Archive for HostingCon 2009

Aug
16

HostingCon 2009: Top 5 Must See Companies

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HostingCon this year was the biggest one yet, which has become a cliché since each subsequent HostingCon is bigger than the previous. Regardless, this year saw attendance up between 10% and 15% from 2008 and with it an increase in service providers and new technologies. If you didn’t make the conference or if you did but did not manage to see everything, I have composed the top 5 must see companies.

OpenSRS – If any company at HostingCon knew how to channel Twitter it was OpenSRS. After mining through every single twitter in the #HostingCon channel we found that of the top 20 key terms OpenSRS was the ONLY company that everyone seemed to be talking about. It’s easy to see why too since the OpenSRS booth was one of the most colorful and interesting and had some of the best bells and whistles at the show. Interest however would not end at the whirring noises and pretty lights of the booth, since OpenSRS does offer one of the most comprehensive email reselling service networks in the world. So OpenSRS, visit for the Service Guy, stay for the content.

Cloudmark, Inc. – Cloudmark is one of the biggest names is spam prevention. Earlier this year, Cloudmark released their in the cloud spam filter system called CloudFilter. Since then, Cloudmark has been making a push into the hosting space. CloudFilter has been on my Top 10 technologies for 2009 and its only going to get more popular as the months go by. CloudFilter boasts 98% plus accuracy and scrubs email before it reaches the mail server reducing the impact of spam on a Host’s infrastructure. Cloudmark’s CloudFilter is a powerful tool and can be applied in just about every form of hosting.

Dasient – One of the two new faces in this Top 5 list, Dasient provides Web Anti-Malware services, which identify, quarantine, filter, or even help remove depending on what service set you purchase. At its lowest level of service, Dasient gives web developers the ability to determine if their sites have been blacklisted due to malware intrusion. In the middle tier of service, Dasient gives blacklist monitoring as well as alerting the web developer if they malware on their site and how to solve the matter. At the higher end, Dasient will do all the other stuff previously mentioned, but will automatically quarantine malicious code and filter out malware before the pages are served providing bulletproof protection. Dasient’s service can compliment any Host’s feature list and they work alongside the Host to aid in the incorporation of Dasient’s services, seamlessly.

KEMP Technologies, Inc – In their sophomore year at HostingCon, KEMP has come a long way to add better features to their load balancers. KEMP load balancers have three things going for them. They all cover the same functions as the other, more popular, load balancers and in some places do it a lot better; they cost a lot less across the board; and use less power. It’s no wonder that KEMP has been so successful with Web Hosts. All the power for a lot less.

Packet Power – The amount of power used by devices inside a data center is not just something that only Green Hosts need be concerned over. Anyone who owns their own servers should be energy conscious. Over the past few years, electrical costs and the energy needs of servers and attached devices has been climbing.  Reduction of the usage and overall price tag of monthly energy costs have been scrutinized but companies are hard pressed to find the proper tools to test if their energy cutting techniques are actually working at the device level. Packet Power solves this problem by giving users the power usage figures of every device you choose. Packet Power is easy to use and can tell Web Administrators where the problems are and if power usage policies are working.

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Aug
12

Hostingcon 2009 – Day 3: All Grow'd Up

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Before the exhibit hall opened its doors there were two strong keynotes; the first keynote was on Data Protection Policies in the US and EU and the second was on SEO best practices by SEOmoz’s Rand Fishkin.

As an aside, one of the areas I think iNet nailed this conference is the keynote speakers. When something as large as a conference changes hands there is always the worry that it will loose some of the flavor that made it popular. From the keynotes to the sessions and to the exhibit hall, iNet Interactive hit this one out of the park.

After the two keynotes, the exhibit hall opened and… it… was… packed. Day 3 made up for the apparent slowness of the previous day with attendees packing the hall.

Sessions started up after lunch; 16 sessions, 4 separate tracks. It was not as hard as Tuesday to choose between sessions but there was still something for everyone. Of the sessions my top 5 would have to be:

  • Top Social Media Strategies
  • Affiliate Marketing/Lead Generation in an Extremely Competitive Market
  • Handling Scalability, Marketing, and Service Level Agreements in a Web 2.0 World
  • Dissecting a Hosting Company Acquisition
  • How Security Researchers Run Web Servers

Unfortunately, two of these sessions occupied the same slot as several exhibitors’ giveaway ceremonies. This should be a good tip for exhibitors next year, a few months before the conference talk to the speakers on the third day time slots and see which ones coincide with your company (i.e. an email company would do well not to have their giveaway during email information sessions).

The closing general session hit on points that are very near and dear to my heart. Many companies in Web hosting and her supporting markets are entrepreneurial ventures. These are companies which were started by women and men who had an idea, know how, and decided to put a risk on going into business on their own. As the industry becomes more mature these things  will continue to fall by the wayside. Dan Hackett discussed the keys to management. I have had these types of classes before, and Dan was absolutely right, management needs to manage, lead, and delegate.

Part of me is happy for this since a lot of what web hosts do is somewhat haphazard and the lack of general knowledge in areas like basic marketing, human resources, and the like cripples not only their business but my own since I take it upon myself to educate advertisers. However, as the industry moves towards the same tried and true methods as other industries will we loose that pioneering spirit that made hosting so much fun to be in to begin with?

Perhaps this closing speech will be where people will mark the death knell for the web host hobbyist, the administrator turned CEO, and the programmer turned software selling maven. In its place, the professional C-level executives who when asked what do you do for a living instead of replying with, I’m a programmer or I’m a visionary they say I am an executive… makes you think doesn’t it?

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The 2nd day of Hostingcon saw the opening of the Exhibit Hall. This year’s Exhibit Hall is nearly the double the size of the previous year’s hall. However, both halls had the same amount of exhibitors. This translated to many vendors having bigger booths, more walking space, and a larger network lounge and presentation section. Unfortunately, many exhibitors were complaining about the lack of foot traffic. However, if they saw how good the sessions were today I think they would understand why the exhibit hall received few passersby.

Zane Adam from Microsoft began the day with two keynote speeches; one on virtualization and adding software and services to customer plans. The second keynote was a round table that included Antonio Piraino from Tier1, Stephen Cho from Google, Daniel Burton from Salesforce.com, and Emil Sayegh from Rackspace’s Cloud Hosting company Mosso.

My own day began with interviews and therefore I was unable to attend either, However, I do know that the “ban” on Microsoft keynotes by Linux hosts continued this year and that the round table provided some good, if not generalized information.

Day 2 was especially difficult when it came to choosing sessions. The first time slot in fact had four well written and presented sessions. If I were to choose it would have to be a toss up between 20 Ways to Outsmart Your Competitors by Adam Eisner of Tucows and the Accepting Credit Card and PCI/DSS Compliance round table with Curtis R. Curtis moderating.

The second session was calmer with more specialized sessions giving attendees several areas to choose from. Those who use email marketing definitely should have sat in on Jeff Rohrs’ (ExactTarget) Get More From Email Marketing. While those who offer domain name services should have attended It’s No Longer IPv4, Meet IPv6 by Richard Jimmerson of ARIN (American Registry for Internet Numbers). Lastly, to go with the conference’s theme, Bob Angus of VeriSign presented Selling Premium Services to Cost-conscious Customers.

From this point on the clouds took over. Not just indoors in the conference halls, but outside as well. Though the thunderstorm did not hit, it was beginning to build. Indoors, the individual sessions, the general session, and even the evening’s big networking party all brought cloud computing to mind.

For the non-cloud conscious “Launch Your Product Like a Pro” from NaviSite’s William Toll and Sunmeet Sabharwal.

Figuring out which session to visit at the end of the day was yet another tough decision. All four were extremely good with a star stellar cast of speakers. Gillian Muessig (SEOmoz) delivered High Impact Email, Search, and Social Media Marketing. Neil Daswani from startup Dasient presented Stop Web-based Malware Attacks. Rafael Laguna de la Vera from Open-Xchange discussed messaging through a cloud platform with Driving Cloud Computing with Open Source Messaging. Lastly, Growing Your Business: Getting Upside in a Down Economy from Chris West of CDGcommerce.

With the final general session coming to a close, attendees began shuffling to various places for networking opportunities. For myself, I went to the Microsoft/Parallels Networking Event and had a blast. Afterward I went for a brief stretch of the legs along the Potomac waterfront then headed to bed for another long day. Even with the calmness of the exhibit hall and attendees settling into a rhythm, the rolling clouds in the sky above was a portent for the final day of Hostingcon 2009.

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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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