Web Hosting Interview - Hosted Solutions November 2007

Web Hosting Interview - Hosted Solutions November 2007

Brian Baker, VP of Sales, Hosted Solutions

This month we follow up on Hosted Solutions, a premium Data Center Operator and Managed Services Provider with data centers in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, and Charlotte, Raleigh, and Cary, all in North Carolina, USA. We last spoke to Hosted Solutions in December 2005. A lot of water under the bridge since then, and this time we talk to Brian Baker, the company's VP of Sales. Hosted Solutions has been on the scene since 2001 and currently offers colocation, dedicated server, managed, and disaster recovery services. The company's mission is simple: to provide clients with the best managed hosting experience in the region. We ask Brian about the company's philosophy for keeping it local, what's key to running a successful data center, and what's next for an already successful company.

  • HOSTSEARCH: Brian - thanks for seeing us like this. Must be difficult to squeeze us into you schedule, so, most appreciated. I think we had better kick off as we always do with you giving us an overview of your company and your role in Hosted Solutions.
    BRIAN BAKER: My pleasure John.  Hosted Solutions delivers infrastructure services across our 4 enterprise class, SAS 70 Type II certified data centers.  Our solutions maintain and protect the client's mission critical applications, thus allowing the client to focus on core competencies, lower the risk of down time and achieve business objectives cost effectively.  

    My role is straight forward.  I am responsible for sales and marketing for Hosted Solutions.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Have you been with the company from the start? You have some pretty big name customers... How has the company come so far in such a relatively short period of time?
    BRIAN BAKER: No, I have not been with Hosted since the beginning.  We were founded in June of 2001 and I joined the company in February of 2005 as the Sales Manager for our Raleigh and Cary, NC markets, then promoted to my current position in February of 2006.

    With regards to how we got here we need to look at our entire organization.  Our company has embraced the mission to strengthen the interaction between Hosted Solutions and the marketplace.  The result is the achievement of our key objectives which are to broaden market share, increased brand awareness, and maintain an excellent customer experience.
  • HOSTSEARCH: So, as VP of Sales you have to pitch your company quite often no doubt. Here's you chance - what makes Hosted Solutions special?
    BRIAN BAKER: The Hosted Solutions organization has been developed to create and sustain a high performance culture that maintains the client as its central focus.  Be the best provider of infrastructure services in the local market place.  We surround each of our local data centers with an outside sales team.  The team is directed to build relationships within that market and grow the business.   As a client you will have local account representation as well as a local engineering team all held within world class facilities.  One will often hear each of us say, "we provide enterprise infrastructure services with a high touch, high feel approach."  We achieve this through our consultative sales methodology.  Interaction and discovery are at the center of all communication with client and the marketplace.  The solutions we deliver are client centric and custom to their business.  Our ability to uncover key business drivers and translate this into a technology solution is a key differentiator for our team.
  • HOSTSEARCH: So... Chicken and egg time... Did you set out as a data center operator with managed services, or as a managed services provider with your own data centers? What's your current emphasis, or is all activity equal? How do you run a successful data center?
    BRIAN BAKER: Again, we've always been focused on the client.  So to say that we were only a data center operator or only a managed services provider would be difficult.  Our attention to the marketplace has allowed us to shape and define our offering.   We deliver infrastructure services which include everything from collocation services, to dedicated hardware, to managed services such as database administration and operating system administration.  All of these combined span both of the areas you describe.  

    Our continued emphasis is to learn from the client where their challenges lie and determine if partnering with Hosted Solutions will help solve the problem.

    I think a successful data center is run by an outstanding team.  You certainly must have a strong facility as the foundation, but the talent within the data center is the key.  We have built an excellent engineering and operations team.  During pre-sale client engagement we incorporate our engineers into the process.  This allows the client to interface with the same people who will be delivering the service and supporting the environment.  This continues to be a huge differentiator for us.
  • HOSTSEARCH: You certainly seem to be in the news often enough - last time because Melissa Best joined the company. She's worked for Microsoft I believe and she is a bit of an expert as far as the Raleigh, North Carolina market is concerned. On your website you state, "We live and work in the markets we serve and appreciate how important our reputation within the community is to the future of our success." Not all your customers are in the markets you are operating in, surely? Many are big players - multinationals and the like. Companies like Krispy Kreme... and you recently won a multi-year managed services contract from Square 1 Bank. You are going to have to fill us in on this 'local' approach of yours!
    BRIAN BAKER: At the heart of the 'local' approach is our business philosophy.  By engaging with the client, uncovering their challenges, and learning about their business drivers, you will then be in a position to help and add value.  That is what 'local' means to Hosted Solutions.  This approach can be delivered down the street or a few states away if you are willing to invest the time and energy to work to become a trusted advisor for the client.  
  • HOSTSEARCH: One of the news stories I saw Hosted Solutions mentioned in recently suggested you are now SAS 70 Certified. Can you give us an overview of this certification? What other awards and certifications have you received over the last couple of years?
    BRIAN BAKER: The SAS 70 certification is a very important standard for hosting providers with respect to its compliance activities.  Hosted Solutions has received a qualified, Type II SAS 70 certification, demonstrating our commitment to meeting those standards.  The certification differentiates a service provider from its peers by demonstrating the establishment of effectively designed control objectives and control activities.  This creates a strong sense of trust and offers peace of mind to our clients.  We believe that our Type II SAS70 certification stands out among other managed service providers, and reflects our leadership, commitment, and excellence.  This certification confirms that Hosted Solutions has internal controls that are suitably designed and operating effectively to administer your mission critical applications.

    With regards to other significant awards, it was recently announced by the Triangle Business Journal that we have won the Fast 50 award for the fourth year in a row.  This is certainly a testament to our continued strong growth and sustainability in the market.
  • HOSTSEARCH: We spoke to Rich Lee in December 2005 and since then I note he has been featured in an Entrepreneur Magazine article that focused on the challenge of Hosted Solutions maintaining sustained growth. I did not get to read the full article, so you are going to have to tell us the secret. Simply put - how do you do it?
    BRIAN BAKER: As long as we continue our focus toward the client, we will continue to win.  This applies to all aspects of our business including sales.  If the sales team is client centric, we will gain trust and build the proper solution.  If the engineering team is client centric we will deliver excellent service.  If our leadership team stays close to the clients and the marketplace we will continue to evolve and adapt our services properly.  This approach has served us well to date and should do so going forward.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Again, when we last spoke to Rich he discussed expansion plans and that you would likely stay in the Southeast of the US. We have seen some expansion since then, but are your plans complete, or is there more to come?
    BRIAN BAKER: One of the things I enjoy about Hosted Solutions has been our growth strategy.  It has been a good combination of organic growth combined with strategic acquisitions.  At the same time, we have not tried to grow too far too fast and lose our focus.  Further expansion is certainly something we continue to evaluate.  However, that evaluation includes many factors.  You will have to stay tuned to see what we do next.
  • HOSTSEARCH: So, in the couple of years since we last spoke to you, Hosted Solutions has seen some decent growth. What products and services do you envisage adding to your portfolio to ensure future growth?
    BRIAN BAKER: As our clients grow their needs to leverage technology continue to expand.  A couple areas we are broadening our offering are in virtualization and replication solutions.  With world class facilities, infrastructure, network and the engineering talent to deliver, this is a good next step for us and our clients.
  • HOSTSEARCH: As somebody involved in sales, you have a decent perspective on what is oversold in the industry and what isn't. If you had the opportunity, what would you change to make the industry better?
    BRIAN BAKER: Our industry today is fairly dynamic and includes various types of providers.  If I could make a change it would be to help the market place better understand that not all providers and data centers are created equal.  When protecting mission critical applications that are essential to their business, clients need to find the best partner.
  • HOSTSEARCH: And no... we aren't going to let you off the hook! Hosting aside, what will be the next big thing to hit the Internet and how will it impact people's lives?
    BRIAN BAKER: The best thing about technology is the speed of change.  I think the  integration of IT into everything we do both professionally and personally will only continue to accelerate.  It certainly is not slowing down.  From our point of view we continue to keep our eye on utility computing and how that is being received in the market.  It's going to be interesting to see what kind of impact that will bring.