TL; DR: Founded in 1998 by a 14-year-old tech fanatic from his bedroom in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Steadfast has matured into a comprehensive provider of managed hosting solutions with datacenter locations in Chicago and New Jersey. Today, the company aims to provide personalized, reliable infrastructure solutions that free customers from technical burdens so they can focus on business objectives. With two decades of experience and an eye on future market trends, Steadfast strives to help businesses effectively scale for years to come.
When 14-year-old Karl Zimmerman went to sleep on the night before Christmas in 1998, it wasn’t visions of sugarplums that danced in his head. For the young internet enthusiast, the holiday meant more than candy-filled stockings — it was a chance to save money for a reseller license to support his new hosting hobby.
Karl, who was born on Christmas, used the dual celebration to his advantage. He collected $200 that year, bought his first reseller account, and unknowingly launched what would become a multimillion-dollar hosting company.
“Being 14, I didn’t know what I was getting into, and I’m grateful for that,” said Karl, CEO of Steadfast. “I figured, ‘How hard can it be?’ and just jumped in.”
The small business continued to grow as Karl worked his way through college, progressing to the point that it no longer made sense to focus on school. “I hired a couple of employees, and to me, that’s when it became a real business,” he said.
Fast forward two decades and Karl’s passion for hosting has transformed from a hobby run out of his bedroom in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, to a robust managed services provider with fully redundant datacenters in Chicago and northern New Jersey. Today, the company’s goal is to help businesses strengthen their focus through a white-glove solution catered to their evolving needs. Backed by knowledgeable support and continuous product development, Steadfast is committed to providing personalized managed infrastructure solutions to businesses across the US.
Providing Better Service Catered to Increasingly Informed Customers
Steadfast COO James Webb told us the company — which specializes in flexible cloud environments, infrastructure solutions, and reliable, secure managed services — prides itself on its ability to evolve in step with customer need.
“Competition is tough, and from my perspective, customer expectations have skyrocketed as technical knowledge becomes increasingly mainstream,” he said. “To keep up with customer demand, you have to ensure you’re providing cutting-edge technology, but also cutting-edge customer service. That’s how we stand out.”
Karl agreed: Steadfast has always operated under the notion that cheapest isn’t always best. When competing with the likes of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, customer service becomes an important differentiator.
“We offer competitive rates, but we’ve never focused on being the cheapest provider; instead, we consider the entire package,” he said. “One of the things I’ll say to prospective clients is that anyone can set up a server or datacenter infrastructure. Providing the base infrastructure is one thing — it’s after the contract is signed that many companies fall short.”
According to Karl, that’s when Steadfast shines. “We build a high-quality network and continue to thrive through close involvement with our clients to ensure the best possible experience,” he said.
Steadfast’s Senior IT Strategist Edward Dryer told us the company’s nimble culture allows it to flourish in the face of changing customer expectations. “We make adjustments as we go, and we take the customer with us on that journey,” he said. “The key is keeping them well informed along the way.”
Scaling to Revenue Generation: Helping Businesses Strengthen Focus
James told us that Steadfast’s centralized datacenter locations enable small and medium-sized businesses to leverage the same infrastructure solutions as enterprise-level clients at an affordable rate.
“The gap between professional services is becoming wider and wider,” he said. “You have companies that were born on the web — born from AWS, born from Google — and they do well until they grow and have trouble making the transition to corporate infrastructure.”
The growing pains are easy to spot. “Growing companies find they need a way to manage their people, workstations, and servers, all while regulatory requirements increase,” James said. “Managed service providers like Steadfast know how to make that jump at light speed.”
Steadfast aims to ease such transitions by taking on the role of an IT department, allowing clients to focus on day-to-day business objectives rather than infrastructure maintenance. When partnering with clients in this way, communication is key — which is why Steadfast provides consultation at all stages, from planning and design to implementation and maintenance.
James said the company knows how to navigate the process based on personal experience. “Karl started the company by himself when he was 14, and now he’s got 60 or so people who work for him, and we’ve become an enterprise player,” he said. “To get from being a small mom-and-pop shop to a profitable enterprise, you have to leverage your technology spend efficiently.”
According to Karl, Steadfast’s value lies in the connection it forges between technology and business. “Our job is, of course, to solve technical problems, but what we’re really doing is enabling our customers to solve business problems — helping them manage their staff, manage their employees, and get things done,” he said.
A White-Glove Solution That Increases Customer Retention
Edward told us Steadfast considers the companies it serves to be partners rather than clients.
“Once someone signs a contract with us, we have an entire engine that kicks in,” he said. “Our provisioning team reaches out to the customer and custom builds everything to spec the way that our implementation engineers have designed it. It’s very white glove, very hands-on with the customer — essentially, it’s a partnership.”
The result is a personalized infrastructure solution designed to meet each partners’ needs. In an industry where automation is increasingly popular, Karl said clients find Steadfast’s approach refreshing.
“A lot of our competitors focus very much on automation, but most customers don’t want to have to make the decision of what to buy and get things set up automatically — they want help making the right decision,” he said. “They want to know that there are actually people there and it’s not just an automated system that they’re working and interacting with.”
When searching for a managed hosting provider, Edward recommends asking potential providers a slew of questions. “Always ask for their customer retention rate, service response time, and ticket volume,” he said. “Almost all hosts claim to have superior support, but no one can really back it up.”
Edward said Steadfast boasts a 99% retention rate out of over 2,000 customers. The company’s service level agreement guarantees a 30-minute support response time, 99.99% availability, 100% uninterrupted public network connectivity, and 100% uninterrupted electricity.
“One of our biggest selling points is that our ticket volume as a company is astronomically low for the number of partners we serve — and that’s because we engineered our solutions to work well,” he said. “The best customer service ticket you have is the one that never got sent in because you built the system right in the first place.”
Future Trends: Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery, Hyper Availability
When it comes to the future, the Steadfast team told us upcoming trends will revolve around increased availability. “The overarching trends we’re seeing involve business continuity, Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service, and increasing reliability,” James said. “The universe is changing, and hyper availability is becoming a major focus.”
Karl said robust disaster prevention and recovery solutions are especially needed in the medium-sized business market, which is often underserved.
“A lot of our competitors, especially in Chicago and even nationwide, really focus these specialized services only on enterprise customers,” he said. “While we support and serve a lot of enterprise customers, those competitors have left a lot of those larger mid-tier people to fend for themselves.”
According to Karl, many providers that previously served medium-sized businesses have been acquired by larger companies primarily focused on enterprises. “That’s where we can add a lot of value — it’s a huge market segment in general that we don’t really think anyone else is serving,” Karl said.
If anyone understands how to guide a company from a childhood hobby to a midsized business and into an enterprise, it’s Karl.