Web Hosting Interview - KickAssVPS September 2008

September 2008
Web Hosting Interview - KickAssVPS September 2008

Brian Emerson, President and CTO of KickAssVPS

Located in Eagan, Minnesota, USA, KickAssVPS (http://www.kickassvps.com/) has both an excellent name and through excellent products and services, a huge following. Founded in 2005, the company (as the name implies) has a solid focus on virtual private servers (VPS) alongside network, system administration, and security services. KickAssVPS is at once a local, national and global provider of products that include Windows VPS, Linux VPS, ColdFusion VPS, shared hosting, antivirus/security, domain names, digital certificates and managed DNS. We talk to Brian Emerson, President and CTO of KickAssVPS and ask him how KickAssVPS got to where it is today.

  • HOSTSEARCH: Brian - thanks for speaking to us like this today. First of all, how about you introduce yourself and tell us about your role at KickAssVPS?
    BRIAN EMERSON: John, I really appreciate the opportunity to do this interview with HostSearch.  I am the founder and owner of KickAssVPS.com, which makes me a man of many roles, lending a hand in virtually every part of the business - from sales to server administration. In this business, there is no such thing as a clear-cut job description.

    At heart, I am a true techie, and I gravitate toward computers when given the chance. For the past 15 years, I have served as a technical consultant for numerous large-scale network infrastructure projects, and I continue to teach evening technology classes at a local community college. Previous to KickAssVPS, I founded and subsequently sold one of the largest providers of shared hosting in the Midwest.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Have you been with the company since the start?
    BRIAN EMERSON: Yes - even before we had our first customer. I am proud to have built KickAssVPS to where it is today, through true dedication to our customers and a focus on our service. That's that backbone of this company.
  • HOSTSEARCH: OK - let's get this out of the way right away... who came up with the name and how did it arise? What's the story behind it?
    BRIAN EMERSON: As I launched the company, it was important that we not only stood out from the competition, but also be blunt about our service goals. We needed a name that would not sound cliché and would not blend in with the thousands of other providers vying for the same market share - we wanted something edgy and clever, something that would bring people to our front door.

    I chose KickAssVPS, and am glad we did. It helped us attract  young, tech savvy customers, and also many businesses who recognized our ability to be bold and cut through the usual marketing spin. If there is one thing I don't regret, it's our name.
  • HOSTSEARCH: You have a very extensive product range, including shared hosting, so why the focus on VPS in the name? Is your shared hosting offered via VPS?
    BRIAN EMERSON: There are a few reasons for our choice to make Virtual Private Servers the centerpiece of our brand. At a practical level, we have found it most effective to center our marketing efforts on one key service - Virtual Private Servers -- and draw in customers from it. This strategy has been largely successful and we have noticed bigger providers take a similar approach, especially as we all try to reach out to the elusive small to medium sized business market.

    I should also point out that when we initially launched, we did not offer traditional shared hosting. Due to my previous role as an owner of a shared hosting company, there was a conflict of interest so we stayed out of that market. Since then, we have introduced shared hosting as an additional service and our customers have largely adopted it.

    We absolutely encourage shared hosting on our Virtual Private Servers and we have a number of hosting resellers doing just that.
  • HOSTSEARCH: It's clear that partnerships are important to you and you were recently in the news for a partnership with SmarterTools to offer productivity software. You also partner Microsoft, Parallels, Ipswitch, SonicWall, and Atomic Data Centers. For the benefit of visitors that might be considering entering Web hosting, how important is choosing the right partnerships to a web host's success?
    BRIAN EMERSON: Every business is different, but for us, partnerships have been integral to our success. Having a close working relationship with our vendors has allowed us to secure favorable pricing and access to the latest and most effective services. In the end, we can pass along a more affordable and competitive service to our customers.
  • HOSTSEARCH: And likewise you have a strong focus on certification - how important is this to your business?
    BRIAN EMERSON: Certification helps validate what we already boast to our customers - that our staff is fully trained and capable, and that we will go the extra mile for our customers. Certifications are important to the success of our business.
  • HOSTSEARCH: I note from your website that KickAssVPS.com owns and manages its own servers and software, but chooses to colocate through Atomic Data Center in Edina, Minnesota, USA. Why did you choose this route?
    BRIAN EMERSON: I have worked with Atomic Data Centers for a long time, and they have proven not only outstanding service, but also a real passion for what they do. They have the same business philosophy as we do, and that makes our colocation with them seamless and reliable. We have been exceptionally happy with their service through the years.
  • HOSTSEARCH: The latest version of the Windows virtualization solution was launched ith much fanfare recently.  I am not going to ask you to choose between Linux and Microsoft because you offer packages for both, but what are the merits of these solutions? What are the strong points of each technology?
    BRIAN EMERSON: VMWare has been around for many years, so it has a more developed set of features and technology, especially when it comes to automation and high-availability services. The recent Hyper-V release from Microsoft comes close to competing with VMWare, and with Microsoft's aggressive pricing, it is an attractive choice. But ultimately, neither VMWare nor Hyper-V is geared toward service providers, and that's why we use Parallels Virtuozzo.
  • HOSTSEARCH: I am not entirely sure I heard of ColdFusion VPS before. Beyond the obvious, what are its advantages?
    BRIAN EMERSON: If you've ever used ColdFusion in a shared hosting environment, you would not be asking that question! In forming our ColdFusion VPS packages, we have seen a strong demand from ColdFusion developers who want access to things like CFRegistry tags, custom mappings, RDS, and full access to the ColdFusion administrator. These features can not be offered practically in a shared hosting environment, so our VPS packages provide a great, cost-effective alternative.
  • HOSTSEARCH: So, you are a relatively young company that's established itself early on. I am sure a great name helps, but it has to be more to it than that. In a cut-throat environment where there are plenty of web hosts making similar noises - some meaning what the say, and others only meaning well - how does a young Web hosting company get it's point across and gain recognition?
    BRIAN EMERSON: I firmly believe in honesty, integrity, and serving the customer to the fullest extent possible. A lot of hosts claim that, but the successful ones actually live by it.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What are your predictions for web hosting in general? Where's it going and what will it be like when it gets there?
    BRIAN EMERSON: The industry is continually evolving, but the paradox seems to be that the more things change, the more they stay the same - be it the core technology and the main business model. I've noticed that over the last 10 years, and I think that statement will hold true for the next 10 years.
  • HOSTSEARCH: OK. This is our de facto question. What's going the next big thing to hit the Internet - not necessarily just Web hosting - and how will it impact people's lives.
    BRIAN EMERSON: Even if I could answer that, I would not tell you. (laugh) At least until I had the trademark.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What sort of place is Eagan to work in? What are the advantages of not being located in more traditional centers of IT?
    BRIAN EMERSON: Having four seasons is the best feature of Minnesota, although it's also the worst. So goes it - I think winter has lost its luster at my age.

    With that said, being in the land of 10,000 lakes, there's nothing as great as dropping a fishing line and landing a fat Crappie after work to relive some stress. The blackberry stays on shore.
  • HOSTSEARCH: And our final question, when you aren't working, what sort of things do you do to relax and enjoy yourself?
    BRIAN EMERSON: Of course my wife and kids take precedence, but when they let me, I like to take my Harley out for some road trips, and jam on my guitar in my weekend rock band, "Stricken." Geeks can rock and roll, too!

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