TL; DR: As a leader in the managed hosting world, SingleHop is the perfect choice to kick off our series examining the challenges and trends hosting providers and their customers can expect to face in 2018. VP of Inside Sales and Marketing TJ Waldorf shares how the Chicago-based company follows through on a mission to make deploying and managing infrastructure as painless and efficient as possible. The first host to fully automate bare-metal server deployment, SingleHop continues to innovate with machine learning and automated multi-cloud management.
A new year means exciting new technologies — and the headaches that go along with implementing them. At HostingAdvice, we’re checking in with the top managed, WordPress, shared, and free web hosting providers to catch a peek at what’s on the horizon in 2018.
First up is SingleHop, a pioneer in infrastructure innovation. After creating the industry’s first automated server deployment system, Co-Founders Dan Ushman and Zak Boca continue to look for ways to save customers time and IT efficiency.
The emphasis on automation and machine learning boosts the ability for both SingleHop technicians and their clients to easily manage infrastructure configurations that are becoming increasingly more complex with the addition of offerings from Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
The progressively complicated private or multi-cloud options put additional pressure on the always-present managed hosting conflict of who is in charge of maintaining each particular component of the hosting environment. SingleHop addresses the challenge with clear documentation and onboarding processes geared toward establishing accurate customer expectations, according to VP of Inside Sales and Marketing TJ Waldorf.
“Transparency has been part of SingleHop’s DNA since the beginning,” he said. “Now we’re taking a big step forward with SingleHop AI and bringing that transparency even further up the stack. It goes beyond just infrastructure and uptime.”
Innovating With AI: SingleHop’s Take on Automated Cloud Management
At SingleHop, AI doesn’t stand for artificial intelligence — rather, the company’s platform for consolidated patching, monitoring, and managing of servers relies on actionable intelligence derived from automation and machine learning.
“We think machine learning’s application to the managed services layer will radically transform service delivery to the customer,” TJ said.
The company announced a self-service beta version of SingleHop AI in late 2015 to allow IT admins to remotely manage servers on any cloud or provider from one central interface.
“We want to make the managed cloud experience more proactive and predictive, obviously, transparent,” he said. “That way, the customer can really focus on what adds value to their business and furthers their mission rather than just keeping their infrastructure healthy and running.”
SingleHop will announce general availability of SingleHop AI early this year. TJ described how it evolved from a DIY tool for boosting infrastructure management convenience into a managed services asset that can enable company-wide innovation.
“Rather than just being a piece of software that somebody can use to do this stuff on their own, we recognized the true value was in the actual work that goes on behind the scenes,” TJ said. “IT workers have to evolve and add value to the business, rather than just clicking buttons and keeping the lights on. While they may have just been responsible for keeping servers up a few years ago, now they have to think of new and innovative ways to deliver services online.”
More Cloud Options Mean Helping Customers Choose the Right Fit
With more options from which to choose, TJ said SingleHop — which provides extensive private cloud hosting options, as well — has seen increasingly complicated requests and questions from customers.
“Several years ago, they would have just jumped in with a single supplier and done everything with that one host,” he said. “Now, with different services being more prevalent and intricate, customers are making sure their services are supported on exactly the right platform.”
Even though customers might come to SingleHop asking to move to AWS, TJ said the team has spent a lot of time learning the intricate details on each platforms’ cost, performance, reliability, and usability to be able to make the strongest recommendations. He said a “sizeable percentage” of the customers asking for Azure and AWS instead end up on a SingleHop private cloud.
“That’s not because we’re pushing them that way, but rather, it’s how the conversations go after understanding what they’re actually trying to accomplish,” he said. “When they hear ‘cloud,’ they’re thinking about The Big Three, but there’s more than that out there, and in many cases, those alternatives are better suited for what they’re trying to accomplish.”
Managed Hosting’s Role in Protecting Customers From Security Threats
When speaking with customers about securing their hosting environments, TJ often takes a fairly dark, yet pragmatic, route — exploits and intrusions are an “if,” not a “when.”
“An attack will probably happen at some point,” he said. “We encourage them to take the precautions and steps now to partner with someone who really knows what they’re doing to prevent any sort of real damage to their brand or their reputation down the line.”
SingleHop’s solution, Shield Managed Security, covers the fundamental physical, network, account, server, and application security needs for all customers. Organizations can also add managed services for disaster recovery, compliance, off-site backups, and DDoS mitigation.
“The need for security is growing month over month at this point,” TJ said. “As a managed hosting provider, we see our role as proactively helping our customers and educating the market about what those risks are, as well as the best practices. That way, our customers can be as far ahead of the curve as possible.”
What’s Next in 2018: Machine Learning and Multi-Cloud Solutions
With a big push to move SingleHop AI into general availability during the first part of 2018, TJ said the company is well placed to continue pushing forward with innovative technologies.
“With machine learning and artificial intelligence being so new and starting to gain so much traction, it’s going to be really interesting to see where that exists and what that looks like a year from now,” he said. “Internally, we’re really excited about that and feel like we’re at the leading edge of things.”
Providing customers with a comprehensive multi-cloud portal to see the inner workings of their managed AWS, Azure, and SingleHop cloud environments will be a boon for preventative maintenance and proactive management, according to TJ.
“I’m starting to see more and more in the media and across the hosting industry about predictive analytics,” he said. “We really feel that, with all we have coming this year, we are ahead of the curve compared to where a lot of the competition is. We are integrating that into the managed services solution we’re providing to give our customers more predictable and transparent paths to success.”