Web Hosting Interview - SingleHop November 2010

Web Hosting Interview - SingleHop November 2010

Dan Ushman, Co-founder and Vice President of SingleHop

HostSearch interviewed Dan Ushman, Co-founder and Vice President of SingleHop. SingleHop is listed #58 in Inc. magazine's Inc.500 list. It's ranked number 3 in IT sector and number 1 in web hosting. Read how Dan and his partner have built this fastest-growing web hosting company.

  • HOSTSEARCH: When and why did you start SingleHop?
    DAN USHMAN: SingleHop was founded in 2006 while Zak Boca and I were running midPhase Services, Inc. midPhase was a shared hosting provider and SingleHop was our dedicated hosting company. In December of 2007, midPhase was sold to a large British hosting company, and we shifted our full time focus to growing SingleHop. Since then, SingleHop has grown from just a handful of clients to thousands. We now boast nearly seven thousand servers in production.

    From day one we knew we had to do dedicated hosting differently. We felt that the industry was dry and stale, that every provider was selling the same thing-the definition of a commodity. Everyone competed on one point: prices, prices and prices. We decided that SingleHop would have a unique focus by allowing our clients to customize their management services to fill the gaps in their organization. We called it a la Carte management. So, for example, if a client already has E-mail administrators on staff, there is no need for that client to pay SingleHop to manage their e-mail. They can instead have us do things they are not setup to do, such as monitor their servers 24x7.

    We also addressed the lack of automation in the business by building unique technology into our control panel which we called LEAP. LEAP has been available a since very early in SingleHop's life. The technology is powerful because it automates a number of time consuming, error-prone tasks and thus reduces human errors and increases speed and performance. For example, using LEAP's Advanced Automatic Server Provisioning technology, we're able to automatically install a server with no technician intervention of any kind. The system automatically identifies the correct hardware, automatically allocates the proper number of IP addresses and installs the correct software. Then it audits its own work to try and catch any problems. This flexibility and automation was an immediate hit with clients and helped propel SingleHop into the organization it is today, a company with clients in over 100 countries that depend on us for their mission critical hosting.

    All of our clients enjoy SingleHop's flexibility and our advanced automation technologies on a regular basis. Coupled with our sturdy network and personal one-on-one first-name-basis customer service has helped us build SH's stellar reputation with clients and the industry in general.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Does the company come out the way you initially planned?
    DAN USHMAN: Any entrepreneur will tell you that early plans will change drastically before they come to fruition.  SingleHop is no different, and over the years we have had to adjust and change our specific plans. That said, this is a trick question. We wanted to build a world-class dedicated server company, and in that sense I believe we succeeded as planned. However, the specifics of the business model and how we got to where we are have changed many times since we founded the company in October of 2006... Were they changes for the better? You bet, but did things develop exactly to our original plans? Of course not :-)
  • HOSTSEARCH: What are your roles in the company? How is your day look like?
    DAN USHMAN: On a day-by-day basis, I focus on SingleHop's sales and marketing efforts. We have a great team of people in our sales, account management and communications departments and I oversee the general operations of the department. I also help Zak, my business partner, and Andy Pace, our VP of Operations, as needed to help them do their jobs. Mostly, though, I spend my days designing marketing campaigns, promotional offers, and working with Stephanie, our Supervisor of Account Management, and Mike Zobitz, our Sales Manager, to help increase the performance of our sales department and the return on investment in our marketing department.
  • HOSTSEARCH: When did you know that your company has been listed as the fastest growing web hosting company by Inc. magazine?
    DAN USHMAN: We found out about our nomination and ranking in the Inc 500 list just a few weeks before the list became public. It was an incredible honor, a moment of realization for Zak and I about what we have built. Frankly, when you are running a business like SingleHop, you get very caught up in the day-by-day grind of things, and sometimes you don't realize how impressive the company you built really is. The Inc 500 honor was both humbling and inspiring. We're very, very proud. And I know that we could never have made the Inc 500 list, and we could never have grown as quickly as we have, without the support of our devoted staff. Here is a shout out to Andy Pace, our VP of Operations, Dave and Chris, our data center managers, Chris, Kyle, Miguel, Mike and Jordan, our stellar sales team and everyone else who works on SingleHop data center floors and in our operations office--SingleHop would not be what it is today without its incredible staff!
  • HOSTSEARCH: What are the factors supporting SingleHop to be the fastest growing web hosting company?
    DAN USHMAN: We've covered a lot of it already. We don't advertise much, we don't do a lot of the things we did in the shared hosting world. Our growth is largely attributed to the quality of service and word of mouth marketing that we enjoy on an every-day basis. Our customers rave about our service publically and this helps spread the word about us. Because of that, we're able to invest our capital into higher quality servers and automation technologies instead of spending it on acquiring customers. This, plus, I would say, our obsession (and I mean it!) with providing an exceptional customer experience helps propel our growth.  It also forces us to be always on our best behavior... there is no room for error or mistake or 'dropping the ball' when you are being held to such high standards. We take this responsibility to heart in everything we do... If I had to sum this up in one sentence, I would say that our growth is a direct derivative of our obsession with customer service and innovation; with excellence in everything we do and touch.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Would you be able to reveal the number of customers, staff and servers?
    DAN USHMAN: We have never been big on secrets. We have a little fewer than 50 employees, we have roughly 7,000 servers in production in our two Chicago-area data centers and our clients are based in over 100 countries around the world. The Inc 500 ranked us at just over 3,900 3-year/over year growth.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What's the core benefit of hosting with SingleHop?
    DAN USHMAN: If it was just one thing, it would make my job at promoting SingleHop much, much easier :) But in reality, it's never just one thing. We believe that there are many reasons to choose SingleHop to host your servers with. The core benefit depends on the customer. For a developer, our core benefit might be our advanced API and the ability to integrate any system with SingleHop's hosting infrastructure. For a small business, it might be the ability to cut costs by only paying for management services that are needed, when they are needed. For all clients, the level of personal service we provide is unparalleled.

    I spent a bit of time writing a paragraph about our personal service approach, but I think that this sentence would sum it up for most people. Imagine if you could call your hosting company, and speak to the same person every time? They know your name, you know their name..... they're your 'friend on the inside' and because of that familiarity, you don't have to explain yourself or your situation again... because they will already know. This is just one of the differences that SingleHop offers its clients--a dedicated account executive and account manager for every client.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What are your advices for HostSearch users who are looking for dedicated server service?
    DAN USHMAN: Don't go with your gut! Web hosting companies are experts at designing enticing websites and stores... Read lots of reviews and then make a decision. A great place to start is the Web Hosting Talk community. Make a list of 5 or 6 companies you like, then search WHT for reviews on them. Check their reputation on HostSearch, and above all else make sure that you call the server provider before making a purchase and ask some tough questions. A web host should not be shy about telling you where they are located, how many servers they operate or other bits of information that can be very telling about the type of service they will give you in the future.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What can SingleHop customers expect for 2011? Do you plan for any new lines of services?
    DAN USHMAN: Maybe, probably... I could tell you, but then I'd be ruining a perfectly good surprise :)
  • HOSTSEARCH: Thanks!

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