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HostingCon 2011 and Duplicate Content

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Being a newly “created” SoCal transplant served me well today as I calmly drove down the 5 to get here…. No really the drive was very peaceful, learned a few new words as well. I am reminded of two things: 1) I love my phone 2) we have come quite a long way in the hosting industry… so why does it feel like last year?

Apps! Clouds! Acquisitions! Growing your business! If you squint at the name and place your right thumb over the date you might think it was 2010 all over again.

The cloud has arrived! Well yeah, it has been hanging out, parked on the couch drinking your beer and stealing your cable. It’s like daddy’s little girl and the redheaded stepchild all rolled into one. Convenience and Security both still seem to be at odds. And standards? Still seemingly years away. Consumers want it, but we need it to live up to its word. That’s all that needs to be said. As an aside, who, cloud providers, can guarantee my data will be stored in my country (not necessarily US) and not be spread globally? If it is global, can you guarantee me data won’t be subject to the jurisdiction of multiple nations? Think about it.

Apps! I love apps; hell I am writing this blog from my phone. Sidebar: anyone else get the impression that session speakers know a lot more than what they are saying? Seriously,  with a handful of exceptions, presenters have a personal stake in not telling you everything. I say tell me and I might just hire you. Food for thought.

Apps: simple and complex, modular, delightful wastes of time or powerful tools to augment everything that is fine and good in the world. We have the delivery. We have the tools. We have the technology. But we lack creativity. Don’t just build an app cause someone told it will help your stickiness. Instead find out what people do the most on your site and make that mobile. Now go and be fruitful. I will expect my royalty check in the mail and its d-u-n-l-A-p not o-p.

Acquisitions, going to listen on Tom Millitzer’s presentation at 1. So howabout we take a break here and come back fresh?

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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, 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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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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