Web Hosting Interview - UK2 May 2007

Web Hosting Interview - UK2 May 2007

Ditlev Bredahl, the Managing Director of UK2

This month we talk to Ditlev Bredahl, the Managing Director of UK2, a British hosting provider that bills itself as the biggest hosting. UK2 offers a range of shared web hosting services, going up to dedicated servers. We ask Ditlev about the British and European web hosting scene and ask how a company can offer low prices and rock solid services and still turn a profit!

  • HOSTSEARCH: Ditlev - thanks for speaking to us like this. Perhaps it might be best if we kick off by you telling us a bit about UK2, your role in the organization...
    DITLEV BREDAHL: Thanks John - UK2 has been around since 1998.  We've always been a major player in the market with a market share of around 30%, or something crazy like that, back in 2000, and we are still one of the largest web hosting companies in Europe. We are a basic hosting company selling domains, shared hosting, dedicated hosting and more advanced stuff like ecommerce turnkey solutions. We have around 40 people here, most within the support and tech areas. I am the CEO.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Have you been with the company from the start? What was the inspiration behind setting up UK2?
    DITLEV BREDAHL: No, I've been here for less than a year actually. UK2 has gone through some dramatic changes over the last few months, I have more than tripled the team and our average support reply times has gone from above 72 hours to less than 2 hours 24/7, and yes, we have launched telephone support for those who wish to talk to someone in person. In 2005 we had a net loss of around 1,500-2,000 clients per month, in 2007 we have grown more than 19,000 clients already. UK2 has always been a very healthy and profitable company, but I still like to call this a turn-around - and one that most of our competitors didn't see coming.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Now, you are based in Canary Wharf, which is right at the heart of things as far as London is concerned. Anyone who has been there knows just how excellent London is, but your website describes it as "Europe's undisputed Internet city no. 1". What brings you to this conclusion?
    DITLEV BREDAHL: Honestly, I don't know if it is - once someone told me that 96% of all Internet traffic in Europe actually passes through London... might be true - I don't know. UK/London is by far the most competitive market when it comes to European online business, the hosting scene, and ecommerce in general, has grown immensely - which is good for the consumers as they are able to get the lowest prices when buying online in UK.  
  • HOSTSEARCH: We have said this before when interviewing hosts from outside the US... When you look at the Internet there appears to be US dominance as far as hosting is concerned, but is that still the case? Is it a case of "the British are coming?"
    DITLEV BREDAHL: (Laughs) Yeah, you yanks need to look out! Seriously, though, with the ever-increasing quality in Internet connections from the EU to the US, people looking for hosting will start looking outside of their geographical proximity. Things like service, lowest prices and general features will be key rather than where the webhost or servers are based. At the same time the behaviour of the general Internet users are changing as well - the Internet has enabled ecommerce businesses to market their products towards specific geographic segments that could be far away from their home market. We have many server clients from the US that put their sites with us in order to optimize their roll out to the UK/EU market.
  • HOSTSEARCH: This might not be a fair question, but is there anything significantly different about the hosting industry in the UK when compared to the US? With that in mind, are there any particular advantages for a web host based in the United Kingdom?
    DITLEV BREDAHL: Well, for starters UK bandwidth prices - the cost of the traffic going through your websites or servers - is way cheaper in the UK. Power prices are a bit higher here though, but our US clients often save 30-50% on their server prices compared to similar solutions in the US. Also, if you are doing business in the UK or EU it's a good idea not to base your website on US IP numbers, as Google might make it harder for your UK/EU clients to find you
  • HOSTSEARCH: You have an excellent website... nicely laid out, clear, and informative... On your site you say, "We are determined to continue to offer cut throat low prices and give you outstanding, rock solid services. The only way this is possible is to be a 100% online company and we are optimized and designed to handle requests this way efficiently and professionally." So, no Call Center? How do keep ahead of the competition who claim to offer 24/7 customer service staff at the end of a telephone?
    DITLEV BREDAHL: Thanks. The web design at UK2.net has really gone through a lot of changes during the last year - but god knows it was needed. The old "design" had not been changed a whole lot since UK2 started trading online back in 1998. We even changed the logo...
    It's true that UK2 traditionally has been an online-only business, and we were quite hard to get hold of. That has changed a lot though. I have a 24/7 team of both supporters and technicians ensuring that we can deal with clients questions or technical issues around the clock. We have an advanced help desk, livechat and a UK-based Call Center that can be reached at anytime. When it all boils down to it, a domain is a domain no matter where you buy or host it. It's all about the support and service that comes with it after you bought it. We know that to make a profit we need to keep clients happy for a long time, otherwise they will leave in no time - so support is key to us, and we have gone through major investments in the last year to make sure that we provide the best support and service within our price range.
  • HOSTSEARCH: For me it is always a quandary - "cut throat low prices" and "rock solid services". I am not asking you to give your secrets away but, in general, how does a web hosting provider like yourself offer great service at low cost - which you do - in an environment where someone might promise twice as much as you are offering at an even lower cost?
    DITLEV BREDAHL: It's all in the numbers John. You will find many smaller or newly started hosts struggling to make a profit. The initial investments of building a proper and secure infrastructure providing high quality services are seriously in the millions of pounds. And, you need a certain scale of business before you can have a sensible return of investment. We have more than 3,000 servers in our datacenters, and we are growing faster than ever. We made the initial investments ages ago, and we have automated the majority of the logistics within our operations by writing cool custom code that will ensure fast turnaround times for all products, with little or no hands on needed from my team. This saves us a lot of money, and enables us to focus on the after-sale support so we can keep the clients with us for a much longer time that the industry standard. It's all in the numbers - and I am glad that I didn't have to start all over, that would be close to impossible at the current state of the market.
  • HOSTSEARCH: I note from your website that you are offering domain names with the ".mobi' extension. How far down the road of designing websites for mobile units has the UK gone? Although I hear about a ".mobi revolution", I haven't seen many signs of it yet. Is there a revolution going on in the UK?
    DITLEV BREDAHL: No, like so many other online revolutions this one is still to come. I am sure it's just a question of time though.
  • HOSTSEARCH: When you aren't plugged into a computer or server, how do you manage your downtime? What do you do to relax and enjoy yourself?
    DITLEV BREDAHL: I am bit pitiful that way - for me work and spare time are sort of mixed up, I love what I do. I do have a life outside of UK2 naturally... wonderful wife and kids, but it's all sort of mixed in, so to speak. I live by the principle "work a little, play a little" rather than keeping a 9-5 schedule. What we are doing now at UK2 these days is quite amazing to be honest - and our future plans will revolutionize the way the hosting business is working. I am proud to be a part of it.