Web Hosting Interview - RackForce March 2005

Web Hosting Interview - RackForce March 2005

Brian Fry, Co-founder and Vice President, RackForce

In our March featured interview, HostSearch.com talks to Rackforce.com Co-founder and Vice President Brian Fry. Brian shares how RackForce helped track Al Qaeda through Shareeah.org and the RackForce automation strategy.

  • HOSTSEARCH: Could you please briefly tell us about yourself and your role for RackForce.com?
    BRIAN FRY: I have a dual role in the company. I am a co-founder and the Vice President and I manage the marketing and sales department for RackForce. My job is to take the sales goals set by the Board of Directors and turn them into reality. The marketing/sales department works closely with operations to ensure our servers, both dedicated and VPS, are meeting the demanding needs of hosting and application resellers.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Can you tell me about your relationship with SW Soft and their Plesk Enterprise Manager (PEM)?
    BRIAN FRY: RackForce has an excellent relationship with SW-soft. We meet with their top executives on a regular basis. When we launched our dedicated server line three years ago we started with Plesk. We built a strong relationship with them and that carried into SW-Soft after the acquisition. We were the first company to launch PEM after extensive testing and planning. Unfortunately it was at the same time that SW-soft was acquiring Plesk and we decided, with SW-soft, to stop the launch since there was some uncertainty about the product's future. PEM is doing well now and we continue to watch the product and it is still expected to make it part of our product line in the future.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Recently Rackforce discontinued service to the Shareeah.org website after it was made known their possible connections with Al-Qaeda and the jihad oriented message of the site. What exactly was it that put the site over the line and can you tell me about the process you went through in making your determination to quit hosting the site?
    BRIAN FRY: Hosting Service Providers are much more complicated entities then some people realize. Our customers resell what we provide them and we don't sell to the end user. However since we own our own netblocks some people think that we are also aware of every web site on our system. With more than 80,000 web sites we can't supervise every site nor can we respond to every abuse report. We have a strict Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) and react to qualified reports and take the appropriate steps. In the Shareeah.org site we were made aware of the site by the RCMP (Canada's main law enforcement agency) and asked to leave it operating so that it could be tracked. We then removed it when the RCMP asked that it be removed.

    There was an amazing amount of pressure put on the company by the press and special interest groups over this site. The CNN and the National News in Canada picked up the story. We stuck to our policies and procedures and the President and I were really pleased with the RackForce teams' performance.
  • HOSTSEARCH: 4. What level of responsibility do web hosting providers have for the content they are hosting? I.e., where do you draw the line in terms of what is acceptable in terms of adult hosting, illegal(viral) adware ala MCI's hosting of send-safe.com, spammers, political and racially motivated sites vs. allowing freedom of speech?
    BRIAN FRY: We feel Freedom of Speech is a right that everyone should have but they do not have the right to break the law. We use "Applicable Laws" to determine what should be removed from RackForce systems. By applicable laws we use Canadian law, which we feel is a very fair legal system.

    We remove sites that promote injury or physical harm, promote or teach illegal activities, exploit children in a negative or sexual way, infringe on copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, or other intellectual property. There are a few other things that would cause us to remove a site but that pretty well sums it up.
    We do not promote adult hosting but we allow it on specific servers that have the network and computing power necessary to support such a high demand requirement. This falls under freedom of speech and as long as it is legal we allow it.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Is there any advantage or disadvantage to you or your customers that you are based in Canada vs. the United States?  
    BRIAN FRY: Our location in Kelowna, BC, Canada is a significant advantage to anyone in North America. Consider the following:

    Network Quality - The network is the same network that all the big players are plugged into. Our network engineers are really good at making sure our performance is high and we continue to add more capabilities.

    Electrical Power Quality - Data centers are all about reliable power. We take advantage of the abundant, clean hydropower resources that are available where we are. Most important of all is we have no threat of a grid failure like we saw two summers ago in Eastern North America. Our systems are plugged into redundant power grids. We don't know of any other data centres that can boast this.

    Human Resource Quality - Canada's education system is solid and we have an abundant choice of well-qualified people who want to live in beautiful Kelowna. Our President sits on the advisory committees for the Okanagan College/University of British Columbia. We are able to hire great people who want to be part of an exciting company.

    Seismic Stability - We are in western North America but we are one of the few Pacific Time Zone data centers not located on an earthquake fault. If you think about this for a moment, earthquakes threaten a large portion of the world's computing power between Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles. When you are dependent on computer systems for your financial well-being why would you locate in one of these areas. Kelowna is great choice. It is stable with very little chance of experiencing an earthquake or major disaster.

    The four points above combine to give our customers the best possible hosting experience.
  • HOSTSEARCH: With over 75% of email estimated to be spam and an increasing variety and severity of viruses being released what priority level do you place on providing security vs. customer service or management applications to your clients?
    BRIAN FRY: Security and management applications have to work seamlessly together. RackForce's complete data center is protected by a hardware (ASIC based) perimeter firewall, which is used to manage network threats. It also gives Network management the ability to see and manage things that smaller data centers could not. For a small fee ($25 or less) customers can then choose to have additional levels of protection added to their specific server to manage security threats, viruses and spam
  • HOSTSEARCH: Can you tell me a bit about your datacenter and your hardware?
    BRIAN FRY: We operate two data centers in Kelowna with up to two more planned for this year. The NOC is manned 24/7/365 by expert technicians. We promote 99.99% uptime and are aggressively moving to carrier grade levels of service while maintaining very affordable pricing.

    Our core routing equipment is state-of-the-art but we don't mention brand or models for security reasons. Needless to say we have a great deal of flexibility in how we support our customers due to the good equipment and design. We run multiple redundant backbones with 1.7Gbps capacity and we continuously add more. Our edge routers are layer 3 and Gbps capable.

    Our power systems are second to none. We have the standard UPSs and diesel generators but with the dual power grid I mentioned earlier the most serious threat to a hosting service provider is eliminated.
  • HOSTSEARCH: With technology advancing so rapidly in terms of data storage, processing speed and network speed how do you see the role of web hosting providers changing in the next 5-10 years?
    BRIAN FRY: The hosting provider must evolve from making the majority of their revenue from hosting web sites to hosting applications and providing storage and disaster recovery solutions. The Internet first leveled the playing field for small to medium size companies but now the IT costs are taking it back out of reach. The hosting service provider has the ability to create the "Economies of Scale" to make computing affordable for every business. We see this as an integral part of our role in the Internet business.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What is your company's forte as compared to other web hosts?
    BRIAN FRY: Automation! We have our own development/integration team and we automate everything we can so there is less human intervention and best possible support. For example: Our Instant Activation System will put a most servers online within 10 minutes after the customer orders and passes the fraud check. Our monitoring systems will place a ticket automatically for the customer and the support team will often fix the problem before the customer is aware there is a problem.
  • HOSTSEARCH: In terms of server operating systems, how do you see the Microsoft vs. Unix war going in the next few years?
    BRIAN FRY: Microsoft will continuously take market share in the data center as more and more applications are centralized. People are used to seeing Microsoft on their desktop and Small and Medium size Enterprises will want Windows servers running them.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What can we expect to see from Rackforce in 2005?
    BRIAN FRY: We will be adding 2 more data centers to accommodate our growth and need for enterprise class services. We'll also be adding network and collocation to New York (Newark, New Jersey) to provide "single hop" performance from the East Coast. We will launch Windows hosting and VPS (Virtual Private Servers) by April and a short time later we will launch the first Windows applications. We will also be adding Oracle database support.

    2004 was a great year for the company and we expect 2005 to be even better.

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