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An Interview with Brent Oxley, HostGator

2010-08-09

Brent Oxley,
Founder and CEO of HostGator

In this exclusive interview, we talk to Brent Oxley, Founder and CEO of HostGator about hosting, business and technologies. Enjoy!

What is your name and position with HostGator.com?

My name is Brent Oxley and I’m the founder and CEO of HostGator. I started the company when I was a freshman in college and I’ve run it since day one.

Please tell us the year established and brief history of HostGator.com?

I founded founded HostGator in 2002 in my dorm room at college. In those past 8 years, we’ve grown from a tiny web hosting company with a handful of customers on a few servers to a world leading hosting provider with close to 10,000 servers and more than 200,000 customers.

What do you offer your customers that are unique to your company?

We offer some things you can’t find anywhere else – like a toll-free number and free SSL certificate with one of our plans (the Business plan), but also things that you’d expect to be standard like free Enom reseller accounts, thousands of free web templates, site building software, and more. In addition to that, though, our customer service is what makes us unique. We provide 24/7/365 support and customer service from our Texas office via three mediums (email, live chat, and the telephone).

What is it that makes HostGator.com a competitive company in the hosting industry?

I think the level of service and support we provide sets us apart from our competitors more than anything else. Customers appreciate nice things like free SSL certificates, but what really matters to them is the people who are available to answer questions and address concerns. A host can have the coolest features in the world, but if they don’t have people who can support them and help customers out, they aren’t going to succeed.

What new features has HostGator.com added for its customers in the past year?

We’re always keeping busy. We changed and improved our spam prevention methods, revamped one of our shared hosting plans to include a free SSL certificate and toll free number, started providing Google Adwords coupons, relaunched our support center with brand new content and a brand new design, launched VPS hosting solution, developed a new cPanel theme, dramatically built up our presence on Twitter and Facebook, and a launched variety of other addons and improvements for our customers.

What would you say is HostGator.com #1 asset to its customer base?

We obviously depend on our customers to continue choosing us as their preferred web host and for continuing to refer us to their friends and family. We’re greatly appreciative when our customers do continue to choose us and refer us to their friends and family. And as a corollary to that, I think it is our support and customer service that leads customers to refer us and keep on using HostGator.

Where do you see HostGator.com and the web hosting industry in three years?

We’ve seen a small shift towards virtualization (VPS hosting, grid/cloud hosting, etc.) and we’ve seen a bigger shift to the idea of software-as-a-service with sites like Flickr, YouTube, etc. Those services obviously don’t compete with HostGator directly, but if you define web hosting as getting your stuff on the Internet, they’re worth mentioning.

I believe the future will be more of the same with the quality of support being the biggest factor in which technology is chosen as a platform for consumers. It's really hard to improve upon shared hosting when you think about what it comes with at most providers these days. All competitive hosts have 99.9% uptime or more, 24/7 support, and huge packages with thousands of gigabytes of bandwidth. And because the actual product offerings are so similar, the deciding factor for most consumers is reputation and support. Website owners don't care if their site is on a grid, a cloud, or a single server, as long as they get the support they need and their website stays online and loads instantly.

As far as for how I see HostGator changing in the next three years, the only thing I can be certain of is that we’ll continue to grow. We’re looking into launching a new brand that will focus on appealing to the mainstream market. The idea is to keep things simple and have it so someone who is brand new to the Internet can easily start a website using the service.  We will of course continue to improve and grow HostGator as well.

How many customers do you currently have?

HostGator currently has more than 300,000 customers and hosts approximately 3 million domain names.

Do you own your own datacenter?

We lease our more than 8,000 servers from The Planet. We are their largest customer both in terms of revenue and in terms of number of servers.

Who is your reseller provider?

All companies in the industry are someone’s reseller. We lease our servers from The Planet, The Planet leases their network connection from a variety of ISPs, many of whom lease their connections  from other ISPs and providers.

What kind of back up power does you reseller provider have?

The Planet’s datacenters have redundant power connections, as well as on-site generators with contracts to guarantee fuel delivery.

Do they have multiple backbone connections?

The Planet has one of the industry's fastest, most robust networks: 250+ gigabits/sec of transit network capacity to 6 Tier 1 backbone networks

Do you offer 24/7 support?

Our support and sales operations are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We never close.

Do you have technicians present 24/7 or 9-5 M-F?

We have people ready and willing to answer questions and address concerns at all times of the day and night.

What is your average turn-around time on a support ticket?

We respond to most tickets within a few minutes – usually 15 to 20 minutes. Sometimes it takes us longer to respond, sometimes it takes us less time. I’ve seen tickets that we’ve responded to within 20-30 seconds and I’ve seen some that take a couple of hours. It usually depends on how complicated the issue is and how busy things are at any given moment. Our average, though, is around 15 to 20 minutes.

Do you charge your clients for support? If so, please explain.

All of our email, live chat, and telephone support is free. For customers with advanced technical needs that beyond the scope of our support, we offer something we call “admin time”, where we bill hourly for advanced services. A huge, huge majority of our customers never need these services, however.

Do you offer a money back guarantee?

Yes. We offer a 45 day money back guarantee on our shared and reseller hosting services. If a customer isn’t happy with our hosting (for any reason) within 45 days, all they have to do is send in a cancellation request and we’ll refund their money.

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