Archive for Conferences

While others were getting ready for the first official day of HostingCon, I unfortunately was in an airport boarding my last flight. After being bounced from airport to airport trying to get around the storm front that battered the MidWest I was finally going to arrive at the con. Unfortunately, when I landed in DC my bag did not come with me and so I decided to skip settling into the hotel and just get on with the morning festivities.

Many of the attendees were having difficulties figuring out which tracks to choose from. The sad thing is a lot of really good sessions where in the same time slots making choosing difficult. Still, in a conference this is the sort of complaint that organizers want to hear.

The first 12 sessions covered a wide range of topics, but a lot of it was general information. This is the type of information you should know about the Web Hosting industry, however not everyone has the chance to learn all the basics and the sessions served as a good refresher and filled a few holes. Basic points for the day include:

  • Augment your hosting with 3rd party services and software to move customers up “the chain”
  • Target a specific audience with your hosting plans
  • Give customers reasons to purchase your plans
  • Motivate your employees to work a set standard increasing efficiency
  • Look into outsource opportunities for areas that you cannot cover without spending a huge amount of money
  • If subpoenaed for information you can object on the basis of costs
  • Litigation costs a ton, weigh the risks before going to court
  • “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as a publisher or speaker for any information from another information content provider”  ie if you don’t edit it, touch it, or review it, you are not liable.
  • Big difference between criminal and civil cases
  • Leverage the big “talking heads” of the blogosphere to increase traffic and brand awareness
  • Ensure your books are in proper order
  • Track your customers, their needs, their plans, and their support tickets and keep them on file
  • Go through and determine the metrics that are right for you in tracking customers, services that sell, services that stagnant, customer type, etc. and use that to grow your business

By top three from this group of sessions are:

  • Double your Revenue without Getting One New Customer – Sharon Koifman (Applicure)
  • How to Respond to Legal Threats to Your Business – W. David Snead and Jeff K. Gordon (W. David Snead P.C. and Andrews Kurth LLP respectively)
  • Alternatives to Search: Leveraging Local, Mobile, and Social Media Marketing – Gillian Muessig (SEOmoz)

After lunch, conference goers were giving three keynote speeches. Iain Grant’s (SeaBoard Group) Keynote, Walking a Mile in Your Shoes, was particular rousing and I hope he will be speaking next year. Serguei Beloussov, CEO of Parallels, was back again for another Day 1 keynote. Attendees complained about the apparent use of the keynote to sell Parallels products. However, in fairness, I must point out that the key points of the speech should be the cornerstone in any new Web hosting business and current Web Hosts should see if they fit into their own corporate plan. Virtualize, optimize, automate, and partner up are essential to taking a successful company to the next level and until more companies do this than I will assume we will keep hearing variations of this speech.

Something new at this year’s HostingCon attracted my eye. The inclusion of a Twitter feed for the keyword #Hostingcon, viewable on every large LCD screen. Last year various speakers were utilizing Twitter in their conference sessions. I know our marketing roundtable included a twitter feed and we even answered a few questions from it, this year’s twitter board was attached to all the main monitors found throughout the conference. What was great about this was the fact that everyone at the conference was able to start dialogues discuss sessions and the like.

The day ended with a networking event and attendees going to various bars in an attempt to “network,” or at least that’s what the official line was. As I walked back to my room I decided to visit the bell hops and see if my luggage just happened to show up. I was greeted with a smile and my missing bag. A good conference as any I have had, but we still have two more to go….

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Aug
09

HostingCon 2009 – Day 0: Something Lost

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The day before HostingCon is normally reserved as a day of rest and travel. Some attendees (especially those who are headquartered outside the U.S.) have come days and in a few cases weeks in advance. For those who arrived earlier, Sunday was a fine day to rest, grab some drinks, and even see a bit of the D.C. area.

For travelers coming to D.C., Sunday proved to be a lesson in frustrations. A large storm front covered the bulk of the Midwest, delaying and even canceling flights. At its worst points, the storm caused 0 visibility and kept airplanes from flying. Several attendees found that their luggage had been lost and that materials for booths had been delayed. Hartland Ross, President of eBridge Marketing Solutions, had two flights cancelled and was unable to present on the following day.

For those who arrived in D.C., the welcoming arms of the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center awaits. Gaylord is the largest conference center on the eastern seaboard and from simply walking around its easy to see why. The center is surrounded by a 300 acre development that was very recently constructed and you can almost see the paint still drying. The center itself houses a small village of shops and eateries, complete with trees and peaceful streams in its atrium which is completely enclosed.

The generalized theme of this year’s HostingCon was Compete and Thrive. Of the 44 sessions, more than half focused on making a company leaner, more agile, and ready to take advantage of technologies, services, and trends to grow and prosper. Analysts, be them independent or from such as venues as The Whir or WebHostMagazine, all commented that the overall atmosphere was surprisingly optimistic.

By the end of the day, the bulk of the attendees had arrived to learn, to educate, to demonstrate products, and to mingle. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to DC on this day as planned and spent the evening and the next morning in one airport after another. UPDATE: The consequence of this manifest itself the next day when my luggage was not shipped to DC and instead was now on US Airway’s most wanted list. But that is a discussion for another time.

From registrations, the expected amount of attendees was at least a  10% increase from 2008 and the exhibit hall is almost 2 times the size. Hostingcon 2009 is definitely bigger, but will it be better? Stay tuned.

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May
04

HostingCon 2009 is Coming

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For those of you who have been around the website hosting industry for at least the past few years, it is common knowledge that one of the industry’s most well-attended and prestigious conferences and trade shows is HostingCon. For those of you who are either newer to the industry, or who just haven’t had the opportunity to participate in HostingCon – this year’s event offers many reasons to consider attending.

I have personally participated as a speaker or panelist at every HostingCon event since its inception. I recall that last year’s panel on marketing featured none other that myself and another writer and industry marketing veteran from WebHostMagazine and WebHostBlog – Mr. David Dunlap.

A recent email notified me of my acceptance as a speaker at HostingCon 2009. Among the bits of information in the email sent from the HostingCon organizers was the fact that this year the group received over 120 speaker proposals. While the selection committee had difficulty narrowing the speaker field down, the remaining chosen speakers are noted to create an ”exceptional program with diverse and timely topics and actionable substance”.

But don’t take my admittedly biased opinion on HostingCon without some backup – here’s what a few other website hosting professionals had to say about HostingCon 2009.

Jeff Hardy, Vice President of Business Operations with SmarterTools, Inc. commented, ”SmarterTools has customers and technology partners in over one hundred countries. HostingCon is one of the few events that brings the industry together in a way that provides an opportunity to renew our network of industry professionals and meet new ones. Each year SmarterTools comes away from HostingCon with new ideas and perspectives that helps us drive to excellence in our host-friendly software and SaaS offerings.”

Daniel Foster is co-founder of UK web hosting firm 34SP.com and had these comments regarding HostingCon, ”We’re planning to attend HostingCon 2009 in Washington, D.C. to see what’s hot in the industry this year, what people are talking about and where their plans are taking them. We’re also looking forward to catching up with friends made at previous HostingCons and meeting new faces. There’s at least as much to be gained from the show floor and evening events as there is from the presentations given during the day.”

Takeshi Eto, V.P. Marketing and Business Development with ASP.NET hosting firm DiscountASP.NET adds, ”We attend every year because HostingCon is a great opportunity to network. Also, being a niched Windows hoster, we go to a lot of Microsoft events and it’s good to get exposure to what is going on with other areas of the hosting industry.”

Be sure to check out the full story at HostingCon.com. You can see the list of exhibitors, and soon you’ll have access to the complete list of speakers as well. I hope to see you in Washington, D.C. in August.

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Mar
01

Parallels Summit 2009

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This year’s Parallels Summit kicked off at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year’s Summit built upon as well as surpassed last year’s attendance records.

More than 1,000 attended this year’s Summit hailing from more than 60 countries. The amount of software vendors increased five-fold from 2008, with slightly more than 100 ISVs represented. Compared to 2008, the amount of attendees doubled and the amount of conference sessions increased by thirteen sessions.

Officially, the Summit did not start until Tuesday, February 3rd, but Monday was filled with plenty of events. Monday was called Day 0 by event organizers and started off with a Golf Tournament at Primm Valley Golf Club. Later in the evening, was a networking reception at eyecandy sound lounge in the lobby of the Mandalay Bay. The club was packed and as long as Microsoft and Intel were picking up the check, the bulk of attendees were located at the bar. In two hours time, conference goers built up a bar tab well over $5,000.

Day 1 started with a whirlwind three-speaker set: John Eng, VP Marketing, Service Provider Division, Parallels; Serguei Beloussou, CEO, Parallels; and Morris Miller, Founder of Rackspace and Sequel Ventures, LLC. The big topic of this year’s Summit was Cloud Computing and what it means for the Web Host industry. So much so, that fifteen conference sessions discussed computing with the Cloud.

Day 1 ended on the 64th floor of the Mandalay Bay, at a lounge called Mix. The lounge gave a breath taking view of the Vegas skyline with drinks and food lubricating the gears of industry.

Wednesday Day 2, began much like Day 1, breakfast then three speakers. The theme of Cloud Computing continued with such topics as “Blue Skies? Clearing the Air on Cloud Computing and SaaS,” “How We Will REALLY Move to the Cloud: the Coming Partnerships Between Hosters and Cloud Platform Providers,” and “Cloud Commerce – How Providers Enable Their Business Customers to Benefit From Cloud Computing Trends.”

Along with speeches and the conference sessions, the exhibit hall was much larger this time around. The size of the room allowed for more exhibitors and more space between booths allowing for greater foot traffic. In the back of the exhibit hall, Parallels’ Hands-On Lab was held for the second straight year. With its close vicinity to the session areas and several networking lounges, the amount of traffic that flowed through the exhibit hall greatly increased over last years.

This year’s Summit also included many schools and universities in attendance. Some showed up to cut costs (there even was a specific conference session on this called Virtualization Super Story: Oregon City School District Cuts IT Budget 60%) while others came in order to look for software and hardware for their IT classes.

As of this writing, the location for next year’s Summit is up in the air. Possible cities include New York, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Miami, and Washington, DC.

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I got a chance to interview Jack Zubarev, President Service Provider Division of Parallels, and he told me that if you are loosing money or if your company is failing, the cloud is not going to fix the problem. I found this statement to be very satisfying because of how true it is. If your company is not doing well then you really should find ways of fixing that before you make a leap into a different technology. But that is a different article.

Touring the exhibit hall this year was a lot different than last year’s Parallels Summit. The Hall was far bigger and more open. You did not have to walk through it to get to the other areas, although you could, it wasn’t essential. When I first arrived to check out the hall, I thought the foot traffic was a lot less than the previous year, however as the day wore on the number of people on the floor greatly increased. After talking to various vendors, many echoed those sentiments.

From the exhibit hall it looks like the companies to follow this year are CloudMark (more on them in a separate post), keepit, Open-Xchange, SmarterTools, and Sarito (makers of Horde Skins plus).

This year’s Summit also included many schools and universities in attendance. Some showed up to cut costs (there even was a specific conference session on this called Virtualization Super Story: Oregon City School District Cuts IT Budget 60%) while others came in order to look for software and hardware for their IT classes. Hopefully, more academics will come out next year so they can see where the future of the Web Hosting industry is headed.

Although the tone of this Parallels Summit was focused on Cloud computing, I think there are a few more important lessons that can be learned from this Summit:

  • Know your customers
  • Understand your market
  • Due to the economy, look for acquisition opportunities.

Especially the last one. With the global economy slowing down, now is a great time to buy out the smaller companies. Combine this with understanding your market and knowing what you customers need, 2009 can be a very profitable year.

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