HOSTSEARCH: Why did web hosting appeal to you as a business opportunity? How did you get started in the area?
AMY ARMITAGE: I used to be a regular on our LunarForums.com, one of the first real forum communities for webmasters, designers, and geeks to convene - and for people like me to watch and learn! I wanted more than anything else to become a geek, and I was trying really hard, lurking everywhere and getting to know the terms, the services, and the industry. I didn't know Ethernet from Internet but somehow, Ron Riddle, our CEO and founder, saw a little something in my knack for taking all the forum posts off topic and struggling my way to geekdom. ;) So he hired me, I quickly learned geekspeak and everything you'd ever want to know (probably more) about the web hosting industry, and years later I'm still here, because this is the best hosting company in the world and I love what I do!
HOSTSEARCH: Web hosting is a very competitive business. How do companies like Lunarpages differentiate themselves in a busy marketplace?
AMY ARMITAGE: We differentiate ourselves because we are different. Web Hosting really is the most competitive business I've ever known, but we don't let ourselves get wrapped up in it. All the hosting wars and throwing dirty words at each other just isn't for us. We're not out to gimmick our customers - we're out to give them the best hosting experience they can possibly get, and we've been doing that since 1998. So in the end our reputation and reliability are really what make us stand out compared to the rest of the industry. That and the fact that nobody else has me. ;)
HOSTSEARCH: How do you keep ahead of your customers' needs? In such a fluent area of business, how do you ensure you are heading in the right direction and not straying off into an area nobody will be interested in?
AMY ARMITAGE: You're right - the market fluctuates and changes every minute, because the internet itself is ever-changing. The best thing we can do is stay current on web trends, research every single day, and look at what works. As for how we know we're heading in the right direction...we really don't. ;) It's either you try it or you don't, because if you have a gut feeling that it's going to turn out well for your company, it probably will. And if it doesn't, you know not to head down that avenue again!
One thing that we do love about our customers is that they're extremely talkative and love leaving us feedback, so if something's not working, we know about it ASAP thanks to all of them. It's part of what makes this company really work - we talk to our customers, joke with them, treat them to honest and fun conversations every day amidst the hustle to fix their tech issues or transfer their site. They're not just customers - they're family!
HOSTSEARCH: Your web site provides information about the awards you have received. Could you give us an overview?
AMY ARMITAGE: We've won a ton of awards as you can see on our website, and we're incredibly proud of every single one of them. More often than not we are voted as being the Most Reliable and as having the Best Support, and we're proud to be featured on numerous Top Hosting, web design, and programming sites. We even have a top-notch Better Business Bureau review, which is rare in this biz.
HOSTSEARCH: What are the long-term and short-term plans for the company?
AMY ARMITAGE: Short-term, we're looking into new advertising markets to really get involved in a particular niche, to push the limits of how and where we can advertise, and have plans in the works that will give a great deal back to our Affiliates...but it's all top-secret, classified information. ;) Long-term, we're not going anywhere for sure. We plan on continually raising the bar for what web hosting should be and providing our customers with more than they ever dreamed possible. Seven years ago when Lunarpages was born, we couldn't even dream of offering Unlimited Disk Space on a plan, but right now that's what we're doing and we don't intend to slow down!
HOSTSEARCH: I see from your website that Lunarpages offers a substantial range of extras for customers - free blogs, forums, etc. What do you think host providers such as yourself might be offering in extras in 10 years time?
AMY ARMITAGE: What a terrific question! Like I said above, 7 years ago, we couldn't even fathom offering what we do now, and the idea that we're giving all our customers $700 worth of CoffeeCup Webmaster-and-Design Software for free still continues to boggle my mind! It's a great time to be in this business, because that software is worth way more than $700 to me and all the webmasters I know who've used it.
But in 10 years... gosh, I bet by then we'll be giving away cars with every web hosting purchase! Maybe Ferraris! ;) Honestly, I just hope that 10 years will have separated the good, honest hosts from the ones who are just out for the kill, and that Lunarpages will be partnered with other big guys like CoffeeCup. We want to offer our customers everything they'll possibly need, so as times change, expect Lunarpages to up the ante.
HOSTSEARCH: What do you think defines a high quality hosting service?
AMY ARMITAGE: I've written a lot in my career about this issue, actually, and I still stand by the fact that high quality hosting is more than offering so many megabytes and hosting eleventy billion websites - it's about making people happy, keeping them fully satisfied, and giving them as much as possible for a healthy hosting experience. Support is clearly our number one priority, so having a working telephone number, 24/7 support, quality customer service, and a satisfied customer base are what matters.
HOSTSEARCH: I ask this question of most people we interview - what do you think the next big thing will be in web hosting and how will it impact peoples' lives?
AMY ARMITAGE: Web 2.0 is at the forefront of everybody's mind right now. Thinking about it, web 2.0 is revolutionizing the way web businesses are created, maintained, and rated, but as to how it may impact our industry and the lives of each customer is still to be seen. It's making us all more aware, more connected, and more concerned with how to connect. Simplicity is key, so the best impact would be that this really catches on and we can find ways to implement it to our services. There's also such a huge concern now with the user's experience, and for us that works in a very positive way, because the customer is our main concern. We want to give them a ton of features and an easy way to manage them.
I think there's also an incredible future in cell phone technology, even for people like us in the hosting biz. Something like 97% of people in Japan access the internet from their phones every day. In the US, we're not to that point - yet! But with gadgets like the iphone, I think people are going to see some changes coming very quickly in that arena and finding a way for cell phone technology and web hosting technology to coexist is the future, that's for sure.
HOSTSEARCH: With technologies like RSS and XML emerging, do you think there is a danger that a number of web sites might simply become variations of a theme?
AMY ARMITAGE: A number of web sites, yes. All the websites in the world? Not a chance. People are always looking for ways to design high-quality sites that work and that's the attraction for all new technologies. Ruby on Rails, for instance, is revolutionizing programming, because of its simple, easy-to-incorporate commands. But no two websites that use RoR are going to look like twins because the content will be different and because the design will ultimately be unique. I don't foresee any kind of future where the internet is just an ugly assortment of the same content, design, and most importantly ideas.
HOSTSEARCH: People are spending more and more time on the Internet, often for entertainment. What comparisons can be drawn between the Internet and television (if any)?
AMY ARMITAGE: I really do believe the internet is the television of the contemporary age. Kids know DSL before they know Shakespeare at this point, and I'm sure the same kind of trend was noticeable when television became extremely popular. In general, the internet is expanding the horizons of what we can do and how we talk to one another. One of my staff admitted that while in college, she would IM her roommate to ask a question rather than just asking it out loud - they were sitting ten feet from each other! This kind of thing is hysterical and maybe a bit overwhelming, but I think ultimately the internet is going to do what television can't - create an interactive playground for the mind. And interactive is the key difference there between TV and the internet - online, you get the most unique, connective experience possible, whereas you can only interact on a certain level with your TV set. ;)
HOSTSEARCH: In most other Internet areas, a number of star performers have emerged dominating the area - Microsoft, Ebay, Google, etc. Why hasn't this occurred in web hosting?
AMY ARMITAGE: Are you saying Lunarpages isn't a star performer? Pfft! ;)
Honestly, I see the "star performers" everyday - it's just that none of them have really become a household name like Microsoft, Ebay, and Google. But with the invent of web 2.0, places like Myspace and Digg are doing what us webmasters have yet to accomplish - they're becoming known outside the internet. Even my grandma knows what Myspace is. So I think in the future, there will be a few of us still standing, and we'll be the star players on the field. Taking risks is a big part of what makes those star performers stand out in their fields, so keep an eye out on Lunarpages.
HOSTSEARCH: If you could be in any other line of business, what would it be and why?
AMY ARMITAGE: Gosh.. with the way I feel today (tired), if I couldn't be on my computer geeking out...
I would love to someday write a book. Something real, and funny that would entertain those who read it, give my boys an insight into another part of who I am, and make me loads of money so I could eventually travel (regular visits home to Australia) and set my children up for life.
If I was already independently wealthy, I'd like to volunteer over in Africa long term working in the missions. And that's not just my practice answer for Miss America ;)