HOSTSEARCH: Mr. Patel - thanks for agreeing to see us like this. How about we start in our time honored fashion with an overview of Future Hosting and your role within the company?
VIK PATEL: Thanks John - I really appreciate the chance to interview with you. For the past seven years, Future Hosting has been able to thrive by offering business class hosting solutions for small, medium and large sized companies. We have provided both custom tailored solutions and high performance plans for companies with a diverse array of requirements and goals. Although my title at Future Hosting is CEO, I see my role in the company as just another component of the team. I wear many hats here--from answering sales e-mails to helping with support tickets if we have a busy day. Although ultimately I make the final decisions on most major projects, our developers, support staff and other employees are to be credited for our strong record of innovation, creativity, and service.
HOSTSEARCH: You have a range of VPS and Managed Dedicated server options, and also something you call "Hybrid Virtual Private Servers" - that's a curious name... tell us about them.
VIK PATEL: The Hybrid Virtual Private Servers were introduced quite some time back when we had a number of customers whose businesses were growing and required a more powerful solution than a VPS but without the scale of an entry-level dedicated server. A Hybrid VPS provides the customer with additional CPU power, RAM, disk space, and features at a fraction of the cost of a dedicated server. Most importantly, our Hybrid VPS also employs the redundancy of our traditional VPS nodes, including RAID arrays and Future Protect--our data protection solution. A Hybrid VPS is the natural stepping stone between a high end VPS and a dedicate server.
HOSTSEARCH: You seem to have avoided shared hosting as an option. Why is that?
VIK PATEL: The market for shared hosting, although important, has become over-saturated and hyper-competitive in the last several years. In evaluating the needs of our client base, we have decided to stay away from lower-end shared solutions and instead sustain a successful business model in the virtualization market. We have also always made it a strategy to never compete with our customers. Many of our VPS customers sell shared or reseller hosting on their VPS accounts, and we want them to be as successful as possible.
HOSTSEARCH: Will that stance change in the future?
VIK PATEL: The hosting industry has proven its ability to be uniquely dynamic so I can never rule out any future products or services. However, as we see changes in the market today, especially the rapid growth of virtualization and SaaS, I do not anticipate offering shared hosting anytime soon.
HOSTSEARCH: Is shared hosting on its way out? It seems more and more providers are opting out. Will it disappear into the cloud, leaving only higher end options like VPS and managed servers, or will it always be around in some form or another?
VIK PATEL: I don't see that happening in the foreseeable future. In the short run, there will absolutely be a need for entry-level hosting solutions for the many individuals and businesses that would benefit from a presence on the Web but have yet to create one. Moreover, shared hosting still offers a low cost and effective solution for many users today who require only basic Web hosting services.
Beyond the next several years, we may see a realization of transformation that hosting is starting to make. The age of an individual server hosting a Web site may be over; "cloud" or grid hosting, as it is referred to today, will become the most cost-efficient and reliable solution available, with shared hosting accounts spread across dozens of servers in different parts of the world. While this service is being offered today, it is not commonplace or perhaps economically feasible for users of low-end solutions.
HOSTSEARCH: You were recently in the news for joining the R1Soft Hosting Partner Program. R1Soft is known as a provider of backup solutions, so how have you adopted this solution as part of your offerings?
VIK PATEL: Last year we began re-evaluating our backup systems and wanted to find a solution that was more cost effective and would more efficiently use our server resources. After extensive testing, we adopted R1Soft's Continuous Data Protection technology for our internal corporate systems. We were so impressed that we expanded it at no extra cost to our VPS servers across each of our datacenters, and it has proven to be a resounding success.
In January, we released Future Protect, an enhanced data protection service based on R1Soft's technology. For a small monthly fee, our dedicated server customers can now take advantage of this solution, offering backup periods as small as 5 minutes. With this fully automated service, our customers are virtually protected from any significant data loss due to a disaster.
R1Soft's Hosting Partner Program has provided us with new sales and marketing tools, as well as volume discounts, so we can continue to grow our data protection services.
HOSTSEARCH: Tell is about Server Doctor - I understand this is a free service.
VIK PATEL: We're really proud of Server Doctor. Developed completely in house, Server Doctor automates dozens of maintenance and repair tasks our technical support department used to perform manually. The system performs weekly server security scans, 24 hour resource usage monitoring, and much more.
The automation of this service has allowed us to better leverage our technicians. We now have the resources to respond to requests in the past have been out of reach, at the same time reducing our costs.
HOSTSEARCH: You recently moved into the UK so you could get leverage on European markets. How did that expansion go?
VIK PATEL: Expansion into the United Kingdom has been an enormous success, both for new and existing customers. Many of our existing customers had been asking us to offer Europe-based hosting, and have been able to deliver on their request. We have also seen an increase in new signups from businesses looking to take advantage of our new UK location.
HOSTSEARCH: And after Europe? What further expansion plans do you have?
VIK PATEL: We are continuing to pursue growth in other locations of importance to our customers. The UK was the first location outside of North America we added as part of our strategic global expansion to increase our reach around the world.
HOSTSEARCH: Last year you achieved Parallels Platinum Partner Status. These partner schemes - what value do they add to an organization? My understanding is that you have to work pretty hard to achieve them, so what are the advantages?
VIK PATEL: They very much do add value to our company and our services. As a high-end partner with Parallels (formerly SWsoft), we have access to discounts on their products, generating savings we are then able to pass along to our clients. In addition, we receive priority support, so in the rare instance our technical support team is unable to resolve an issue, we can escalate it to Parallels engineers for quick resolution.
HOSTSEARCH: What's your take on the future of web hosting? Where is it going and what will it be like when it gets there?
VIK PATEL: The industry is maturing quite fast. We are already starting to see it change with the variety of mergers and acquisitions in the past several months, especially in the dedicated server market. There are a lot of new technologies that are also developing and will be implemented over the next couple years, which alone will completely change the landscape of hosting. We are already into the SaaS era and rapidly moving towards cloud computing. In the end, these changes are good for consumers and businesses.
HOSTSEARCH: So, with that in mind, what are your medium- and long-term goals for Future Hosting? Where will it be in say 3-5, and 5-10 years?
VIK PATEL: In the immediate future we hope to continue to grow at a steady pace and roll out innovative products and services that offer our company an edge over competitors. We're also planning to take the company more global as we respond to changes in demand from our customers and the market in general.
But five years, ten years? I wish I could give you a clear answer. We are working on internal projects and initiatives that have development lifecycles of several months or even years, but beyond that period of time the direction we take will be a function of the new technologies and demand forces in the market.
I see Future Hosting as becoming an increasingly global company, with a growing base of diverse clients with an equally dynamic set of needs.
HOSTSEARCH: And on a similar theme, what's your take on the next big thing to hit the Internet? Not necessarily just in web hosting.
VIK PATEL: We are continuing to keep an eye on utility computing. We are in a very on-demand and rapid paced technology world. With the needs of user bases evolving on a daily basis, we will continue to watch ideas such as cloud computing, grid computing, SaaS, and the transition of desktop software onto the Web.
A major change we have already begun seen is the enterprise world moving their IT needs to datacenters in multiple geographic locations. On a daily basis we have medium to large enterprises contacting us to move their IT needs off-site to save costs, reliability concerns, and more. In early January we began assisting a Fortune 100 company in moving a portion of their IT needs off site and into our datacenters powered by Virtualization software. They came to us last year with a list of requirements including moving their systems to hosted environments and increasing global redundancy. Specifically, they were seeking at the minimum six different geographic locations to run a portion of their IT needs along with complete redundancy and automated failover for all of their systems.
Utility computing, global on-demand hosting and scalability are key to the success of our company and the industry as a whole.
HOSTSEARCH: So... what drives you to get up in the morning? What is it about the web hosting industry that inspires you? What makes you feel let down?
VIK PATEL: That's a good question. To me, there's a thrill in this industrythe unique customers we work with and the ever-changing challenges we face. That alone keeps me on my toes and interested in my work.
HOSTSEARCH: When you aren't at the helm of a rapidly growing company, what do you do to wind down and relax?
VIK PATEL: I'm a huge basketball and hockey fan, so when I have some time to spare, I often spend it with friends and we often catch a game on TV, or if we are lucky enough, get tickets to an event. During the winter months, it is hard for me to turn down a skiing trip, and although I'm no expert and I rarely find a way to stay standing, it is a blast.