Web Hosting Interview - NPSIS June 2005

Web Hosting Interview - NPSIS June 2005

Nathaniel P. Wilkerson, CEO, NPS Internet Solutions, Inc.

HostSearch.com Talks to NPSIS CEO Nathaniel P. Wilkerson about the future of the industry, Unix, and hosting technology.

  • HOSTSEARCH: Can you tell us a bit about your role and how you got started with NPS Internet Solutions?
    NATHANIEL P. WILKERSON: NPS Internet Solutions, Inc. was originally concieved while I was attending Graduate School at Stanford University.  I was looking for a good hosting provider to host my personal website, but I found that hosting was very expensive at the time and registering a domain was also quite expensive ($70.00 per year).

    I had a friend (Patrick Ekman) back in Utah who was a computer science major and had just graduated.
    I asked him if he knew anything about web servers and routers and if he would be interested in helping me setup and run a hosting company.  He agreed and so our company was born.  

    We set the company up as an LLC initially but later switched to a regular corporation.  Being short on cash, I brought in my brother Shelden and his business partner Gerry Heaton as partners as well.  We actually started the company in a rented apartment with one web server and a single T1 line.  We have sinced moved two times and are now operating out of our current location at 1857 N 1120 W Provo, Utah.  We currently have about 15 active web servers and are using six bonded, load balanced T1 lines.  We are looking at upgrading our connectivity even further towards the end of this year, with our continued growth.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What makes NPSIS different from other web hosting companies?
    NATHANIEL P. WILKERSON: Our biggest asset has always been our employees.  Right from day one our level of personalized service has always set us apart from the competition.  In the beginning I dealt directly with all customers.  As we grew we hired billing secretaries and tech support personel.  But even now with as large as we have become I still spend a lot of time giving personal attention to different customer requests and problems.  It isn't every hosting provider that you can actual talk to the CEO of the company.  Furthermore, we have always tried to remain very competitive with our hosting pricing and the features we offer.  I realize that we now no longer offer the most bandwidth and space that some companies offer, but we try to be very honest with the customer.  We are careful not to overcrowd our servers and to keep a watchful eye on all our systems.  Most everything is now monitored automatically and even automatically managed, however there are still all-nighters occasionally when a system needs immediate maintenance or recovery.

    The bottom line is that we are in this for the long haul and we do our best to keep our customers and reduce churn.  The customer is the boss in this company, I'm only there to make sure that it happens for them.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Please tell us about the Abuse Prevention Writing Contest NPSIS is sponsoring.
    NATHANIEL P. WILKERSON: My wife recently wrote a book about her life and some of the ordeals she went through as a child in a very abusive house hold.  The book is now available at Amazon.com and other regular bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Borders.

    She has spent a lot of time during the last two years in working with local and national organizations promoting abuse awareness and prevention.  As part of that promotional work she recently teamed up with RAINN to create a writing contest for victims of abuse.  My wife found that by writing about her experiences and openly discussing them she was able to heal from these wounds.  This is the intent of the writing contest she is hosting, it is a means by which other abuse victims can open up about their experiences and not only heal from their wounds but also educate the rest of us.  
  • HOSTSEARCH: Could you describe your data center and your hardware for us please?
    NATHANIEL P. WILKERSON: Are data center is located on the first floor of our building in Provo.  We have multiple battery backups that will sustain 99% of most power outages.  We also have a gas generator that will automatically start for the more prolonged outages.  

    We recently had to upgrade our cooling system due to the increase in number of servers.  We now run our datacenter cooling from the building wide cooling system as well as dedicated coolers just for the main server room.  We have a redundant cooling system for the server room.  Therefore if one cooler fails the remaining cooler can manage the entire heat load of all of our servers.

    All webservers and fileservers our custom built machines.  The specs on our most recent machines is the following:

    Dual Xeon 2.26Ghz Processors
    4096 Megabytes Memory
    SATA150, Raid 5 and Raid 1
    SONY AIT2 Tape Drive

    Our older webservers are all Dual Processor machines running Raid 1 with SATA150 or SCSI320.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Can you describe your support services?
    NATHANIEL P. WILKERSON: Our support system is based on the concept of escalation.  Essentially what this means is that there are three levels of support.  If your question can not be answered or is not satisfactory or not to your liking you can request that it be escalated.  Generally this means that I then personally look into it.  At that point if there is still not an answer or solution it goes to the business partners and is then reviewed by all the partners and our network admin.

    This system has been very successful for us since it allows customer problems and concerns, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant to be correctly resolved.  We try to avoid the common scenario of just pushing things under the rug that a lot of web hosts do.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Hackers and security innovators are involved in an ever evolving technological struggle. From the perspective of a web hosting provider, what do you think the Internet community should do to solve the problems of viruses, spam and phishing?
    NATHANIEL P. WILKERSON: I don't think the problem with viruses will ever be completely resolved.  However,  most of the problem there is with the software makers such as Microsoft and not the internet community.  I say just spend the time and money to make their products a little more secure.

    As far as SPAM and phishing goes though, we really need to somehow get the government involved and crack down hard on spammers.  Its easily costing our company alone a few thousad per year in wasted resources and uneeded bandwidth which ultimately the end customer pays for.  Spam blocking tools are great, but this is only a bandaid on an open wound, the real solution lies elsewhere.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What are the terms of your money back guarantee?
    NATHANIEL P. WILKERSON: We have a solid 30 day money back guarantee.  That means we refund you your money whether it's a monthly or yearly account if you cancel within the first 30 days.  We stand by this guarantee and do not hassle the customer with a lengthly process in getting their refund.  
  • HOSTSEARCH: How do you see the web hosting industry over the next 5-10 years?
    NATHANIEL P. WILKERSON: Very competitive.  The web hosting industry will stabilize more over the next few years, and we may even see a slight increase in prices.  Its really hard to say though, like everyone I wish I had a crystal ball and see everything in our future.

    I don't think Windows hosting is going to go away but recently we have seen an increase in Unix hosting accounts.  I'm not really sure of the reason for this other than maybe people are starting to realize that Microsoft's security has still a long way to go.

    As for up and coming products:  I see that PHP and MySQL are on the rise.  Opensource is good for the hosting industry, I think the trend for hosting is more open source than paid products like Microsoft or Cold Fusion.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What can we expect from NPSIS through 2005?
    NATHANIEL P. WILKERSON: You can expect to see more new servers to replace old machines.  You can also expect a completely redesigned web site (Frontpage and Pricing pages in particular).

    Currently my to-do list is a mile long.  But a few of the other highlights are a DNS manager, improved email/webmail system.  Increased disk quotas. Increased email space quotas.  New shopping cart solution.  And of course upgrades to some of our more popular softwares (ie. Cold Fusion MX 7).  A lot of our upgrades and improvements go on behind the scenes such as a new and improved tape backup system and additional automation for our staff in monitoring, managing and working with customers.

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