Artur from eBoundHost
This month we talk to Artur from eBoundHost (http://www.eboundhost.com/). EBH is a US based Web hosting provider with offices and data center presence in suburban Chicago. According to the company's Web site, its customers include "individuals and businesses worldwide, from the United States of America to China, the Middle East, Australia, and everywhere between". eBoundHost suggests VPS "fills the gap between shared (virtual) and dedicated hosting" and has an extensive Virtual Private Servers (VPS) range. We ask Artur whether the man in the street understands VPS, or whether it remains in the realm of the savvy user.
- HOSTSEARCH: Artur, thank you for seeing us like this - much appreciated. First of all, perhaps you could kick off in the time-honored fashion by telling us about yourself and your role within eBoundHost.ARTUR: Howdy John! Good to finally talk to you! To jump right into it, I'm one of the founding members of the eBoundHost tribe. Been here since the beginning and have seen the company blossom from a garage startup into a real (digital) brick and mortar company. My role in EBH has grown from Customer Support, to Network Administrator, to The Go-To-Man-For-Putting-Out-Major-Catastrophic-Fires and now I mostly play the manager role. Once in a while I still get my kicks by experimenting with a new type of hardware or server configuration but now I mostly leave it to the real experts. On a personal level, I enjoy chocolate, poodles, unix, and remote control helicopters.
- HOSTSEARCH: How long has eBoundHost been in operation? Tell us a bit about its history.ARTUR: In the beginning, we had some help from a friend who was already an expert in the hosting field and gave us what we needed to burst out of the gate at full speed. He helped us set up our technology and gave us some tips for marketing. We were off to a good start thanks to his help, but it's never been easy, and we never expected to be this successful.
eBoundHost launched in late 2000 right as the Dot Com market began to crash. This was supposedly the worst time to open a digital business. Never mind that just a year later, as our first T1's were being delivered on Sept 11th, things got worse. We watched the airliners crashing into the World Trade Center as the phone company tech was pulling wire into our building. It always seemed like a bad time in the market. However, somehow, the general Internet world didn't pay attention to the news and the hosting market grew tremendously. It's been a long seven years since that first T1 installation. Several data center migrations later, we are, again, outgrowing our facilities and in the process of building out into a more robust environment. It's always a race.
Today things are a bit different, hosting is a commodity, costs next to nothing. Lots of competition, everyone has the same hardware, same software, and you can switch hosting providers today without much effort. But, the secret of the hosting industry is that it's not a high technology business, it's a very traditional customer service industry. The things that count most are how fast you answer the phone and the stability of your support team.
- HOSTSEARCH: According to your Web site you offer a full range of services, from shared hosting to VPS and dedicated. You also offer Web design services. Is it your aim to provide a one-stop service, or is that just how things have evolved?ARTUR: That's not entirely correct. A directory of web designers is maintained on EBH but there is no affiliation. This is simply another resource for our customers to be able to find a web designer without having to crawl the Internet. Designers come to us and offer their services. Their listings are validated by our staff and they are inserted into rotation. All designers are listed in random order to make things fair, we don't have favorites. But, some designers are very clearly better than others, so be sure to look through as many as you can before making a decision.
To get back to the other part of the question, we offer a full range of hosting solutions, from Shared Hosting, to VPS, to Dedicated servers. To give you a bit more history, our very first server, during y2k, was a RaQ3 with 64 MB of RAM. Needless to say, we outgrew it relatively quickly and felt we were better off with our own equipment. And as we built our own center, it was only natural to migrate high volume customers onto their own machines. Some people need additional security, some require faster hard drives, and others need special configurations that are too permissive to be allowed in the shared hosting environment. These customers have traditionally been moved onto dedicated servers. So, this is how our Dedicated Servers line started.
When the virtualization technology became available for our uses, it was an absolute revolution. All the benefits of a dedicated server became available at a price associated with shared hosting. What could be better?
It's always been evolutionary steps, no major leaps. Basically, we extend our service offerings to whatever fits the needs of our clients and over the years our hosting service became more-or-less-all-encompassing.
- HOSTSEARCH: What sort of work environment and structure does eBoundHost offer? Do you have teams working on different areas? Do you have more of a flat structure?ARTUR: We have kept the organizational structure as flat as possible with autonomous teams reporting through a single team leader. This avoids unnecessary complications like job titles. Also, there is the fact that, we're talking about only a few dozen people, not hundreds or thousands. We keep it cozy and friendly. In the summer, everyone wears sandals and shorts, every day is Casual Friday. Of course, this is all balanced against a very competent team of people doing their jobs at full capacity.
My personal experience brings me from the corporate world, where I was on the development team of a subsidiary of one of the largest publishing houses. This forever cured my desire to work in that kind of environment. Everyone, in our organization has a role and has to give 110%. But if they achieve this, we're happy to allow them to wear sandals.
- HOSTSEARCH: Let's talk about your VPS offerings a little... For the sake of our visitors who are not familiar with VPS, what is it and what is it for?ARTUR: VPS hosting fills the gap between shared (virtual) and dedicated hosting. It allows a re-allocation of a single physical server into many VIRTUAL PRIVATE SERVERS. Although they run on the same hardware, each VPS is isolated from other VIRTUAL MACHINES. Each client runs their own Operating System and independent userland tools. Full dedicated server features - such as root access - at a fraction of the cost.
- HOSTSEARCH: You say that VPS "fills the gap between shared (virtual) and dedicated hosting". What does that mean exactly?ARTUR: Some websites become so popular that they begin to consume far too much processing power and impact the performance of other websites on the same shared server. Another scenario is that a website owner decides that their website is far too important to be hosted on a server with 400 other websites. In the past, the only option was to move this client from a Shared Hosting account into a Dedicated Server. While this definitely alleviated the problem, it also put a strain on the client's balance sheet. Dedicated hosting is often 25 times more expensive than shared virtual hosting. This is where VPS comes in. We are now able to offer a service to solve both of these scenarios with an account that is significantly cheaper but offers the same cure. This is not to say that Dedicated Servers are outdated, they are a considerably important product line and have their place under the sun. However, VPS can handle about 70% of clients who previously had no other choice.
- HOSTSEARCH: I have to admit to having never used VPS, but when I hear that resources are still 'shared' - in that there is still more than just one user - I wonder whether a cheap dedicated server wouldn't just fit the bill better. Why exactly is VPS better than a cheap dedicated server?ARTUR: They are not as "shared" as you think. Consider that some hosts put over 1000 websites on a Shared Hosting server, and as a comparison, we put just under 20 VPS accounts on the same hardware. We're talking a completely different level of usage.
Furthermore, the software to manage VPS accounts, allows us to guarantee a minimum CPU and memory usage. So even at full load, each account is guaranteed a certain amount of resources. This gives each client the same processing power that was simply not available even 3 years ago on the most powerful dedicated server. And hardware became much more powerful, especially with the Intel Core concept with multiple processors packaged onto a single CPU. You can now have 8 processors in a dual processor system! We have been virtualizing our old dedicated hosting servers into VPS systems. The ability to clear off a rack of 15 servers into one VPS server, provides many customers with a fantastic upgrade path and allows us to save the planet by using less electricity [grinning ear to ear]. In the future, when its time for more powerful hardware, we simply drag and drop their server (from our management console) into a more powerful VPS server, no downtime at all!
But of course, a cheap dedicated server does have its uses. For example, users that require more storage. We have servers in our data center that accommodate over 6 TB of data. This is not possible with today's technology on a VPS. Also, some customers require so much power that they will utilize the most powerful CPU and ask for more. We host quite a few hosting clusters, where several machines end as a front end to a SQL server, they work in concert for a high availability solution.
- HOSTSEARCH: As Web 2.0 kicks in and becomes more standard, and resource hungry 'social' or business Web sites become the norm, is VPS going to take over from shared hosting do you think?ARTUR: You have hit it on the nose! As I write this, we are working with several VPS sites that are fully dedicated to social networking. We have a website for the college Greek societies, another website catering to the Polish community of Chicago. Another one hosts a very famous R&B artist and there are many more that I can't think of right now.
Most such software can be hosted on a shared account but once the website has more than a few visitors, things begin to slow down. When you throw streaming media into the mix, forget about it, you need a VPS or dedicated. In this case, we view VPS as an intermediate step before making a leap into a dedicated server cluster. But the beauty of this setup is that since a VPS behaves so much like a dedicated machine, you can perform the migration without effecting the end user, all the infrastructure is there.
- HOSTSEARCH: Being involved in the Web hosting industry as a Web Editor I am probably a bit more savvy than the average man in the street. However, as I said, I have never used VPS. To what extent has VPS been accepted by the regular user, or is it still something that is in the domain of those in the know?ARTUR: It's still very much out of the realm of "average" users. And this is a good thing. A VPS is a fully functional unix server, so the last thing we want is a mismanaged system that can generate 1 million spam messages per day. This is serious business, and root access is not to be taken lightly. On the other hand, if the user is willing to spend a little time educating themselves there is no reason to put it off. There are many books and magazines dedicated to this kind of technology, Google it, everything is at your fingertips. Also, our support team is always happy to answer any questions and make suggestions. By far the best thing about VPS is the ability to just "nuke it" and start over. We provide a control panel that allows you to re-image your server on a whim. Something got too confusing and is not working as you expected? Log in, click on "reinstall" and you have a completely fresh system at your disposal within 2 minutes.
- HOSTSEARCH: You have some genuinely glowing testimonials on your Web site, so it is very clear you take care of your customers. Of course, these days that's what differentiates hosts - the quality of their customer service. In such a customer-focused environment, isn't it easy for costs to spiral as customer demand for support increases?ARTUR: Costs are always going up, but as long as our customers keep leaving such positive words on review websites we'll continue on the same path. Look at the HostSearch review section, we are very happy to see such warm feedback. We hire the best people, and our customers thank us for it by continuing to send us their business and refer friends and family. Nothing comes easy but we're happy to be here. That's all I have to say about that: our people are great.
- HOSTSEARCH: We ask this of everyone we interview - what's going to be the next big thing to hit the Internet and how will it impact people's lives?ARTUR: I love technology and try to keep up with the latest geek stuff, so my answer may be a bit off center. There are two big things coming to the US in particular and to the world in general.
First is the way we think of cell phones. More browsing is going to move to the mobile devices that don't have a traditional keyboard and a much smaller screen. So, this is going to change the very nature of web browsing. For instance, I rarely use the computer to check news sites. From Slashdot to Google news, all my browsing is done on my smart phone. Since it's designed to be fast, every page I visit is virtually free of graphics and flash. This way I get all the information quickly, even at the slower 2.5G speeds. Best of all, advertising companies still don't have a good foothold on the mobile market, so I'm still able to get my news without drowning in advertising.
Second thing is infrastructure. Comcast is now offering 10MB download cable Internet. Verizon has a 40MB fiber connection available in a lot of markets for $50/month. AT&T just announced that their mobile network has been upgraded to 40GB/s. These are major movers of data in the US. And every cell phone company is announcing 3G. So what does this mean? LOTS of data exchanging hands very quickly. This means that hosting providers had better be ready for much faster downloads and have lots of available storage.
The future is very exciting and best of all, we'll get to see it happening in real time!
- HOSTSEARCH: I am sure you have a great time working at eBoundHost, but at the end of the day when it's all over, what do you do to balance things out and relax a little?ARTUR: Yes, that's a problem because it's a blur where one day ends and the next one begins. But when I do manage to get away for a few days, there is nothing that a few days in Aruba can't fix. Warm sand, good food, and absolutely no connectivity to the Internet.