For some time, I found myself thinking that the world of web hosting needs to change something profoundly: The web is changing and so is changing the delivery of services online, whether they be web hosting services or whether services that can be outsourced, as are today SaaS, from CRM to manage e-mail to millions of other things.
In this article I want to talk about what is my personal vision of the market and the evolution of the web hosting providers because of, a profession that I know very well and which I feel I can provide some insight and advice, I divide this article into three blocks: SaaS, Cloud Computing and finally the Mobile, defined as the delivery of services accessible from smartphones and always on the move.
Why three tools? Everyone is having an explosive spread and are changing the way in which they “consume” services and information online, which means you must destroy a model or more previous models and at the same time give a boost to those who want to innovate, to improve their services. This article is intended as a sort of tutorial, indication I’ve seen in the last six months and where it’s going. This world is just as useful for those who do the job of a provider who merely provides hosting, email and more and for those who are a professional, and looking for a new job or want to provide a better service to its customers.
For any criticism or comments, please write an in depth article, in the comments, because it can give rise to a very clear and effective discussion on these issues.
SaaS is revolutionizing the whole field of applications, those that once were offline and those who have already been born to be within a browser. Do not we know this? But today, even in the company, most of the time is spent in a browser, including email (Gmail Webmail), CRM applications (SalesForce or other), and tools to operate totally disconnected from a desktop application.
I will not argue on the goodness of this revolution, all in the cloud? Yes, the advantages and disadvantages are known. Instead, I want to provide some vision about the SaaS delivery model which reaches perfection, because it removes charges to the end user who should not have their own infrastructure, making it easy for the service provider to provide the service, making it profitable immediately after accounts activation, and finally simplify the use of that tool because the data can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
Most applications today are born on the web are provided through this model. Not only that, I know dozens of entrepreneurs who use on-farm, purchase services of any kind for the business, connecting them with each other whenever possible. Google Apps for example, due to its fame, is used by almost all the great services, SaaS as a key tool to import contacts, access email and documents.
And on its growth: The SaaS second Forrester has reached a value of 21 billion dollars worldwide in 2011 and is projected at 137 billion dollars (6 times of the current value) by 2020. There are a number of factors, those already said, and one that I want to explain as the last point, the Mobile.
Now, for those who use online SaaS services, such as private or business, it becomes apparent the advantage, but for those who sell online services such as web hosting and dedicated servers, e-mail solutions and other small tools? We see it together now.
SaaS: From the web hosting provider, no opportunity should be missed
The SaaS goes beyond the concept to simply provide the platform: it becomes a commodity in every way, because none of us care what kind of hardware or server which has the features that Salesforce provides the service or to MailChimp. We just believe that it should work and do exactly what we expect if we want more resources for the application, and we pay for an account with more potential.
In web hosting, today things are different: we are still tied to the concept of Shared Hosting, VPS Hosting, Reseller Account and etc. In short: the web hosting is still at level 1 you start with when you want to do something online, but there is a risk of losing importance if a train does not evolve towards SaaS. Let me explain.
The creation of a new website has always occurred through these steps:
1: Buying domain and web space
2: If I configure my web space
3: I write code, or install a CMS, configure it, and start working
4: I take care to see that the site is working properly and if too much traffic is there, I upgrade my web hosting plan
These steps are so easy for us to understand, we are always trying to provide the best information from a couple of last years(otherwise you would not be reading our blog and would be reading something else). We have seen that often, the web hosting and domains were poorly understood, with problems for their activation and use. Its a daily routine for those who offer these kinds of services: people do not know how to turn a database, mailbox, how to redirect DNS and etc.
On the other hand in recent years, the services that allow you to create your own website online have arisen. They started to be known as we all know: “Create your own website online in 5 minutes“. And most of the times it was not very effective online tools, which allowed to create a showcase site. Today it is not so: The CMS online, allowing you to create real websites are many, allow you to register a new domain or transfer, are simple to use, and above all have a level of extreme customization, often identical to that which can be reached with one of the many that we know CMS like WordPress or Drupal.
The result is that, they steal market share from hosting providers. Quite simply, they do it in a very simple way, focusing on the details: these services offer simplicity as the main component, whether it is to create a website or an online campaign structure of web marketing or to deliver e-learning content.
Affect everyone? NO!
This is the important point, it hits the smallest of the web hosting provider, those who are struggling to emerge in the mass and mostly have no tools to add technology (do not value, but technology) at their service. They use Plesk, or other panels, and continue to deliver products that are becoming commodities. Unfortunately.
For large providers, this does not happen for one simple reason: They are the basis for SaaS and for the thousands of new applications created. They are full-bodied investments in data center connectivity and have the visibility needed to ensure that they are still at level 1, for those companies that need to disburse SaaS services.
What should the hosting provider have?
Two things should be on priority: To try to integrate these services into their software, where possible, and more to shake direct partnerships with those who offer them, how to get wholesale stores which create sales and make sure that their customers are already active for their web hosting services, do not have to look elsewhere for other types of service. In short, it is unthinkable that the web hosting provider is not the center of the supply of all major services for SMEs and elsewhere escape from the customer.
Like the small companies that offer web hosting services must begin to invest heavily in the development of custom software on their business, for offering new services or improve existing ones: in the context of cloud computing, which today is expressed at a shocking speed, it is unthinkable competition in infrastructure, is instead on the front of the software, the provider has to win and give them a second “youth” as online service providers. It is unthinkable that the shared hosting can remain a product that will be popular forever, just as there has to move away somewhat from those vendors such as Parallels Plesk, they are doing very little innovation and have relegated an entire sector to be “stopped” in many respects.
That’s right, forget about those who say that it is marketing or technology does not exist. It is not a ignorable matter, the fact is that more and more companies choose cloud computing platforms, both private and public. This however means that, cloud computing was born as an ecosystem of services and systems that did not exist before: from consulting to sales of hardware change in the delivery model of the software, we are talking about a new era in IT which has a real potential of improving the use of resources by changing how they are consumed.
Cloud computing obviously requires big investment and has very low margins when it comes to IaaS: Infrastructure as a Service. The reason is simple, it takes large investments in data centers, staff and the development of networks and software. Amazon, which currently has the largest cloud computing service in the world can take advantage of economies of scale which are unlikely to be applicable to other companies in the world engaged in the same type of service. This on the one hand makes the adoption of cloud computing accelerating because Amazon and other major groups such as Microsoft and ESDS have the strength to ferry companies on new technological models, on the other had, requires a reflection on the hosting provider.
Cloud computing IaaS format requires investments that are not conceivable for small providers and even if this is put in place as a strategy is not sustainable in the long term: basically you end up delivering a type of service that has a high cost to the final customer and brings higher prices and not instead a reduction in costs as expected from the adoption of cloud computing.
What is the solution for small hosting provider? You can still make cloud computing services on a small scale, with solution providers like OnApp or VMware, or OpenStack, but we try to specialize the service and justify the higher cost, for each hour of computation compared to other operators. If this is not possible, it is surely better to go for advice in relation to the cloud, a business that is equally important, supporting the customer on a very complex infrastructure such as Amazon, but managing totally, in its place, the deployment of applications and data thus having an income from this activity.
Small providers have a point in their favor: They are physically very close to reality and can help you implement cloud in the company, making a saving seriously, but not necessarily trying to provide the same level of service they can offer or providers specializing in this context.
Not only that, Cloud computing for those who provide web hosting services on a small scale, should be primarily a way to improve the way they deliver services, starting with the possibility of outsourcing the service at the data center, and delete a physical presence, or improve ‘service delivery using, “below”, an approach Cloud. Only secondarily, do you expect to launch cloud computing services, but without underestimating the impact of marketing that this approach would have on your existing services?
One last option is to have whitelabel services sold by large providers who have created ad hoc partnership programs. This is certainly a more subtle but equally viable business not to lose the opportunity to have cloud computing as a service between its own products.
When a few months ago, I saw that the visits coming from smartphones on our portals has been increasing , I wondered what I could do to take advantage of that traffic and at the same time I had to revise our strategies on editorial and other products that we launched. I could not ignore the fact that 20 out of 100 people would read this article with a smartphone, while they are at work, in the car, train or anywhere else in the world.
Today we carry out a job that has also evaluated this approach to mobile and has studied how to use it to enhance the experience of readers.
What will change with the furniture? Think about it..
This is enough to show that the same online service providers are the first who must make their websites navigable and usable on a smartphone. Purchase of a single domain gives you the ability to manage your web hosting account is now clear that it is necessary to provide a solution that is also used by smartphone or tablet, without placing constraints to the customer.
In addition, considering the fact that many people who use a smartphone have never used these services, you need to find and study new ways to propose on these devices.
Just like you need to make sure that its customers in creating websites and products online, they can access tools to make them immediately available for the mobile is a business that no hosting provider is considering at the moment and that could have a very high impact if carried out with a good idea, a software, a framework or any other structure that allows customers to easily derive the benefits from the cabinet. But back to point 1, remember: SaaS and the need to develop software.
Do you agree?