Web Hosting Interview - HostGator July 2009

Web Hosting Interview - HostGator July 2009

Brent Oxley, CEO and Founder of HostGator.com LLC

HostSearch just had an interesting talk with Brent Oxley, a owner of HostGator, whom we first interviewed him 4 years ago. Read more about a remarkable data center strategy and how the economic at this time does not affect the company.

  • HOSTSEARCH: Mr. Oxley, it's quite a long time since we first interviewed you back in April 2005. Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you again today. I am sure things have changed along the time. What does the owner of HostGator do? Can you please describe your day-to-day job?
    BRENT OXLEY: Sure. My day-to-day job mainly consists of overseeing how HostGator is doing on pretty much all levels. I work a schedule that allows me to see as many shifts work as possible, I talk to our different managers about what they're doing on a daily basis, and I oversee our major projects.

    Something that's even more important to me than those things is taking the time to work with customers on a daily basis. It isn't uncommon for someone to ask me to look at their ticket or their issue and for me to actually respond to it and take action. I deal with almost all of those issues personally and the ones I assign to other people are the ones that the other people are more qualified to work on than I am (e. g. highly technical issues that I ask our CTO to look at).

    Working with customers personally and frequently helps me get another perspective on what we're doing right and where we still need to improve. Our customers come up with great suggestions and ideas all the time and I think the companies that ignore their customers and what they say are really missing out.  
  • HOSTSEARCH: How many employees and offices does the company have?
    BRENT OXLEY: We have just over 225 employees, a vast, vast majority of whom are in our Houston, Texas office. We have a couple of longtime employees who work from their homes and a few people working for HostGator.com.br, our division in Brazil.
  • HOSTSEARCH: By approximate, how many customers and servers does the company have? How do you rank yourself among the industry?
    BRENT OXLEY: We have just over 200,000 customers and over 6,000 servers.

    We don't really follow the rankings of how we compare to other hosts, but we do know that we're one of the biggest shared web hosting companies out there and that we're still the largest provider of reseller hosting in the industry.

    One company's success relative to another company's success isn't really worth tracking that closely in my opinion. It's nice to know if an entire industry is seeing a large amount of growth or not, but knowing if Company X hosts more domain names than Company Y or Company A has more employees than Company B doesn't really matter.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Is HostGator still maintaining its remarkable data center strategy? Are you still with The Planet? How do you manage all the servers and the network?
    BRENT OXLEY: Yes, we still lease all of our servers from The Planet. I'm told that we're the company's largest customer by quite a bit, so that gives us a lot of leverage with the company that the average customer of theirs just doesn't have.

    The nice thing about our relationship with The Planet is that they manage all of the server hardware and the network. We have a large team of system administrators that we employ to manage the software end of the server management equation, but The Planet handles all of the hardware and network aspects.

    That allows us to worry less about our network infrastructure or what type of hard drives we put in our servers and focus more on providing quality customer service to our customers.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What is your best-selling product or service? Any plan to bring the new service out to the market, Windows shared hosting, VPS, cloud?
    BRENT OXLEY: It depends on how you calculate best selling. In terms of quantity, our shared hosting plans, especially our smaller ones, are the most popular. Our revenue is pretty much equally split between shared, reseller, and dedicated hosting, with our dedicated hosting offerings obviously having the lowest margins of the three.

    Our Baby plan is the most popular plan we offer by a fairly large multiple, followed by our Hatchling plan, and finally followed by our Aluminum reseller plan.

    We're looking forward to launching Windows shared hosting in the near future, possibly even as soon as this month. We're already offering Windows dedicated servers and we started a beta for Windows shared hosting a few months ago, so we're getting much closer to launching that.

    VPS hosting is on our radar and is something we're looking into very seriously. We're hopeful that we have a VPS solution ready to go by the end of the year. Customers ask us our VPS solutions pretty frequently and it hurts to have to send them away to a competitor instead of offering them a service we can provide.

    My feeling is that it's much worse to prematurely launch a VPS hosting solution (or any product or service) that's terrible and then have customers get upset or frustrated when things don't work the way that everyone expected.

    We take our time launching new products and services because we want to ensure they will be the best they can be. Paying customer shouldn't be beta testers.
  • HOSTSEARCH: At this point, there's no doubt, HostGator is a very fast-growing and successful company. What's your secret of success?
    BRENT OXLEY: It's an obvious and cliché answer, but I think the reason we've been successful is because we're really dedicated to our customers.

    Other managers and I are available to answer customers questions because we care about our customers and what they think and about their perceptions of HostGator.

    We provide 24/7/365 support over three entirely different mediums because that's the level of support our customers want and expect from us.

    We have a presence on Twitter because we want to help customers that might be frustrated with our services and answer questions from potential customers. We answer questions on our forums because we want to help our customers with things that we technically don't support.

    All of those things are little things that collectively make a big difference in how and what we do as a company. Because we care about our customers and what they say and think, we know what they want and can work on delivering that. That cycle has resulted in happier customers, more orders, and more success.

    I think pretty much any company that has an unquestionable dedication to its customers will be successful. If you spend time caring about your customers, they'll respect that and continue to refer your company to their friends and family.
  • HOSTSEARCH: I'm sure you're seeing many of your competitors had been merged and acquired. Still some hosting companies insist on remaining individual. What's your view on this issue?
    BRENT OXLEY: Everything has a price, right? If some company came to us with some ridiculous offer that was too good to refuse, I think I would be lying if I said we wouldn't take it.

    With that in mind, though, we're in the hosting business for the long run. When someone offers to buy HostGator, I just name a number that I know is three or four times more than what the market says we're worth. I get laughed at, but it's consistent with what I think I'm not really interested in selling, but if someone has a good enough offer, I'd be crazy not to consider it.  

    Some companies in the industry are looking to get out of it and an acquisition by another company is a quick and hopefully profitable way to do that. That's the choice of the particular company and perfectly okay. Selling or merging a company isn't a bad thing as long as the prior owners work out a deal that takes care of their existing customers.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Here comes the classic question for this period of time. How are you dealing with the economic crisis?
    BRENT OXLEY: For all practical purposes, we aren't because we don't have to. If anything, the downturn in the economy has helped us. Business has been booming and we're hiring. We're finally at a point where we're staffed well enough to increase sales without sacrificing service quality and amp up our growth further. A lot of people go online and start websites to make money after being affected by a layoff, so that aspect of the economy might even be helping us a little.

    We've always been a fiscally responsible company and that attitude has remained regardless of the economic situation.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Where do you see yourself, HostGator and the industry as a whole in five years time?
    BRENT OXLEY: Who knows? Five years is a long time for any type of technology industry. In five years, I hope we continue to be successful. We'll probably have more product and service offerings than we have now and we'll hopefully be a bigger player in the industry and compete with bigger companies than we are now. A lot can change in five years, but either way, I think we're ready for the future and for whatever challenges and opportunities it brings.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Thank you! I am sure there will be a lot of interesting things going on and we will definitely invite you for an interview again. This time we won't wait until 4 years. We promise :)
    BRENT OXLEY: Thanks for thinking of HostGator!

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Web Hosting Interview April 2005

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