Archive for June, 2006

Reliability, reliability, reliability…

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

Well, in the last week we had a major DDOS (Distributed denial of service attack). It hurt our network, and caused 2 outages. One for about 20 minutes and one for 45 minutes. That amount of downtime is absolutely unacceptable from a customers point of view. I totally agree!

I sent out a post to all our users letting them know what happened and reiterated our commitment to solving the problems that we are having. We received many positive comments saying how our customers appreciated us telling them what happened, and passing on their understanding for our situation. We also received a few emails stating that we had lost our focus and were growing at the expense of current customer satisfaction. While these emails were a very small percentage of the whole I take them very seriously. Let me address some of the issues we have and what we are going to do about it.

1 – DDOS attacks. Without going into too much detail we are giving this issue our FULL attention. While nothing can stop all DDOS attacks there are many things we can do to beef up our network beyond what we currently have. Don’t get me wrong, we have one of the most robust networks out there, but there is always more than can be done. We have already ordered some pretty cool new hardware that will help us get there. We are taking this seriously, and will do what we can to prevent further attacks.

2 – Individual customer overages – We run a shared environment. This means that you are on a server with many hundreds of other users. You have to be a good neighbor or everyone has a poor experience. We have been struggling with the balancing act of giving our users what they want and keeping their usage under control so that the environment we run is fast for everyone. In the future we will limit the cpu usage for the 1% that eat up the resources of the other 99%. We have been doing this all along, but have given more than we probably should to that 1%. This will make some customers angry, but for the vast majority it will mean improved uptime and greater speed for their sites.

3 – Proactive administration vs reactive administration – Sometimes we find ourselves in the reactive mode. Fix it when their is a problem. This isn’t right. We have set concrete plans in place that will make it so that each time a server goes down we have the information to know exactly what caused it and how to fix it so next time the same thing doesn’t happen. Many large hosts get caught up in the “reset the server” mode, and don’t really fix the problem for the long term. We will strive to fix it for the long term.

We want Bluehost to be not only the best hosting with regards to plans and service, but from a reliability standpoint as well. I would be interested to get your comments over the next month or so as we implement these new ideas.

Thanks,

Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com

Power of the people (Word of mouth)

Sunday, June 18th, 2006

We advertise like crazy! If there is a website or magazine that caters to the hosting industry we NEED to advertise there. I want Bluehost to grow more than any other person, and I will do anything I can to facilitate that growth. We have many thousands of affiliates and we currently pay out more than $550,000 a month in affiliate fees not including what we spend on advertising. That is all well, and we are proud of that side of our business, but what we are more proud of is the advertising that our customers do for us.

Our customers do more for us in the advertising department than anything I expected in my wildest dreams when we started Bluehost 2 1/2 years ago. Our customers send us more than $300,000 a month in word of mouth sales. You heard me right – $300,000 a month in sales from word of mouth advertising. These are NEW customers and do not include recurring customers that stay with us for years and years. These are sales that come not through our affiliate program or any advertising means, but by satisfied customers telling their friends and colleagues about us. I cannot thank our customers enough. They are the reason we have been able to be successful in the hosting market.

This should demonstrate decisively to those in business how important customer service is and how important it is to think of the customer first. If you go for profits and ignore the customer you will fail. If you service the customer and have a quality product you can’t help but succeed. (Again I called Delta Airlines for a flight to Alaska, and they are a 2 out of 10 in customer service – No wonder they are in bankruptcy!)

Thanks,

Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com

Google’s “customer service”…

Tuesday, June 6th, 2006

You know, I have really become spoiled with those in the business world that work with each day. In general,everyone I deal with does what they say, they value my business, and I value our relationship.
Google is simply one of the greatest technology companies around, I don’t think anyone would disagree. HOWEVER, in my opinion they have a LOT to learn when it comes to service and customer relationships. I will spend over $100,000 on google adwords this month. You would think that I could get some prompt service out of them. No no no… I get some kid on the other end (Of an email, yeah, no phone # for me blah…) with a canned answer. This has happened time and time again with them. They simply don’t learn their lesson. Right now they don’t have to learn their lesson because they are the big bully on the block. Every bully gets his clocked cleaned sooner or later and google is laying the groundwork for that now.

Google has become so powerful that in literally every aspect of their business it is 100% their way or the highway. I know a lot of people that are choosing the highway. Do I predict googles downfall anytime soon? Of course not, but I do predict that it WILL FOR SURE happen eventually if you don’t take care of your customers. For a company so big, they still have a LOT of problems. Maybe it stems from Eric Schmidt as their CEO. He used to work at Novell (Here in my hometime) and they had the same attitude. Their stock is in the toilet (Novells). Who know what will happen, but I tell you what I am doing. I will do EVERYTHING in my power to spend that money effectively somewhere else, and when someone from google actually calls to see why we are spending anymore, THEN I will let them have it.

Enough of my blagging on about google. I am just asking them to treat WELL PAYING customers with a little respect. Get them the help they need in a timely professional manner PERIOD!

Matt Heaton / Bluehost.com

Clunky Control Panels…

Tuesday, June 6th, 2006

Control panels are the lifeblood of any good hosting company. They are the main face of your company from the customers standpoint. We currently use a highly customized version of Cpanel (Cpanel.net). We have wrapped a TON of our own code (Billing system, customer info, affiliate system, install software, etc) into Bluehost.

While I believe we have a good Cpanel for our customers it is VERY clear that the control panels that hosting companies use are developed by programmers. I know this as I was once mediocre programmer :) The interface should be updated to ajax applications across the board. Even though it is on the web, the control panel should act intuitive and as fast as a desktop application.

July 19th-21st is Hosting Con (A web hosting industry trade show). I plan to take my complaints and many of yours directly to Cpanel. We are one of their largest customers. Just because the other hosting companies think status quo is fine doesn’t mean that we at Bluehost do. We are always going to push the limit and try to make things better. Although we are all stuck with a very 20th century interface, it shouldn’t be too long before we can enjoy web apps as they were meant to be used. Give us a while and if the current companies don’t respond we will write our own :) Really! We will!

Good luck,

Matt Heaton / Bluehost.com

We are the BOMB! (Sort of…)

Sunday, June 4th, 2006

Tomorrow (June 4th) Bluehost will have officially been going for 2.5 years. Our first month we had 54 people sign up. Now we signup 55 people every 4 hours. What’s our secret? To be perfectly honest I don’t know… I know we try our best to provide a quality service for the price, but so do many of our competitors. Hmm….

We are about 2 days away from hosting our 150,000th domain on Bluehost. That is quite a milestone and one we never thought we would reach. Thanks to everyone that helped us get there. You are why we are in business. Don’t worry, we will remember that!

I promise to work hard and try to make Bluehost the best hosting service around (I may even think about bluehost twice or three times while I am in Alaska reeling in the King Salmon WHOA!).

Again, thanks to all, and here’s to another 2 1/2 years of Bluehost growth!

Thanks,

Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com