HOSTSEARCH: Whitney - welcome to HostSearch. Based on what I have read on your web site Carolina Web Consultants must be a busy place! Perhaps you could let our visitors have an overview of the various components of your company and your role within it.
WHITNEY HILL: Carolina Web Consultants, Inc. assists businesses and organizations in setting up a successful web presence. We provide web design and web hosting services, but we also provide consulting, SEO, paid ad management, and other promotional services. My main role in the company is to handle sales, consulting and overall management of the company.
HOSTSEARCH: Which came first; consulting, web design, hosting, web tools, program management or subcontracting?
WHITNEY HILL: We first started taking over hosting and management of existing web programs that were nonproductive. We would put these sites into a basic traffic program to make them visible on the search engines and bring more traffic into them. This helped us to create a reputation in the Raleigh Area, as a company that could get results from web programs. We started off slow with web design, but now it is over 40% of our business. We are just really getting into serious SEO, because it is costly and does not fit into the budget for most of our clients. Instead, we use low end SEO combined with local promotional advertising and pay per click programs to establish traffic for most of our clients. We have just recently started subcontracting web design for IT and marketing companies.
HOSTSEARCH: Most of the companies we speak to offer web hosting (shared hosting, managed hosting, dedicated servers, etc.) as their core activity. On the hosting part of your web site there is quote from a customer which states, "We were very happy with the web site that CWC developed for us. I highly recommend them." What is the role of web hosting in your organization? Is it a value-added service for customers from the other parts of your business, or do you regard it as a business in its own right?
WHITNEY HILL: Most of our clients want one stop shopping for their needs. They find that it is less confusing to be able to have us take of all of their internet needs including hosting. We have some clients that do their own hosting or handle their own site maintenance, but most let us handle everything.
HOSTSEARCH: What would you suggest are the advantages of your web hosting services over and above that provided by a business entirely dedicated to hosting?
WHITNEY HILL: We resell several programs from 3 different companies; therefore we can broker a program that best meets the needs of the client.
HOSTSEARCH: Over the last year I have noticed a trend where companies such as domain name registrars have started offering web hosting as an option. Do you think this trend will continue? Do you see web hosting becoming more and more specialized to specific business areas?
WHITNEY HILL: I think for consumer low cost hosting this trend will continue. We will not work with these services because when the costs go down the first place to suffer is the support. We will not deal with the lowest cost services because of the support issue.
If there is an area of specialization in web hosting, I think it would most be in ASP applications that are specialized for various business areas. For instance a specific web host going after a specific industry by marketing the hosting as part of a package with a web application that is specific to the industry.
HOSTSEARCH: In some respects, to offer your customers a complete solution, some branches of your business could be regarded as the customers of your web hosting arm. So, as to some extent you might be regarded as your own web hosting customer, what are you looking for in a quality web host? How do you define web hosting excellence?
WHITNEY HILL: Timely and effective response in addressing web site or email issues, high uptime (greater that 99.9%), flexible solutions, secured server environment with off site backups, and expert advice.
HOSTSEARCH: Changes in technology, current trends and customer requirements have a big impact on companies that provide web hosting as their sole activity. With all the interconnected elements of your company, they must have an even bigger impact. How do you keep ahead of the curve?
WHITNEY HILL: I keep in touch with peers in the industry, read magazines and newsletters, and occasionally attend seminars. In the next couple of months, I will be starting a small internet technologies roundtable group with peers in different facets of the local industry.
HOSTSEARCH: Here's one question we ask everyone... What do YOU think will be the next big thing as far as the Internet is concerned and how do you think it will impact people's lives?
WHITNEY HILL: I think the next big wave involves proliferation of specialized handheld wireless devices. The biggest will be in customer service improvements and cost reductions in doing business.
HOSTSEARCH: If you could change anything about the hosting industry, what would it be?
WHITNEY HILL: Improve technical support response. This is the first place that many in the web hosting business cuts. Stream line the technical support, improve training of technicians, and improve escalation and follow up procedures for trouble tickets.
HOSTSEARCH: I am sure with your involvement in the various aspects of your company there must be a temptation to work 18 hours a day and never go home! When you are not doing that, how do you enjoy yourself?
WHITNEY HILL: I exercise, play chess, am active with my church, read often, and spend time with my family.