Archive for November, 2006

Web Hosting Speed Issues…

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Web hosting is a constantly changing animal. We have gone from 2 gigs of space for our customers to 50 gigs in less than 3 years. The average traffic usuage of our customers has grown more than 5 times in the last 3 years, and cpu usage for scripts and other user run programs has grown by at least 100%. How do we deal with these issues?

This is a huge problem, and one that needs a huge answer or customers are going to get very angry. This is where I come in. About three weeks ago I became obsessed with finding out every major inefficiency with our code, with Cpanel, and with Linux itself (The OS we run our hosting company on). These last few weeks have been extremely enlightening. I have learned things that I believe will make a huge difference in the speed of our servers and overall hosting experience.

I have an extensive background with computer hardware and Cody (Our main hardware guy/network engineer) is as good as you can find anywhere. Our servers are built from the highest quality parts and designed by Bluehost exactly for our needs. There isn’t a dell, or HP system out there that we wouldn’t stop on and leave in the dust that is in the same price ballpark as our servers.

We have learned that Linux I/O tracking, and especially disk I/O tracking is near impossible to track. This makes it VERY difficult to tell exactly which processes are eating up resources on the disk. We have solved this issue now thanks to Linux’s main man himself Andrew Morton who wrote a patch for our kernel specifically for us. Thanks again Andrew!! You are the greatest.

We have unbelievable new caching mechanisms that will be available over the next 30-45 days that will allow many customers scripts to increase 40-300% in speed with no loss to data or other major consequences. Everyone of our customers scripts will soon be stored and executed 99% of the time in memory instead of costly disk i/o and cpu cycles doing the work.

Cpanel, the 3rd party software control panel we use, will still be with us, but we are CONSTANTLY gutting it and throwing out huge portions of their extremely slow code and replacing it with our own custom pieces that work very well with their existing infrastructure but without the enormous speed penalties that exist in their current code base.

Why am I telling you all this? Because web hosting is changing! The demands you will make on our servers will be tremendous and we need to be able to handle it. We need to be able to not just handle it, but make it be as smooth and fast as possible. When we are done with many of the improvements that we are doing on our side other hosts aren’t going to be able to compete. The speed advantages with our systems will be too great.

That is my commitment to you – I will ensure that we update and innovate faster than the industry so that you can rely on technologies that runs todays applications the fastest possible, and still be able to run tomorrows software needs without looking for a different hosting company.

Speed is EVERYTHING, and we will give you the technology that will make your site faster, and provide server performance that is unrivaled in the shared hosting environment. This is coming soon! Test systems are already in place. When everything is ready it will be rolled out to all our clients as fast as we update all our servers. We will always continue to work hard for our customers, but most of all because we love to do it!

Thanks,
Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com

Management makes or breaks a business!

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

I am on a cruise ship right now. I think we are about 5 miles from Jamaica (Best guess). I took all the kids (Yes all 5 of them – even the 4 month old) and my wife on a 7 day cruise to “get away” for a bit before the Christmas rush took us all in.

The cruise is fun, but being cramped in a “suite” for 7 days get old after a while :)

I wanted to write today about what my children perceived as “unhelpful” people on our cruise ship. Some personnel on the ship were unable to help us with certain things that we needed, and at other times were completely unavailable when we needed information etc. The truth is the people were wonderful and extremely courteous and nice. The reason they were unable to help us was because the ships management had put the personnel in a position where they could not help the customer. Sometimes staff didn’t work between certain hours, other times I was told, “We can’t do that.” and when I asked why we were told they “weren’t allowed to do that”.

This is very common in the business world. How many times have you been to a business where you have said to yourself, “Why don’t they just do this, it would make it so much easier for them and us!”. It really got my thinking. How many times have I not looked at problems from the customers viewpoint. This one thing is so important that is baffles me how some businesses keep on ignoring the customer. I personally am an extremely demanding customer and hence demand superb service from business that I partner with and contract with. This being the case, do I provide superb to our customers?

The answer is a solid YES and NO. Frankly, because of our enormous growth our service has suffered in the last month or so. This is especially painful for me because I care so much that it is perfect. We are not one of those companies that will allow the customer to suffer so that the company can “profit”. We simply can’t find and hire people quickly enough. We are trying to hire at least 20 new support engineers in the next 30 days to bring things up to the level of excellence that I would expect for myself as a customer.

In the past we were excellent in the support arena. We spent the time necessary to make our clients feel our desire to solve their problems. We have to get back to that point and it will take a lot of people and great training to make it happen. We are getting there, but we aren’t there yet. I hate to say that, but it is true. We need 30 more days to get things back on track.

Management and responsibility to the customer are what make or break a business. Management has to enable employees to resolve customer concerns not impede them. Great people, given the proper tools, will propel any business to the top. Give your employees the resources to make your business succeed whether that is more people, better equipment, training, etc.

Thanks,
Matt Heaton / CEO Bluehost.com

Now Now Now!!

Friday, November 24th, 2006

I sat in my car yesterday as a radio commercial came on advertising a new furnace. 90% of the commercial had nothing to do with the quality or service that came along with the furnace and everything to do with the fact that you didn’t have to pay for it until 2008. It really got me thinking. In a society where everything is on demand it just isn’t in our nature to put off something that we desire. Lending institutions are acutely aware of this fact and have made “easy money” the name of the game. You can’t watch anything on television (Unless you use the tivo 30 second skip) without being told that you can qualify for a loan that will make the long sought after vacation a reality, or that boat that you always wanted a dream come true. There are two big problems with the “get it now” philosophy. The first is obvious: The debt that goes along with the instant gratification is often too much to deal with. How many people do you know that are now slaves to their debt? The second problem with “instant gratification” is actually something that is very important to me, and that is accomplishment and goals. When you get what you want right when you want it the drive and determination often isn’t there to “work for/pay off” those things if you already have them. For me its the dangling carrot that keeps me going. That carrot can be money, career advancement, etc. Now admittedly, buying things on credit isn’t that much of a temptation for me as I absolutely can’t stand to have debt. I didn’t even get my first credit card until I was 30, and I only use it for the skymiles (Of course I did have my debit card at 16). The “joy” of the purchase is always less than the “pain” of the payments for me personally. Now obviously there are many things that most folks have to finance including homes, education, cars, etc and before everyone writes me and tells me how preachy I am being remember that I am only suggesting that waiting for something and earning it in whole before getting it can, and usually is, a good thing. Thanks, Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com

Personal Responsibility…

Friday, November 3rd, 2006

I was watching Fox News yesterday and a segment came on where a group of individuals were angry that Walmart had put unfair restrictions on employees. As an employer myself I was interested to see what these restrictions were and how they compared with what I ask of team members at Bluehost. What I saw astounded me! This group of individuals were complaining that Walmart required them to be no more than 10 minutes late for work. After being late three times they could receive a demerit, and if other performance wasn’t up to par they possilbly could be let go. They were also allowed six instances where they simply didn’t have to show up to work with no communication to the company. SIX!!!
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! This group was actually complaining about Walmart asking them to be on time and show up for work. What is our world coming to? If you agree to do something then you DO IT! If you say you will be at work at 8am then be there at 8 am. Don’t be there at 8:10. I can tell the great employees by the ones how show up on time and leave when they are supposed to. We have many employees ourself who are consistently 5 minutes late and consistently leave 3-4 minutes early. I never say anything to these people, but they are the ones who will be bypassed for advancement time and again and wonder why. The few minutes isn’t what matters. It is an outward sign of an inward noncommitment to the company.

Commitment and responsibility are the keys here with anything you do. Our society teaches that commitment is something to be wiggled out of and fought against. I wish it was the other way around, but clearly for many people it isn’t.

Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com

Going to the movies…

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

Did you know that when you go to the movies at a movie theatre that often times the only money made by the theatre is on concessions (Popcorn, etc). On big box office movies like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings 100% of the ticket revenue is given back to the movie studios. Not a single penny goes to the movie theatre chain. On mid range movies 10-30% of the ticket sales will stay with the movie theatre chain. This being the case why don’t movie theatres take care of their customers as effecient as possible to maximize profits and customer satisfaction?

I live in Utah where on Friday and Saturday nights movie theatres are normally packed with people. Utah is inexpensive compared with many other states as far as ticket and concessions at the movie theatre, but you still can’t get a large popcorn and drink for less than $8. Why don’t these companies staff enough people to service their customers?? I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to a movie and wanted popcorn or candy but purchased neither because the line was too long and the movie was starting. It only takes one more popcorn and drink sold per hour to pay for another highschool or college kid to work the counter!
Movie theatres consistently get it wrong. They staff for the average sales instead of the “rush”. They lose SO MUCH money because of their complete lack of understanding with regard to staffing issues. Many fast food companies do the same thing. Waiting in line is the death of any retail store in my opinion. Many customers will happily wait in line, but many won’t. I am one of them. If the line is long they lost my business. Period. My time is too valuable to me, and companies should realize that.

At Bluehost we always try and hire enough people to do the job right and fast. With well over 100,000 current customers that is sometimes a very daunting task, but one that we consider paramount to our ongoing success. We have hired more than 30 members of our team in the last 4 months, and will probably hire another 20-30 in the next 3-4 months. As always thanks for your business!

Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com