TL; DR: In 1996, the team behind eApps transformed its consulting company into an application hosting business. It was a smart move: Today, eApps has evolved into a provider of customizable virtual servers, autoscaling cloud hosting environments, and load balancing services that enable developers to power mission-critical apps and sites. During its 20 years in the industry, the company has found success by cultivating strong relationships with customers, vendors, and staff alike.
Richard Lingsch’s foray into hosting began with a single server in the closet of a commercial Class A office building.
His company, Strategic Systems Consulting, had been helping clients solve a wide array of problems since 1986. In 1996, a new predicament arose when a client needed a place to host web apps.
The team quickly accepted the challenge. “We threw a server into a closet and started hosting some Lotus Domino apps,” Richard said.
It wasn’t long before the servers started heating up, as they tend to do, but the office space was designed for people, not machines. “We had no control over the air conditioning and couldn’t even open a window,” Richard said.
So they did what any creative group of consultants would do: They found a solution. “We put a vent in the office door attached to one of those portable air conditioners,” Richard said. “It worked, but we were blowing hot air into the office around our staff.”
While the sweltering environment was uncomfortable in the short term, it sparked a big-picture idea: Strategic Systems Consulting would begin doing business as eApps, a cloud provider of application hosting and related services for developers and SMBs.
The business rapidly evolved from there, initially focusing on Java application servers before expanding to cover other programming frameworks and providing a comprehensive cloud hosting environment.
Today, eApps uses its 20 years’ experience to provide managed virtual servers with guaranteed resources, autoscaling cloud hosting environments, and geographically redundant cloud load balancing solutions. A focus on treating vendors and staff with care trickles down to the company’s customers — developers looking to power mission-critical apps and sites.
Customizable Managed Virtual Servers with Guaranteed Resources
Powered by OnApp, eApps’ Virtual Server Cloud Hosting features an easy-to-use Create-A-Cloud tool that enables users to allocate custom guaranteed resources — such as CPU, RAM, and disk space – on demand.
Users have the choice of a variety of operating systems, including Linux and Windows. The company also offers cloud hosting templates that include pre-bundled applications like Tomcat, GlassFish, Liferay Portal, and MySQL. To save customers time, eApps provides automatic installation of bundled applications upon creation of the virtual server.
Richard told us the company initially depended on another vendor for the service. The partnership was successful, but the vendor wasn’t prioritizing that particular product at the time, so Richard knew it wouldn’t be a sustainable solution.
“They went through some changes with acquisitions and a different focus, so we switched over to another vendor, OnApp, and I went with a shared storage model for the first time,” he said. “It worked out well, and it’s still our primary platform.”
The company also provides an automatically scaling cloud hosting environment that includes a full suite of templates, tools, and apps designed to save developers time. “A couple of years ago we had some customers who wanted to operate similarly to AWS in terms of autoscaling and pay-per-use utility pricing,” Richard said. “So we launched a Platform-as-a-Service offering using Jelastic.”
The pricing model charges customers only for the CPU and RAM needed to meet demand, and disk storage is billed based on usage rather than predetermined disk size. The environment can even be set to “sleep” to conserve resources when they’re not needed.
Between the two platforms, eApps covers a lot of ground.
“We have some customers with needs that are seasonal or event-driven, and they love the auto-scaling platform,” Richard said. “Then we have some other customers who enjoy the flexibility of being able to use these virtual servers and put together a solution with resources customized to their needs. We’re very solutions-oriented, and that goes back to our consulting days.”
Geographic Cloud Load Balancing Services Ensure Maximum Uptime
To increase the reliability of mission-critical applications, eApps leverages a geographically redundant cloud balancing solution.
“We have an external load balancing service dispersed across our two datacenters that keep data in sync between geographical locations through advanced data replication techniques,” Richard said.
AGENT511, a software development company that builds and deploys critical communication services to allow public safety agencies to connect with their constituents, uses eApps’ cloud balancing solution in conjunction with its TEXTBLUE platform. Because of the urgent nature of these communications, high availability is crucial to TEXTBLUE.
Jay Malin, Founder and Managing Director of AGENT511, said the service has helped deploy numerous crucial communication services without downtime. “Cloud load balancing, with geographic spanning, ups the ante by maximizing technical design flexibility and redundancy,” Jay said in a case study for eApps.
Other developers, like SaaS Hotel Management Sytems Ltd, turn to eApps’ geo-redundant solution to avoid the financial risks of downtime. The software developer uses the solution to deploy Hotelier101, a cloud-based hotel management system serving hotels in Turkey, Greece, India, and the Caribbean.
The eApps team strives to ensure high performance in other ways, as well. The company’s Georgia-based datacenter features redundant power and connectivity with a network designed for uptime.
“We invest in uptime and high performance,” Richard said. “One of the things that we did a few years ago was convert everything over to SSD-based storage systems. We were very fortunate to find a cost-effective, high-performance solution.”
Internal Development Aided by Valuable Vendor Relationships
Richard attributes much of eApps’ success to the company’s tight-knit partnerships with vendors. For example, a vendor partnership proved invaluable when the company decided to upgrade its virtualization technology from Xen to KVM to ensure the best performance possible.
“Our SSD storage system vendor, StorPool, went above and beyond the call of duty helping us migrate from Xen to KVM,” he said. “They are very responsive and have been a key contributor to several of our projects.”
Richard was so impressed with the service that he published a glowing review. “This sounds corny, like you could find it in a book about business, but from day one we’ve realized we need to take care of three groups,” he said. “We have to take care of our customers, obviously, but we also have to take care of our staff. What surprises some people is that you also have to take care of your vendors.”
Of course, eApps doesn’t rely solely on partnerships to provide the high-quality services its clients require.
“We know vendors only take us so far,” Richard said. “We depend on our R&D teams to differentiate ourselves with solutions like our geographic cloud load balancing service. We have team members who work in labs and are devoted to product development.”
A Trustworthy Support Staff Dedicated to Problem Solving
Richard knows that the hosting industry has a bad reputation when it comes to customer service and takes pride in eApps’ attempt at course correction. The company trains its support team to respond quickly and accurately while employing effective problem-solving skills.
“We have low turnover because we treat our staff well, and they like it here,” he said. “In turn, they care for our customers. There are always problems that come up, but we have the right team to take care of them and make sure everything’s running well.”
The company also recognizes that customers appreciate honesty and integrity. “It’s a pretty simple thing — we don’t lie to our customers,” Richard said. “We spend a lot of time making sure we understand customers’ needs, and if we can’t handle the job, we’ll just say ‘We’re not the right provider for you.’”
For eApps, the words of the former football player, coach, and analyst Lou Holtz ring true: “Don’t ever promise more than you can deliver, but always deliver more than you can promise.” The adage doesn’t mean the eApps avoids challenges (case in point: that first server in an old office closet), but it does ensure the company meets customers’ expectations.