Web Hosting Interview - FastServers.net October 2006

Web Hosting Interview - FastServers.net October 2006

Aaron Phillips, VP of FastServers.net

This month we talk to Aaron Phillips the VP of FastServers.net (http://www.fastservers.net). We ask Aaron about the background to FastServers and why the company took a route to few web hosting providers take. In addition we look into the logistics of managing 2,500 servers!

  • HOSTSEARCH: Aaron - thanks for agreeing to see us like this. Would you mind giving our visitors an overview of FastServers.net and let us know about your involvement in the organization?
    AARON PHILLIPS: FastServers.Net is "managed dedicated hosting provider".   We currently operate in 2 data centers and are focused on providing service to web hosting providers and enterprises world wide.   We are one of the few providers that is 100% focused on dedicated servers and management of these solutions.   FastServers.Net has been in business since 1996 and we currently employ 40+ solution specialists.    

    My involvement with FastServers.Net is the leader of the Sales and Marketing department.   I am involved with the deployment of new products, search engine marketing, and the sales process.
  • HOSTSEARCH: According to your website you kicked off in pretty much the same way as other hosts and then launched a server division focusing on assisting other web hosts. You now host over 1,200 servers in three facilities - that's staggering! What are the main logistical problems in running a company of this nature?
    AARON PHILLIPS: Well, that must be out of date, we just hit 2,500 servers and have since reduced the number of data centers to 2.   FastServers.Net has always been in tune with logistics and how we can streamline processes.   The main issue we deal with is maintaining enough hardware to meet the heavy demand of our customers.    By selecting a great partner (Dell) we are able to quickly maintain large amounts of servers and replenish them on an as needed basis.    Dell has eliminated many of the logistic nightmares we once faced by standardizing our hardware offer, quick deployment, and product training to help all members of our Sales and Support team stay on task with their new offerings.

    The management team learned early on to hire engineers and employees that were highly organized.   We have developed in house systems for hardware tracking, client support, inventory, and many more day to day items that keep logistic problems to a minimum.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Obviously you have been a major success taking the direction you took, but what compelled you to go down this path?
    AARON PHILLIPS: Market Demand was the first reason we got into Dedicated Servers.   In early 2001 we saw a great opportunity to enter the market as a budget dedicated hosting provider.  After selling 100 or so servers we quickly learned there was a great demand for server management and we carved a niche from this demand.   Customers wanted managed solutions, expertise, and support solutions that went beyond PPP (Ping, Pipe, and Power) and in late 2001 we developed our unique DEFCON Management Levels which help them pick a management package that met their specific needs.

    At the time of developing the DEFCON Levels (and still to this day) the terms managed, unmanaged, and fully managed were defined different by every provider.   Instead of trying to come up with own definitions, we decided to re-terms the levels and make them unique to our environment.
  • HOSTSEARCH: If you were talking to someone new to the industry who had decided to take the route you took, what advice would you give him or her?
    AARON PHILLIPS: Focus on what you are good at!   Many times we get requests for solutions we don't support.   While we are always on the hunt for product and service improvement we truly believe to stay focused with on our Core products and services.   If a new product, OS, solution is in great demand we are very diligent about testing, training, and making it an offering.    We don't have a single person that is the primary solution specialist, rather we have a fully tiered support structure that has formal training, product knowledge, and the fully ability to troubleshoot and aid customers in need.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Now... As far as your products are concerned you offer 'managed dedicated servers'. Many HostSearch.com visitors might have heard of managed hosting, others dedicated hosting - so what is this hybrid you are offering?
    AARON PHILLIPS: It's the "terminology" that has confused this industry.   For example I was doing some competitive analysis and noticed a competitor offer "fully managed dedicated servers".  In reviewing their offering the full management consisted of a web based control panel.   FastServers.Net has a different approach and terminology when we are talking about management.

    Management starts with a properly deployed server.   Each one of our solutions has went through rigorous testing in regards to security and stability.    We have very specialized installations for all of our new server deployments that utilize best practices and "secrets" we have learned along the way.    

    After a server is deployed and if it is considered managed we provided full updates to the OS and Applications on that server.     We also monitor it 24x7 and take corrective action in the event a service/daemon fails.    

    Additional management includes with our DEFCON Management Levels includes priority support, 2 hour hardware replacement, and advanced admin hours for special requests... software installs, configuration changes, etc.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Dedicated... managed... collocation... all alternatives to shared hosting, but is the man in the street catching on to them when he needs to, or are people just buying larger and larger shared hosting options? Are these more advanced options really only the domain of techies and IT people?
    AARON PHILLIPS: At some point when resellers reach a certain level someone is feeding them the term "dedicated server".   Many hosting providers start out on a reseller account and as they grow they quickly become aware of the economics and utility of having their own server.   FastServers.Net focuses on both the "techies"/IT People and the non-technical people of the world.    Successful hosting providers require both business minded and technical people and in many cases the business minded people are outsourcing their technical support, server management, and hosting to companies like FastServers.Net and focus on "growing their business".   We find these models are highly successful.
  • HOSTSEARCH: I see from your website you have an affiliate program and reseller packages. Why both?
    AARON PHILLIPS: In reviewing the various options we had requests for both resellers and referral types of business.   The resellers wanted the ability to private label and sell our services, for this reason we provided a higher discount.   We also ran into companies that liked us so much they wanted to advertise our services or refer their clients to us.     Marketing firms, web designers, IT Firm, and many other types of organizations simply wanted to act as the referrer and be rewarded, the Affiliate program was born.  
  • HOSTSEARCH: I also see you have a blog that is updated pretty much daily. How important is a blog for a corporate website, do you think?
    AARON PHILLIPS: The BLOG is new.   We implemented this to provide up to date information @ FastServers.Net plus some personal posts by the various members of our team.   The BLOG is multi-user and we have about 10 participants taking place with the postings.   It provides fresh content on topics that might not otherwise be covered on www.fastservers.net.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What direction do you see the web hosting industry taking? What can we expect, say in 10 years time?
    AARON PHILLIPS: Faster, Smaller, Cheaper.    Technology always has a way of reducing the cost, making things faster, and lowering the cost. Personally I would like to see a full dedicated server that can maintain 50,000 web hosting accounts fit on the size USB Drive. It would be outstanding to open a rack at our data center and see 1,000 of these in 1 rack.    
  • HOSTSEARCH: Here's one of our de facto questions - what is the next big thing to hit the Internet and how will it impact people's lives?
    AARON PHILLIPS: "Google OS" - I believe the next big thing that will take over the world is an Operating System produced by Google.   They have many of the elements to pull this together.   The key is they will give it away for free and major hardware distributors such as Dell and Gateway will deploy this on their hardware.    It won't dominate the world for a while, but as soon as they launch 'free' high speed wireless access on the global level, only available through their OS, it will certainly shake things up.  

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