Archive for April, 2008

Less is more…

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

When a product or service tries to be all things to all people it usually fails. You usually don’t even think about all the little things that “just work” because they almost never fail to do what they are supposed to do. When is the last time you looked at that light switch and wondered if it was going to work the next time you try it. There are many products that fit into this category – watches, basic utilities (gas, water, electricity), even TVs (Although DVRs are bringing a level of complexity that TVs didn’t used to have).

At Bluehost we are struggling with this concept. We are always adding new features, but we want to make sure that the features we add are to the benefit of ALL customers (SimpleScripts is a good example). We are also working to roll out features that combine multiple step into a single or double unified step instead of adding additional complexity.

Web hosting doesn’t HAVE to be complex although at this point it is. All that means is that we have more work cut out for ourselves. We need many more layers of complexity reduced to a few simple steps. We are constantly working towards this goal, and more and more third party products are doing the same.

Web hosting is still in its infancy in my opinion and has only began to offer the real potential that is available to our clients. It will take people with vision that understand that power doesn’t mean complexity. We are getting there little by little and hope that you will stick around to see what it can become!

Thanks,
Matt Heaton / Bluehost.com

SimpleScripts is HERE!

Friday, April 11th, 2008

I have numerous blog entries about how competitive I am when it comes to web hosting. I hate to lose! Losing means a new customer didn’t choose our hosting when presented with all the options, or any existing customer left because they weren’t satisfied. I want our users to stay and I try and make the experience as good as it can be so they won’t even think of leaving.

Something we have done to try and make our hosting as “sticky” as possible is to launch a new service called SimpleScripts.com. This service is simply fantastic. It is a “one click” auto-installer for many of the most popular free scripts on the internet. Some examples are WordPress, PHP BB 3, Drupal, Joomla, and many more. We have tightly integrated it so that our users don’t have to do anything but click the SimpleScripts icon from the control panel to get started.

Although this service originally launched on Bluehost and Hostmonster, it is not exclusive to our hosting service only (Although it is as at the time of this writing). SimpleScripts itself is a hosted application so web hosting companies can license it and integrate into their own control panels for the benefit of their users. It isn’t even tied to Cpanel only. It will work with VPS and dedicated servers, as well as other control panels such as Plesk.

Installing and upgrading scripts is one of the most frustrating and taxing (April 15th is just 4 days away!!) experiences for our users. We have tried to take away that pain. Its not only great for our users but good for our company as well. Tech support is greatly reduced for script related questions and our users are happier customers.

For Bluehost and Hostmonster users it is best if you click to SimpleScripts within the control panel as it won’t require you to create an additional account, but for those that are not yet customers you can try it out by going directly to the URL at –

http://www.simplescripts.com

Thanks,
Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com

The Great Credit Card Scam…

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Credit card processing is big business on the internet. Every serious business has to accept credit cards. Its great that other payment options are available like Paypal to try and keep some of these big merchant providers honest, but its still a business that is riddled with dishonest practices in my opinion. There are major issues with Visa/MC/Discover and Amex and then there are problems with the merchant providers themselves that link into the systems that we use. Lets talk about a few of them.

Security Problems – There is no incentive to fix security problems. In fact, there is TONS of money being made by these companies on all that fraud that is happening out there. Chargeback fees to companies doing the billing are getting higher and higher. As the fraud increases Visa and others simply increase the discount rate that merchants like us pay to interchange for processing to compensate. No problem right? Wrong, guess who pays? The consumer always pays in the higher prices that merchants are forced to pass on in ever increasing credit card fees.

Reverse Charges (Issuing Credits) – This is the biggest scam of all. Lets say someone buys hosting for $100. We pay a small transaction fee (These usually range from 10 cents to 25 cents) to our merchant services provider. Often there is a gateway fee – many providers offer this free or charge, but most companies pay another 2-10 cents per transaction. Next you have to pay the interchange fee (This varies by card type – there are more than 50 different interchange rates) which for most online businesses varies between 2-3%. Now, lets get back to our example. Someone pays $100 for hosting – So our costs are approximately ($.10+$.02+$2.25) $2.37 to bill and accept that transaction. If later I have to issue a credit for the $100 most companies make you pay the same transaction costs (10 cents and 2 cents) AND you don’t get back the $2.25!! You don’t get back the interchange fee! We DO get back the interchange fee now. We have negotiated that, but 99% of the companies in the world don’t. Who keeps the interchange fee? Visa/MC? They keep a little, but the vast majority is going back to your merchant provider who pockets it and never tells you they got it back.

When I confronted my merchant provider I was given the response that EVERYONE does it and is an accepted practice in the industry. Everyone else getting screwed doesn’t make me feel any better about it. We got it “fixed” on our end, but only because we are a big enough fish that they wanted to keep our business. There are HUGE companies that are paying literally millions of dollars a year in these charges that don’t have to. I encourage all companies big and small to call their merchant providers and find out if you are paying this. Be warned that most sales people in the industry tell you it doesn’t happen or don’t know. I checked many providers myself and only found one that didn’t do it. Chances are that if you have significant credits in your business you are giving away a lot of money that you don’t have to.

Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com

Steve Ballmer is a Jackass!

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

No wonder everyone hates Microsoft! Their software is horrible. Their management is predatory. Vista is a complete and utter failure. And they look to screw the customer and make it sound like its a great thing (READ – Windows “Genuine” Advantage).

How can a company SO misguided get anywhere in the IT world. The answer is simple – It can’t. IT CAN’T. In the days when Bill Gates ran the show Microsoft was known for unfair business practices and ruthlessness to get market share, but Bill was smart. Very smart. He ran Microsoft in such a way to blow through the problems and keep Microsoft on top. Steve Ballmer does not share Bill’s smarts. The only thing he shares is a bloated sense of sense entitlement that Microsoft should somehow be number #1 in the market without having to have products that are the best, or customer satisfaction that is top notch.

Now instead of trying to fix the cancer inside Microsoft he is looking to buy Yahoo. Actually, he is looking to force Yahoo to sell. Here is a quote from the top pinhead at Microsoft himself –

“The substantial premium reflected in our initial proposal anticipated a friendly transaction with you. If we are forced to take an offer directly to your shareholders, that action will have an undesirable impact on the value of your company from our perspective which will be reflected in the terms of our proposal.”

Now there is one thing I know about business that is undeniable by any true leader – The success of any business is based entirely on the quality of the people you surround yourself with and employ. Now I’m asking myself? After a statement like the one made above, how many top executives want to stay after a Microsoft merger takes place. Exactly! Not very many. These top people can pick and choose where they work. There will be NO loyalty to a Microsoft owned Yahoo. Yahoo is made up of quality people, not just a bunch of internet traffic. Microsoft just sees internet traffic and dollar signs.

The path Microsoft is choosing showcases what a poor leader Steve Ballmer really is. I get email saying that I’m extremely anti Microsoft. I didn’t used to be. In fact, I wasn’t really upset until AFTER I met with them several times and saw the type of “deals” they were proposing to me. They angered me greatly because the customers concerns were BOTTOM on their list. At one point I was invited to meet with Steve Ballmer to discuss my issues with Microsoft face to face at a conference they were having. I had no interest – I was invited so they could try and convince me to use Microsoft products, not to have my concerns listened to by Steve Ballmer himself! To be honest, I can’t see how anyone can defend Microsoft anymore. The mountain of evidence is so overwhelming that its embarrassing. I love Linux, and my Macs (I have 5 of them).

If/when Microsoft buys Yahoo it’ll be a sad day for the internet. My only consolation is that is opens up a HUGE opportunity for many entrepreneurs to sneak in and eat up all the dissatisfied clients looking for a move from a Redmond controlled internet.

Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com

Downturn in Economy…

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

I listen and watch CNBC (Financial channel) as my usual media choice when Im in the car or working at home. I love to hear both sides of an argument and find what I consider to be the weak points in each side. Im not much a middle of the road guy. I have strong opinions on almost everything and it takes quite a bit to swing me away from a position once I’ve made a decision (I’m a know it all – But I’m a know it all that is usually right :) ).

Lately there has been a lot of discussion on what has caused the economy to weaken and what it would take to bring us out of this weakness. As they discuss this issue it frustrates me to no end because pundits don’t even talk about what I think is the primary problem. It isn’t oil prices, it isn’t sub prime lending disasters, and it isn’t illegal immigration affecting the labor market. These are all severe problems that need to be addressed, but the root of our countries financial problems lie in a COMPLETE lack of financial discipline by our general populace and our government and leaders. Everything else is just a symptom. Financial discipline is a general term. What do I mean? Its simple. Its SO simple. You live within your means. If you don’t have enough money for something you DO NOT BUY IT. You invest in and build your future by spending on “smart purchases” (Education, Home, etc) and curbing or eliminating unnecessary expenses.

You must take responsibility for your future and your needs. Your life is 100% your responsibility. It doesn’t fall on the government or your employer or any other entity to provide for you. It falls on your shoulders to solve your own problems. This personal responsibility is a fleeting attribute in so many people.

Our government overspends ridiculous amounts of money on social programs that are excellent programs, but fall outside the scope of what I believe is the role of government. Does it mean these programs aren’t worthwhile? Absolutely not. In fact, many address critical social needs. The problem is every problem can’t and shouldn’t be addressed by government. They are OUR problems to solve. We BENEFIT from the struggle and challenge of overcoming our problems.

I know this isn’t a very popular opinion with a lot of people but it doesn’t change the facts. Until you decide to shape your own future don’t put a hand out for help, put that hand to work!

Matt Heaton / Bluehost.com

Made good on my MySQL patch promise to make things better for everyone!!

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

For those that didn’t read my last post on MySQL (Its a couple of blogs down), I wrote about how we had significant problems with MySQL in general. Specifically we hated the inability to track usage by users thus allowing certain users to bring a server to it knees without being able to block and assign “blame” to the individual account that caused the problems.

While those issues are still present, we now have a patch to track that usage closely and are now creating automated tools to react in realtime to MySQL overloads and inefficient scripts that are running. So not only we will be able to block disproportionate usage by users accessing MySQL, but when our tools are done we will be able to present users with exact usage and where the problems occur on their side so that they will be able to fix/update their scripts to address these MySQL issues. In the past we knew many of the problems that happened on our servers, but we unable to react in realtime. This history helps us address repeat offenders but didn’t really do anything for the stability of our system in real time. This will soon change.

In keeping with my original promise (two blogs entries down), I have decided to make this patch public for all users of the MySQL server. If you are a hosting company and have problems with MySQL usage (I KNOW YOU DO, 100% OF YOU :) ) and understand the importance of individual accountability in MySQL I HIGHLY suggest you make use of this patch. If you review the patch and don’t think its worth while, then you really ought not to be doing shared hosting – I know thats harsh to say, but its true in my opinion!

Ok, enough blabbing – Below is a link to the patch – We have tested it to work with MySQL 5.0.45. If you are running a different version of the MySQL server I will at no cost create a version of the patch to work down to 5.0.37. If you are running a version of the server before that the patch may apply cleanly, but I can’t/won’t guarantee that it will work correctly. I will update the patch to ensure that it will continue to work in 5.0.x going forward from now on.

http://www.mattheaton.com/mysql-userstats.diff

Here is the link to describe how to access and use the additional statistics that will now be available to you in the MySQL server. Please review and test carefully, as I am unwilling to provide support directly for the patch. The patch is there for you to use, but I don’t have the time or inclination to do support for something like this.

http://mattheaton.com/mysql-usage.html

I do have high hopes for what we can accomplish with the tools that we write based on the information gathered with this patch. Although customers of Bluehost/Hostmonster won’t necessarily see or feel any difference on their end, you should notice a much more stable server experience going forward. It will most likely take us 30-45 days to roll out these changes.

For all the complaining I do about MySQL, I am actually extremely grateful to the MySQL team for creating a wonderful database that is completely free to use and provides a stellar databse for millions of people to use every day.

Thanks,
Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com