Web Hosting Interview - Fasthosts February 2009

Web Hosting Interview - Fasthosts February 2009

Steve Holford, CMO, Fasthosts

The British are Coming! Fasthosts.com is one of those web hosting success stories that makes you want to rush out and get a foothold in the business right here and right now… Starting life in 1999, the company's mixture of quality products and consistency elevated it to the position of "number 1 in the UK" and then kept it there. Not satisfied with its UK pedestal, the company set its sights across the pond to the US, and in September of last year went stateside to launch its reseller hosting offerings to a quality hungry American market. What exactly was that transition like? Was it simply a matter of trading roast beef for meatloaf? We talked to Steve Holford, Fasthosts' CMO to find out what launching a business in the world's leading economy is like.

  • HOSTSEARCH: Steve - nice of you to meet us like this. Why don't we start off with you introducing yourself and giving our visitors an idea of what you do at Fasthosts?
    STEVE HOLFORD: First of all, thanks for the opportunity to talk with you guys at HostSearch.  To start off, I've been working at Fasthosts since January 2006, where I am responsible for all of Fasthosts' marketing campaigns and product marketing strategy.  Prior to joining Fasthosts, I was the Director of Internet Services at Video Networks Ltd and have product management experience at major UK brands including NTL, Argos and Tesco. I hold a BA Honors degree in Business Studies & Geography from the Canterbury Christ Church University.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Are you one of the founders of the company?
    STEVE HOLFORD: Unfortunately, I am not one of the founders, Fasthosts was founded by Andrew Michael -- a 17 year old who was in need of hosting services and couldn't find any back in 1999. After purchasing a PC, he leased out the extra space on the machine to friends. In 2006, the company became part of the United Internet group.
  • HOSTSEARCH: For people who are reading this who might not be entirely familiar with Fasthosts, why don't you give them an overview of your products and services?
    STEVE HOLFORD: Fasthosts has been a leading web host in the UK since 1999, and home to more websites than any other UK provider.  The company is also the UK's market leader for reseller web hosting and supports thousands of resellers with a wide range of white-label solutions.

    The Fasthosts Reseller Package, which is now available in the US, enables a user to create their own web hosting brand and retail web solutions at their own price points.  In addition to unlimited bandwidth, disk space, and email accounts, Fasthosts offers the reseller complete flexibility in structuring their hosting plans - resellers can create a customized package for each end customer, design and create their own range of packages or simply resell Fasthosts' own off-the-shelf packages.  The unlimited services creates the potential for unlimited earnings and the flexible platform means that resellers can tailor their services closely to their customers' needs.  Fasthosts' philosophy for reseller hosting will allow US resellers to achieve the best possible business model.  Fasthosts provides both Linux and MS web hosting, a comprehensive range of domain name registrations and award winning MS Exchange email packages for resale.  
  • HOSTSEARCH: I see from your UK website that you offer a number of products and services including domain names, email hosting, web hosting, dedicated servers, and also broadband. Of course you also offer a reseller option. Which are your flagship services, or do they all carry equal weight?
    STEVE HOLFORD: In the UK, the company serves both consumers and businesses offering a comprehensive range of hosting, dedicated servers, domain names and email products.  The company manages well over 1 million domain names and is the UK's market leader for reseller web hosting supporting thousands of resellers with a wide range of white-label solutions.
  • HOSTSEARCH: And how many services did you carry to the US?
    STEVE HOLFORD: Fasthosts US is focused on the needs of its resellers and will be busy developing new products and services for its resellers. Fasthosts' sister company 1&1 sells web hosting, and in order not to be in direct competition we will only sell our reseller product in the US market.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Given your position in the UK, and given the volatile nature of the global economy, why did Fasthosts decide to take on the US?
    STEVE HOLFORD: Due to the economic climate many people are looking for alternate ways to add to their income, and reseller web hosting is uniquely positioned to offer those people a low risk solution, particularly right now with our free for one year offer. For those individuals that already have a website or sell a product it can be a great add-on to up-sell customers.  

    Of course we fully researched the US market and determined there is a demand for our services --in particular, a need for unlimited services like those we offer in the UK. With our success in the UK, we are really confident in the products ability to succeed in the US market. Our biggest challenge is building awareness of the Fasthosts brand locally, as well as encouraging discussions about reselling web hosting in general.  We have a great opportunity for individuals, now it's just about alerting them to the potential of reselling web hosting.
  • HOSTSEARCH: And the company has a physical presence in the US? Datacenter? Offices?
    STEVE HOLFORD: Fasthosts.com is based in Chesterbrook, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia, with a data center in Lenexa, Kansas.  We've hired US staff in Philadelphia across the areas of dedicated reseller tech support, product management and marketing.  As the company grows organically, we will be hiring further staff and expanding its data storage in Kansas.
  • HOSTSEARCH: The question comes to mind that given the nature of the business, why do you need a presence in a country to service customers in that country? I mean, can't you just get some servers in a data center, outsource a call center, and control everything from the UK? What are the advantages of moving to a country?
    STEVE HOLFORD: We are fortunate that our sister company, 1&1 Internet already has an office and state-of-the-art data center in the US.  That gave us the opportunity to simply expand their already established presence. We've seen web hosts launch in the US without one person physically being in the country, but we don't believe that is the best approach. While the language is the same, it's important to have a presence in the market which allows us to compete in the industry, be the most efficient technically, and most of all to have the best customer support. All our US reseller customers will have their websites hosted in the US.
  • HOSTSEARCH: And were you involved in the expansion at all? (We are assuming you were here)
    STEVE HOLFORD: As CMO, I am very involved with marketing.  I am also the spokesperson for Fasthosts, so I had the opportunity to travel around the country promoting the US launch.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Are there any essential differences between web hosting in the UK and the US, and if so, what are they?
    STEVE HOLFORD: As we are only selling the reseller product in the US, that product has the benefit of ten years of development and integrated improvements. We've actually launched in the US with our new and improved control panel even before updating the U.K. version. By taking our expansive knowledge of the UK reseller market, and combining it with our research and 1&1's (our sister company) knowledge of the US marketplace, we believe we have a service ideally suited to US resellers.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What are your future plans for Fasthosts - any further expansions? Eastern Europe, China? Asia? Middle-East?  
    STEVE HOLFORD: This is not the last move by Fasthosts. We intend to research other markets to continue our international expansion. The US market is top priority for us now, and we are excited to take on the challenge.

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