TL; DR: For more than two decades, Webhosting.net has scaled and evolved its platform alongside customer needs and industry trends to deliver hand-crafted solutions that resonate with small and medium businesses. In addition to traditional web services, the Miami-based company now includes a variety of cloud, hybrid, and application hosting packages as well as options centered around business continuity and disaster recovery. CFO James Park detailed how working with small-business clients changes everything from sales pitches, price points, and deployment times.
While many hosting and IT services companies aim to scale the size of their clientele to attract Fortune 500-caliber enterprises, Webhosting.net has spent decades perfecting the art of serving small- and medium-sized businesses.
The company takes a consultative approach to customizing web hosting and technology solutions for customers. By understanding the nuanced differences between how the distinct types of companies approach decisions, CFO James Park said Webhosting.net continually retunes various procedures to be the most effective.
For example, he said the bottom lines of enterprises are driven by CEOs who define the goals that need to be met and the orders passed several links down a chain. New initiatives may take six months or more to implement, with results taking years to accrue.
“When you’re dealing with smaller organizations, though, their appetite for waiting is very short,” James said. “You have to walk in, analyze the business, and understand their monetization strategy very keenly.”
Small businesses commonly need to see outcomes and growth within just a few months, he said, which means Webhosting.net’s recommendations need to be on point and much more nimble.
“It’s a very rapid, iterative approach to getting things done,” James said. “You have to understand the business so the initial starting point is as close to perfect as possible, otherwise you spin your wheels.”
Surviving the Dot-Com Crash and Finding the Path Forward
With a datacenter in Miami, Webhosting.net opened for business in 1998 — just a couple of years before the tech market’s value peaked in 2000 and came crashing down. The company enjoyed initial early success but quickly faced a very steep challenge.
“At the time, there was really no such thought of differentiation, market share, market growth, market capture, or so forth,” James said. “It was more of, ‘Here’s a domain name, and here’s some server space.’”
Starting a hosting company provided an essential service to the thousands of online startups and represented huge potential. When the industry crashed, many datacenters closed as companies vanished and took the demand for hosting with them.
“Going from launching in a period where the market stability didn’t really exist, we learned that the outlet into hosting had to take on a somewhat different shape than we initially envisioned,” James said.
For Webhosting.net, that meant a greater emphasis on more affordable services. The company expanded its shared hosting and VPS offerings and strayed a bit from dedicated servers. Colocation became much more popular, as James said, “customers would buy cheap hardware and needed to host their stuff somewhere other than a broom closet in an overheated, dusty office.”
In addition to the traditional hosting services, he said another industry emerged that would lead to Webhosting.net’s dual business nature of balancing server and networking expertise with an approach based in consultations and helping clients grow.
“As the internet bubble burst, the seeds of internet marketing were planted around the same time,” James said, mentioning email marketing, pay-per-click advertising, and search engine optimization. “That really took on a different dimension at the time. It was a massive business, and there were massive customers we could capture in a big way.”
Webhosting.net’s Unique Approach to Appealing to Small Businesses
Webhosting.net balances its offerings to maximize performance and cost in a way that enables small businesses to focus on efficiency. Whether the client is a pastry shop or an insurance broker, James said Webhosting.net helps them minimize costs while navigating complex requirements and regulations.
For example, a financial planning business will be handling sensitive personal information and financial data while accessing various banking and brokerage services — but can only support a handful of employees.
“They’ll have very similar needs to Bank of America, but, as a small shop, how the heck do you make it happen?” James said. “From a compliance perspective, they might have a consultant they work with, but that compliance consultant is not necessarily an infrastructure person. This is where we can come in and work with the business stakeholders to make sure their liability profile is managed as best as they can for the lowest possible price.”
Specifically, that means Webhosting.net doesn’t try to oversell or encourage customers to purchase products and services the business does not need. Although the strategy may hamper the company’s growth rate, James said Webhosting.net enjoys “insanely low” customer attrition rates and frequent word-of-mouth referrals.
“Overselling may satisfy a tactical need from a revenue-generation point of view, but, long term, it doesn’t help the organization retain the customers and keep them happy,” he said.
Virtualizing Disaster Recovery to Handle Customers’ Needs
The small business mindset forces Webhosting.net to think creatively when it comes to crafting products and services for customers. Delivering variations of enterprise-grade solutions helps small organizations stretch their financial and human capital, James said.
“If you don’t have the resources or the funding to meet a certain business need in what is considered the best way of doing things, you still have to find a solution that is effective,” he said, pointing toward Webhosting.net’s disaster recovery tools.
To help its small business clientele, the company focuses on the minimum amount of recoverability needed to survive a disaster. To calculate that, consultants work to establish an estimated window of downtime, required business functions, and make recommendations based on the budget limitations.
Webhosting.net’s business continuity products include backup, recovery, and replication services from VMware and Hyper-V that transfer and store customer data in Veeam’s cloud.
“We don’t do disaster recovery like IBM might do it,” James said. “We don’t have multiple off-site, physical locations people can go to. We do it all in a virtual fashion, and it’s recoverability that is both affordable and effective.”
Up Next: Emphasizing Education When Considering Cloud Migrations
As the hosting industry and customer base continue clamoring for cloud services and management, Webhosting.net is refining and developing offerings that emphasize transparency, support, and cost-effectiveness.
“Because this cloud word has so much buzz associated with it, we notice a lot of people who already have effective solutions in place think they’re going to save money or have better performance by moving to the cloud,” James said. “What most customers don’t understand is that it’s basically a menu-driven price, where you’ll have to pay extra for every little thing you want.”
James noted that the total cost going to the cloud will not necessarily be cheaper, and that’s not even weighing the costs associated with support and management.”
Although he said some business profiles lend themselves well to migrating to the cloud, Webhosting.net can help customers choose among private, public, or hybrid cloud solutions.
“Someone has to articulate a solution that is tied to an actual, real problem, as opposed to finding a solution for problems that don’t exist,” James said. “Our services offer a real-world analysis that provides for the management and support of a cost-effective and functionally effective cloud infrastructure.”