Daniel Foster, Founder and Co-owner of 34SP.com
If you have ever used a CB radio in the United Kingdom, you'll probably know the city of Manchester as 'Rainy City'. A pretty apt description, but of course, there's much more to Manchester than terrible weather! It's a regional center for art and culture, home to one of the world's greatest football (US translation: Soccer) teams (ok - just drop "one of" for greater accuracy) and also home to one of the UK's leading web hosts - 34SP.com. 34SP.com offers a solid range of personal, business, reseller and VPS hosting options alongside domain registrations, web design, PLESK licenses and server management. We talk to Daniel Foster, founder and co-owner of the company to find out about 34SP.com and what it's like doing business in a country that has just "officially" slipped into recession.
- HOSTSEARCH: Daniel - thanks for meeting us like this...DANIEL FOSTER: No problem at all, I've always been a big fan of HostSearch.com, so thanks for giving me the opportunity to chat about 34SP.com with you.
- HOSTSEARCH: Why don't you give our visitors a brief overview of 34SP.com and your role within the company? Did 34SP.com start life in Manchester? What's the history of the company?DANIEL FOSTER: 34SP.com started up in Manchester in 2000 to fill the gap between low cost and high service hosting. Myself and Stuart Melling, the other founder of the company, ran a few websites and obviously we needed hosting for them. At the time, you had to pay a lot to get good service. We couldn't see why this had to be so we started our own hosting company. It was small at first but our commitment to complete customer satisfaction and excellence in technical support rang true and we grew quickly. 34SP.com rapidly became a full time occupation and we've been growing ever since!
As a founder and Technical Director, my principal role is to ensure complete client satisfaction. My key technical contribution is look after the network and servers, to source new hardware and decide how we're going to implement all of our services. I also work directly on the more complicated support cases when my opinion can make a difference and ensure that the customer receives the best possible service.
- HOSTSEARCH: And as far as your customer base is concerned, are they predominantly British, or do you have an international clientele?DANIEL FOSTER: Being a UK based business, we have attracted a considerable number of British and European customers. All our initial marketing was very UK-centric. This resulted in a very UK heavy customer base in our early stages. We rely on customer referrals for a portion of our business, and this has lead to the UK being represented significantly in our customer base, but these days we have plenty of customers from all round the world. We've adapted our site to bill in Pounds, Euros or U.S. Dollars according to the customer's location. Regardless of geographic proximity I believe that we offer a great level of service whoever we're compared with.
- HOSTSEARCH: What is your flagship offering, or don't you really have one? Do all your services carry equal weight?DANIEL FOSTER: The foundation of our entire company is service and support. That is our flagship product.
- HOSTSEARCH: Your offerings mean 34SP.com is pretty much a one-stop solution for all aspects of hosting, including web design. Was that deliberate, or is it something that just evolved as you grew and met customer requirements?DANIEL FOSTER: The variety of products that we offer today has come about by meeting the needs of our customers. We started out in the year 2000 just offering basic hosting. Very quickly we started offering domain name registration services to support this. As we expanded into other markets, demand grew for more sophisticated hosting services such as business hosting and VPS hosting. This process has led to a substantial portfolio of offerings. Every aspect of our business is built around making it easy to do business with us, and to ensure that the client's are completely satisfied. The products that we currently offer are an extension of this philosophy.
The addition of our web design service last year means we are now in a position to offer customers a complete end to end website solution. Clients can come to us with a specific vision for a web property or web application and we can design, implement and host a fully functional web site for them. This meets a customer demand that has been strongly communicated to us by our clients.
- HOSTSEARCH: And you have a very solid range of services... Why don't you talk our visitors through them?DANIEL FOSTER: Certainly. Our products are as follows:
Discount domain name registration - Our domain name products are extremely competitive and we have a strong base of domain registrants.
Personal budget hosting - Our entry level hosting plan.
Business web hosting - The business hosting products at 34SP.com were specifically designed to meet the needs of the majority of small businesses.
Reseller hosting - For those designers and developers who wish to supply hosting services with their designs we offer reseller plans. These are very popular.
VPS web hosting - Developers drive the demand for this product. It is our fastest growing market segment right now.
Dedicated servers - Another high growth area at 34SP.com. As our service message gets spread and takes hold. More sophisticated professionals gravitate towards the service.
- HOSTSEARCH: I very recently read a report that said half of UK firms don't know what the Cloud means, and they are equally confused about what it can do for them. Is that your experience? Is there still a strong requirement for more traditional hosting offerings? Does 34SP.com have plans as far as the Cloud is concerned?DANIEL FOSTER: The Cloud can mean so many different things, depending on who you ask. It can be SaaS, it can be scalable virtual servers, it can be services like Amazon's EC2... All of this ambiguity means that consumers are understandably confused by "The Cloud". All they care about in relation to hosting is that their site or application is delivered effectively to their customers. For some people this can mean hosting in the cloud, taking something as SaaS, or hosting on a traditional shared account.
Our moves in this area directly related to our new scalable VPS offerings.
- HOSTSEARCH: So - working in a great part of the world, I guess you have plenty of leisure opportunities... What do you do when you aren't helping run 34SP.com?DANIEL FOSTER: As you say, Manchester is a fantastic place to live and work. I moved here to go to university and have lived in the city ever since. There's a great live music scene with everything from tiny venues with local bands right up to arenas with massive international acts. I lost track of the number of gigs I went to years ago!
My other main pastime is flying light aircraft. Growing up I always wanted to fly planes, so that's the first thing I did when 34SP.com started to pay me a little but more than enough to live on. I still love it as much as I did that first time I stepped into the pilot's seat and during the last 5 years I've flown to all sorts of places in the UK and into Europe. I've done a little bit of flying in the U.S., too. Next time I'm over, I want to fly the trip down the Hudson River alongside Manhattan - it looks stunning and friends have told me it's worth the effort to do it yourself.