Web Hosting Interview - iWeb.Ca May 2006

May 2006
Web Hosting Interview - iWeb.Ca May 2006

Martin Leclair, Chief Operating Officer for iWeb.Ca

This month we talk to Martin Leclair, Chief Operating Officer for iWeb.Ca, a Canadian based provider of single site or multiple site shared hosting, dedicated servers, co-location, domain name registration - all from sunny Boisbriand, on the North Shore of Montreal! We ask Martin about web hosting at temperatures of 6°C+ and the shape of things to come as far as Canadian web hosting is concerned.

  • HOSTSEARCH: Martin - thanks very much indeed to agreeing to meet us like this. Perhaps first you might like to introduce yourself, tell us a little about your company, and give us some insight into your role in iWeb.ca.
    MARTIN LECLAIR: First I would like to correct your introductory statement :-)

    Since the year 2000 we are based in the heart of Montreal. We had our first Montreal offices in 2000 in a nice building in the Old Montreal and moved, at the end of 2003, in a new Montreal building we bought after our stock market introduction.  iWeb Technologies was founded in 1996 and our headquarter has been in Boisbriand, on the North Shore of Montreal, for about 4 years.

    In 1998, iWeb focused its business efforts on Web hosting and server management and became a reference in the French language Web hosting market. iWeb then expanded its offers to English and Spanish speaking customers. In April 2004, in addition to entering the stock market (TSX-V: IWB), iWeb acquired a 10,000 square foot building that now shelters its new datacenter and operation center. Early this year, we annouced the aquisition of a new 15 000 square foot building that will be home of our second datacenter that should be ready to power its first servers June 1st of 2006.

    I already said a lot about iWeb but did not introduce myself!

    My name is Martin Leclair, I am the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of iWeb Technologies Inc. I founded iWeb with Eric Chouinard, iWeb's CEO.  As my title says, I manage, plan and supervise all of iWeb's Operations while my partner Eric, iWeb's CEO, manages all the financial and administrative aspects of the business. All this in collaboration with our 32 (growing each month) Internet addicted staff members.
  • HOSTSEARCH: I am not sure if this is just me, but it seems like Canadian web hosting has a higher profile than it used to have. HostSearch has just set up a Canadian Web Hosting Showcase and I seem to see Canadian web hosts mentioned more often on the net, etc. Has there been a notable upsurge in Canadian web hosting activity lately?
    MARTIN LECLAIR: The Web Hosting market has always been very competitive and that is true for both Canadian Web Hosting activity and Web Hosting in the United States. Maybe Canadian Web Hosting had a lower profile because of its difficulties to compete with the American Market.  The gap between the prices in the Canadian and American market is really getting smaller these days and I think that iWeb is contributing a lot to this change.  iWeb is one of the first and only Canadian Web Hosting providers offer prices and service specifications that compete with the American market while operating its own facilities in Canada. Years ago you could see a lot of Canadian Web Hosting providers reselling services from US based providers, now the Canadian providers have the possibility to choose Canadian providers like us and get the same advantages as they would get from a US provider.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Are there any particular advantages to operating in Canada? If you were a spokesperson for Canadian web hosting, what would your pitch be? What exactly sets Canadian hosting apart?
    MARTIN LECLAIR: My opinion is that when it comes to Web Hosting location does not matter or matters a lot less than a lot of other things you need to evaluate when choosing your web hosting provider.  I think most of our customers do not choose us because we are located in Canada, they choose us because we offer friendly and effective Customer Service, because our offers are aggressively priced and because every dollar spent at iWeb is worth it.  Sure I am proud to say to our Canadian customers and potential customers that as a provider based in Quebec we can compete with every major Web Hosting providers in the USA or anywhere else in the world, but we have customers in more than 95 countries now and for most of them location does not matter.

    That said, our location still gives us some advantages. We have low risks of natural disasters, probably less risks of terrorist attacks that could affect network and power distribution, electricity costs are low in Quebec which allows us to keep low prices, and we have quick network routes to Europe being located less than 10ms from New-York.   I am not sure this sets Canadian hosting apart, but this combined with all the other advantages of our offerings really sets iWeb apart.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Obviously, there's a strong French connection with Montreal and I am just wondering whether that carries over to web hosting - I notice your website is available in French, and I am wondering if that is more for the benefit of local customers or for customers in France. Do you have a lot of French customers?
    MARTIN LECLAIR: When we started our business our niche or focus was to offer competitive Web Hosting services to french speaking customers. We quickly got a very good reputation in Quebec, in France and in other french speaking countries like Belgium or Africa. I think that's what helped us succeed, we were focusing on a niche market where there were few competitors. Today most of our new customers are english speaking but we still have a lot of local customers talking french or customers in french speaking coutries. Offering our services in french is a big advantage for us on the local market or when local customers compare our offers to other offers in the US or Canadian market.
  • HOSTSEARCH: On your website you suggest, "We are proud to say that we succeeded in building a strong network with an important capacity that allows our business to compete with any dedicated servers or web hosting provider in the world." To what extent does a web hosting business like yours compete on a global basis and to what extent does it compete on a local basis? Do you consciously have to decide where your focus will lie as a company, or do you run with how the market shapes you?
    MARTIN LECLAIR: We are competing with providers all over the world. As I said earlier in the interview, we have customers in more than 95 countries in the world. Those customers have plenty of Web Hosting alternatives in their home country or elsewhere and in order to get their business we need to be the best option for them.

    I think a web hosting business like us mostly compete on a global basis but we definitly focus and decide where we focus. We do not let the market shape us. We sure want to get local customers and we do not like seeing local comptetitors getting local customers that we could have and sometimes we see some local customers slip or we get to know we lost a local opportunity because we focused on the global market but that's what makes us different and that's what makes us one of the best web hosting provider in the world. I guess you wouldn't be doing an interview with a local provider focusing on the local market because he would not be known on the Internet and in the community of people knowing about technologies, servers and web programming. That's our market.  For sure we have plans for more local presence, but right now the focus is global and mostly on the Dedicated Server market.

    As for my statement, I think the network we built gives us a huge advantage on the Canadian market and that's what I wanted to express with that statement. One of the big disadvantage for Canadian Web Hosting providers and even bigger for us in Montreal is the bandwidth prices and availability of bandwidth providers. I think we have succeded in building a network that compares to the networks of our strongest US providers and offering network services at prices that competes and even beats US providers, that's someone few providers in Canada can say.

    We have succeeded in packaging interesting traffic allocations or bandwidth allocations with servers, shared hosting or colocated hardware that most other providers in Canada can't compete with. I can't think of another Canadian provider offering 500GB of traffic with servers starting at $69US/month or 1500GB of traffic with servers starting at $99US/month.  Furthermore, we offer 10Mbps unmetered servers starting at $149US/month. And it's not cheap bandwidth, all servers are installed on a powerful fully redundant BGP Network with well known network providers as Teleglobe, Level3 or Peer1 in the mix. Even our Unmetered network is completely backed up by our high quality providers. And to the competitors that would say that we offer those bandwidth allocations because we know that customers will not use such traffic, I would tell them to look at our bandwidth usage graphs on our web sites to see that our customers use bandwidth and a lot and they can use the allocation that we give them. Our network has a 4Gbps capacity with 3Gbps being used. Three new GigE ports will be added to our network before t
  • HOSTSEARCH: I see from your site you have robust reseller options. What is the biggest draw for a company such as yourselves - working with resellers or working directly with end users?
    MARTIN LECLAIR: We like to work with resellers but I think we work more with end users. However, when it comes to dedicated servers customers a lot of customers are the end users of the server but they are reselling shared hosting on their server to their customers. We also have good dedicated servers reselling options. I think the fact that we are so competitive in Canada can attract resellers that want to offer Canadian hosting.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What do you most like about working in the web hosting industry? What do you least like about it? If there was anything you could change about it, what would it be?
    MARTIN LECLAIR: I like the community the fact that there are good resources like HostSearch for customers searching for hosting and were we can easily tell our potential customers that we exist, I like the fact the we have as a web hosting provider an important role in the development of the Internet. I also like the fact that I need to be connected to the Internet almost 24 hours per day :-)  What I do not like ....... hummmm ........ I like my job and my business a lot but I would have to say that I do not like the stress of emergency situations and the fact that you have to be there 24  hours a day 365 days per year for the customer. It is absolutely necessary and it is important for us to always be there, but it's not as easy as selling softwares or open a store in a commercial center that opens at 8am and closes a 9pm. In Web Hosting you have to be there ALWAYS and not only be there but have competent staff ready to fix any kind of problems at any time of the day or night, it's something important that adds a difficulty in the business and unfortunatly I can't change that ! :-)
  • HOSTSEARCH: Here's our de facto question: What's going to be the next big thing on the Internet and how will it impact people's lives?
    MARTIN LECLAIR: Television .... some years ago companies spent a lot of money trying to bring Internet to the television, they were all wrong, it's television that is coming to the Internet, it's starting now and some shows have already been announced for Internet distribution but it's only a start and it will be the next big thing.  I also think that it will be the next big thing for the Web Hosting industry since all that content has te be hosted somewhere!
  • HOSTSEARCH: If you were giving advice to someone starting out in web hosting, what would you say to them?
    MARTIN LECLAIR: Focus and find a niche. Do not go global at first. Focus on something that will make you different and that will allow you to be the best in your market.
  • HOSTSEARCH: How will web hosting be different in 10 years time?  
    MARTIN LECLAIR: 10 years is an Internet eternity :-) I think the importance of hosting will be huge in 10 years and we might be more dependant of hosting than we are of phone now. I am also not sure if it will be a lot different, there can be a lot of changes in the technologies.


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