” he said. “We know there is a lot of international competition, but we are aware that, with our service and quality, we are guaranteed a great place in the market.”
HostSlim: 10 Years of Web Hosting Growth and Managed Services
By concentrating on bare bones reseller and web hosting packages, Ralph said he started HostSlim in late 2008 with just a few clients. The company opened its own version of a datacenter — HostSlim owns everything but the building and server cages — a few years later.
“The web hosting niche was quiet. Everything was quiet,” he said. “A very few large companies had a big piece of the cake, and you can’t really compete with all the big players when you’re just starting off.”
That datacenter, plus control over the various network, security, and support details, enabled HostSlim to expand its offerings to include dedicated servers, colocation, virtual private servers, and cloud computing.
“Right now a lot of our business is coming from the cloud,” Ralph said. “Other cloud providers are customers of ours.”
From the start, Ralph and the HostSlim team have concentrated on providing high-quality services and strong customer service. The pairing has resonated with customers, as the company’s client base has swelled to around 20,000 site owners. HostSlim aims to be with new customers at every step of their journey, from migration or server setup to configuring backups or scaling into VPS or cloud hosting.
“We offer a fully managed hosting solution, which all our clients like and competitors don’t really do right now,” Ralph said. “If you host a website somewhere, of course, you want to have personal support. You don’t want to be known as a number or pushed into a corner and told, ‘Quiet, we’ll help you when we’re ready.’”
Helping Customers Scale While Seeking Feedback
HostSlim typically serves customers ranging from individuals with a hobby or interest in running a website to businesses of up to 50 employees. Ralph said one of his favorite parts of running HostSlim is witnessing clients starting out in the former category and growing into the latter.
“The greatest thing is when clients come to us for basic web hosting packages, and you see them grow to a VPS and a dedicated server or cloud network,” he said. “Basically, when their companies are taking their first steps or stumbling, we can help them grow into a stronger business.”
HostSlim accomplishes this by tailoring services to clients’ needs and budgets. For example, the company leverages automation and efficient workflows to ease the hassles of moving to new infrastructures.
“We always make the package fit the client,” Ralph said. “Our clients help us ramp up our operations, so we help them grow their own businesses. Our mission is to help them grow their business without impacting their profits. They basically just focus on keeping the momentum going.”
HostSlim representatives start asking clients for feedback on their hosting experience within the first two weeks of them signing up, Ralph said. Whether it’s expressing a need for a big new feature, such as a website builder or automatic software installations, or little tweaks to the company’s systems and processes, HostSlim thrives on the customer input.
“We’re looking to constantly develop new ways of helping our clients without them having to put any effort into the hosting services,” he said.
Industry-Leading Efficiencies Reduce Power Consumption
Beyond the scalability, Ralph counts HostSlim’s approach to eco-friendly hosting among the company’s biggest strengths or advantages.
“It’s not just the managed services, it’s also an environmental mission we’re on to make sure the environment isn’t too affected by our datacenter,” he said.
The company’s datacenter in Lelystad, about an hour outside of Amsterdam, runs on renewable energy and minimizes carbon dioxide emissions — meaning no nuclear, coal-fired, or wood-fired power stations.
Ralph said the datacenter’s location and design mean it operates at a 1.07 PUE, which stands for power usage efficiency. Essentially, 7% of the datacenter’s electricity goes toward computing equipment, with the rest going to cooling and other overhead. By comparison, Ralph said other datacenters target a 1.7 PUE as a mark to which they should aspire.
“That’s not really something we should be proud of,” he said.
By being smart about equipment choices and installations, HostSlim was able to cut its energy consumption in half. Automation means that servers are automatically turned off if they aren’t being used. Coupled with HostSlim’s energy-efficient hardware and other practices, the company also makes annual donations to the Trees for All nonprofit organization, which plants trees and shrubs in an effort to protect forests and the environment.
“We try to offset as much CO2 as we can, and it’s also good to give something back to nature, of course,” Ralph said. “It’s an extra thing we do to show our clients we take green energy and the environment very seriously.”
Coming Soon: HostSlim’s New Full-Service Datacenter
According to Ralph, HostSlim aims to open the doors to a new datacenter in early 2019. As with the company’s current datacenter in Lelystad, HostSlim will operate an entire floor of a Tier-III Alticom facility with independent uninterruptible power supplies, emergency generators, redundant fiberoptic connections, and cooling systems.
As part of the Dutch Emergency Infrastructure, Alticom facilities have been designated by the government as official emergency stations. In the event of disasters, the datacenters will be counted on to transmit data and inform the region. The ultra-secure and reliable facilities are also the only datacenters above the Netherlands average floodplains, and the emergency power supplies are tested at least four times each year
The company will provide its full portfolio of web hosting services, including robust security measures, from the start. HostSlim offers at least 1,200Gbps of DDoS protection along with web application firewalls that customers can customize and configure as needed.
Ralph already anticipates breaking ground on additional datacenter locations later in the year. The partnership with Alticom enables HostSlim to rapidly build what he called edge datacenters, which are relatively small facilities HostSlim can switch on and off as needed. The partnership with Alticom means HostSlim can get server space in dozens of locations within three months.
“It’s really exciting, and we’re constantly looking into more expansion,” he said. “The great thing with the datacenter is we now can expand to 24 more locations. The goal is to expand quite exponentially during the next few years.”