HOSTSEARCH: Could you please reveal a little about yourself and your day-to-day role with LFChosting.com
ROBERT: Prior to beginning Loose Foot Computing Limited in December, 1996, I worked as a freelance developer consultant by starting to develop standalone primitive applications for Internet development (HTML editing, web-based animation, etc), private sale and multimedia as well as climate data processing/analysis applications for the Canadian government. Later, I moved into the development of web-based e-commerce, statistical, and miscellaneous other applications for clients in Canada, the United States, and Asia using web-based technologies, conducting training sessions with local development/Internet-related firms on the use of new web-based technologies (Perl, Java applets, Flash, etc.) and services (Windows and Linux web servers, etc.) for a year, assisting IBM with the coordination of a specialized local computer camp for teenagers.
From 1996-1998, LFC was strictly a development and programming house. Although we have remained a full-service company, upon discovering that Web hosting network administration and marketing better met the skill sets of our staff and stakeholders, LFC's new hosting service, based on the unique business-oriented model that was developed, and the LFC Hosting brand were launched in 1998. We developed our own in-house hosting network and began marketing hosting as our flagship product.
While operating LFC, I also, in cooperation with Andrew MacCorquodale (now LFC VP), planned and executed a successful two-day Internet/e-commerce-related trade show, E-commerce Expo Canada, in 1999 and 2000 in two Canadian cities.
After operating and growing LFC for approximately four years, my passion turned to marketing (first and foremost advertising and promotion) and management controls, my current primary duty at LFC.
In short, I have approximately 11 years of industry experience in the fields of stand-alone software development, Internet programming, web design and development, web hosting, electronic commerce, and transaction processing.
HOSTSEARCH: Can you give us a brief historical run through of LFChosting.com's development since establishment, and explain the role the company plays in the industry.
ROBERT: From 1996-1998, LFC was strictly a development and programming house. It was during this period that LFC discovered the opportunity to capitalize on the tendency for small businesses to, after developing a website, look to the developer for guidance in the ongoing hosting, support, maintenance, and growth of the website, actually, but rarely considered, the larger task. These businesses are looking for a complete solution that will give them competitive edge, but are seldom able to identify their precise technological needs. Many development firms were, at the time, offering a service with this in mind, although they were not equipped to develop and maintain the infrastructure of a large web host. No large web host to date had adopted this strategy.
LFC's new hosting service, based on this strategy, was packaged in 1998. The goal was to undercut the industry leaders while building a sustainable pricing structure allowing us to achieve the quality and longevity that is uncharacteristic of the "budget" hosting services. During the past few years, most dot com's have failed due to a lack of economic viability. Our initial challenge was, therefore, to develop, with very limited funding, a solid foundation of hosting customers allowing us to grow off of revenues, without relying on investment capital or, in many respects, the state of the economy. Businesses around the global began flocking to our unique, all-inclusive service, and within one year, we had acquired 200 hosting customers and automated our service and business processes.
In 1999, with a solid foundation of hosting customers in place, LFC knew how to manage a hosting network but recognized that the ability to market one's service better than their competition is the critical aspect of a successful business. Online marketing was also increasing competitive at the time. Our challenge was to determine the marketing methods that work and those that don't and, simultaneously, determine whether a real, large-scale, need for our service even existed. The following two years were spent testing a wide variety of online marketing forms from search engines, banner advertising, and hosting directories to targeted e-mail campaigns, PR, permissions marketing, and affiliates (including our current customers), as well as offline marketing including direct mail, magazine ads, and a local trade show in Regina and Saskatoon called E-commerce Expo Canada intended to literally build a market for ourselves locally by raising awareness in the province. Eventually, we had developed a strategy built on those efforts that proved cost-effective: hosting directories and pay-per-click search engines, a miniscule and barely discovered part of what had been tried. All other strategies fell within%2
HOSTSEARCH: It's an interesting name "Loose Foot Computing" what is the theme behind this?
ROBERT: The name LFC Hosting is derived from the corporation name Loose Foot Computing Limited, which we have kept since 1996, when LFC was strictly a development firm. The name was chosen by the company's primaries back when it was a two-person firm and is based on the term "Foot Loose", or geographic independency, the overall center-point of all of the services that we offer.
HOSTSEARCH: What is your main product or the hosting plan that ranked as your top selling?
ROBERT: The LFC Hosting network was built with business in mind and is centered on reliability and unsurpassed customer service. Our business packages support e-commerce but are priced like other hosts' basic plans. For example our basic business package alone costs only $18/month (no setup fee) and includes 5 domains, 35 POPs, native SSL security, a private CGI-BIN, FrontPage 2002 ext., free shopping cart software, and over 50 other important features generally only included with a competing host's most expensive package.
Do not underestimate the importance of a business-oriented web host for the success of your business online. LFC Hosting's state-of-the-art account control panel, unique to LFC, uses every-day language to allow easy automatic administration of vital account features, like domain names and e-mail accounts, while providing access to extensive information and tools for administering their more advanced features. LFC Hosting is ideal for a range of users from business people to Internet professionals and resellers.
HOSTSEARCH: What are your marketing strategies that you use for LFChosting.com?
ROBERT: Although LFC hosts many large corporations in our data center, we have always catered to the average small business with the need to develop an Internet presence and sell their products and services online with limited capital. Our primary sector of service is the website and software development industry; however, LFC provides service to small business in every major business sector.
We market almost exclusively online, including:
1) Hosting Directories
2) Search Engines
3) E-mail Newsletters
We also offer a variety of incentives for word-of-mouth referrals including the LFC Affiliate Program, and have begun putting up large advertisements in the Canadian airports as well. Overall, we have found hosting directory advertising to remain the most cost-effective method of advertising for a web host.
As a private company, our entire profit margin goes back into marketing. Therefore, we have a relatively large marketing budget, one of the reasons for our exponential growth curve, which has been sustained for almost two years.
HOSTSEARCH: You have "Web design & E-commerce" service - can you tell more about this service? And is this including in the hosting plan?
ROBERT: Loose Foot Computing provides the lowest rates in the industry for the professional design of appealing business websites using the latest technologies. We have been providing low-cost innovative business e-commerce solutions, including website hosting, design, and back-end software development, since 1996. LFC is the developer of the innovative small business e-commerce software suite, Simply E-commerce.
Included free of charge with all of our Business Hosting Packages is the versatile, innovative online storefront builder and shopping cart software, Simply E-commerce.
Simply E-commerce (SE) was written in-house and is designed to integrate closely with our hosting network to offer the greatest level of security, efficiency, and ease of use, a major advantage in hosting your e-commerce website with LFC Hosting. SE is built off an extremely simple, yet infinitely powerful model which allows you to create a versatile storefront customized to your needs. A thorough understanding of SE opens up a literally infinite number of possibilities, including the ability to interface the software with any payment gateway and have unlimited tax and shipping calculation and product customization options. SE is also made to adapt to the exact look and feel of your already built website.
Simply E-commerce is designed to inherently run with 128-bit SSL encryption, the highest form of widely supported Internet security. Free, unlimited support for SSL encryption, including use of our SSL certificate, is available with all of our Business Hosting Plans (a minimum $100/year value).
For those who do not wish to devote the time to learning the software, we also provide a very affordable shopping cart design and development service. Our programmers will design and develop a storefront that meets your specific needs and follows the same design scheme as your current site.
Our web development services require that we have a skilled development team on staff. This team also developed and maintains all of our own automation software, and our control panel and priority shopping cart software Simply E-commerce. Without our development services, we could not support this team on a day-to-day basis, and would, like most hosts, have to bring them in to correct software problems as they arise.
In addition, we are able to save costs by developing and maintaining our own website and the majority of our marketing material in-house.
LFC Hosting's MultiPay service offers multi-currency transaction processing for businesses located anywhere on planet earth. Merchants have the option of pricing and settling in U.S., Canadian, Euro, and British Pounds. With MultiPay you can start accepting credit cards securely from your web site in less than 24 hrs. The MultiPay system offers a variety of processing tools, including recurring billing, reporting, fraud screening, cus
HOSTSEARCH: Your web site has earned quite a few awards from the hosting industry; can you share some secrets to this success?
ROBERT: At LFC Hosting, we pride ourselves on offering superior business-oriented service, customer support, reliability, network response times, and cost competitiveness to our business partners.
We have been around since 1996 and growing steadily since. Rather than providing a lower cost service, we attribute our longevity and popularity to the following three factors, those that only become increasingly important as the hosting industry evolves:
At LFC Hosting, we have always made quality of service our #1 priority, ensuring that our current customer base is satisfied before attempting to acquire new customers. It is invariably cheaper to keep a customer than acquire a new one. Also, through this approach we have maintained a very good reputation in the industry, which has become our most powerful marketing tool.
Very early in our history, we developed a unique business-oriented approach to web hosting to fill the short-comings of virtually every other web host at the time. This approach is three-fold.
Firstly, we concentrate on providing virtually unsurpassed customer service, reliability, and network response times; having a web host who possesses these three components is vital for any business to thrive online.
Secondly, we have adopted an all-inclusive pricing strategy. We include everything that the typical small business would ever need (5 domain names, full database and development platform support, etc.) throughout their growth on the web as standard with all of our business-level plans, starting at only $18/month. This eliminates the hidden fees that ultimately make other services more costly for businesses in addition to the need for a small business to anticipate where they will be on the web five years down the road in order to choose the most cost-effective hosting plan.
For us it all evens out for the simple reason that any given business user will probably use only a few of the features included with their plan, and different businesses require features sets. While everything that they don't use is free and available for them as they grow, our clients also gain the confidence that, as new technologies emerge, they will be made available to them free-of-charge.
Thirdly, we offer very up-front pricing. For example, our base business plan includes 20 MB of web space. Although this is plenty for virtually any business website (our entire 100 page corporate site packed with images is only approximately 3 MB), most hosts today still advertise ridiculous numbers such as 500 MB with a $8/month plan, of course, overselling the space and soaking their customers on additional fees.
This business-oriented approach continues to make our plans increasingly attractive as the hosting industry is being remolded. Web hosting consumers
HOSTSEARCH: What is "Distinct Advantage" that differentiate you from others web hosting company?
ROBERT: LFC Hosting provides a unique, highly affordable, business-oriented approach to web hosting. A whole array of non-standard features and capabilities that competing hosts simply cannot provide, even with their "e-commerce" level plans, are highly accessible and easy to implement for businesses of any size, providing you with new possibilities for doing business online. Our state-of-the-art connection and servers ensure rapid response times and thus no loss of visitors to your web site.
Our superior reliability, customer service, network response times, and the many innovative advanced features and developments go beyond a standard Internet presence and have made LFC a leader in the industry. Your business gains a distinct advantage over your competition by making full use of the many backend capabilities of the Internet.
Our award-winning all-inclusive approach, with many free domain names, POP3 accounts, and essentially everything you will ever need to do business online, allows you room for expansion; there are no hidden fees, so you don't pay extra as your site grows. This differs from the strategies of most other web hosting companies, who 'capture' clients with a cheap package, then later collect various hidden fees for extra services and sacrifice support and reliability as another means of reducing basic package costs.
LFC has been in the business of providing dependable Internet business solutions since 1996 and now services clients in over 50 countries. Our reliable on-site network was built with business in mind.
We are simply able to offer a higher quality of service with many more features, everything you need to conduct secure electronic commerce, at a lower cost overall than competing services.
HOSTSEARCH: Where do you see yourself, LFChosting.com and the industry as a whole in five years time?
ROBERT: Rather than making predictions relating to emerging technologies, I would like to discuss the evolution of web hosting from a business perspective, which has the ultimate effect on the industry as a whole and on the consumer.
Web Hosting at the present time is turning from a highly lucrative industry driven by thousands of three-month old startups willing to draw blood (or trade their reputation) for more domain name accounts, to an industry driven by the needs of business consumers: quality (that is, service level), dependability, and scalability. This is apparent when going back in time through the host review archives of "find-a-host sites", which, only one year ago, were dominated by horrific reviews of (mainly anonymous) web hosts.
This trend, not unique to the hosting industry, is beginning to result in fewer, larger web hosts governed by customer-driven business morals.
HOSTSEARCH: What is the first website you visit when you turn on your computer and why?
It just simply belongs to the best :-)
HOSTSEARCH: Thanks so much for great interview!