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Whitepaper: ALM Maturity Model. Learn about CollabNet’s system to document the levels, capabilities, and benefits & shortcomings of solutions for globally distributed application lifecycle management.


Menu of Services Keeps Webhosts Smiling
By Jim Thompson

March 7, 2005

It’s a tough world out there for Webhosts. Rising competition, price wars, and demanding customers are forcing Webhosts to re-invent themselves if they are to survive. The day of just providing high-speed connectivity, a few Web building tools, and a place to park a server are over. Today, the Webhosting game calls for diversity, agility, sophistication, and creativity.

“Webhosts must offer a greater range of services, if they expect to keep their customers, especially when it comes to business clients,” says Michael Yablonowitz of Somerset, N.J.-based uplinkearth. “You have to become a partner with the customer and provide them with all the tools they need to compete. Just offering traditional Webhosting is not enough.”

So, what can the harried Webhost offer that will set him apart from the rest of the pack? According to Yablonowitz, whose company currently boasts 30,000 customers, the successful Webhost has to control all aspects of the hosting process.

“We have our own data center, which allows us to offer a full range of services and guarantee uptime,” he commented. “For the customer, this also eans that they only have to go to one place if they have a problem. We won’t – and we can’t – tell them that the problem is with someone else. We watch over the entire process from beginning to end.”

Of course, connectivity, server space, and network reliability remain prime considerations for customers, but more and more, those same customers are looking for additional services. Once everything works, the forward-looking customer starts to ask, “What’s next? What can you offer me that will set me apart from the pack and increase my bottom line?”

“They are looking for help to send out newsletters, assistance in marketing their products, advice on setting up a shopping mall, and help with building their site — all at an affordable price. It is things like this that will grow a hosting company and reduce the churn,” notes Yablonowitz.

Choose One from Column A

Yablonowitz adds that the most requested service is Website building tools. He admits that he is not sure why this is so important to his customers, but suspects that in many cases sites were built several years ago and the owner now can’t find the original programmer and simply doesn’t have the patience to learn to do the programming themselves.

Our conversations with Webhost customers support Yablonowitz’s theory. “I put off changing our site for years, simply because I was afraid,” says Carl Simpson, owner of a small business that makes and sells handmade crafts. “Our Webmaster left us for a bigger company and we had no idea how anything worked. I lived in fear that something would break down. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when my host told me that they have online tools that allow me to program my own site.”

A strong second in the additional services category, according to Yablonowitz, is the shopping cart. In most cases, customers are not looking for just a way to charge for products or for an interface that is, essentially, a glorified cash register. Instead, they want an online catalog where visitors to the site can browse all of their products, compare features, pay by credit card, and have the products automatically shipped by mail, UPS, or Federal Express.

Another hot area for Webhosts is marketing tied to “pay-per-click” systems. “We are working with a couple of marketing firms on a new product which will allow our customers to buy keywords,” says Yablonowitz, who expects the product to be available later this year.

“Our system will tell the customer approximately how many clicks are available based on all the major search engines and allow them to buy as many as they want. This will provide customers a much better value for their money and a lot more flexibility.”

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