Interview | InMotion Hosting – Behind the Bandwidth

Everyone with a serious intention of running a website has come across a hosting company once or twice in search for best bandwidth, price and customer support. Usually we have to try a few before we find one that truly delivers exactly what we are after – reliability and trustworthy features. I, for one, tried a few out before I found what was best for my purposes, but it’s always a struggle to get the attention needed once everything goes from good to better on the site and bandwidth isn’t enough to cope with the increased traffic.

But what exactly is a good hosting company and what is it that makes them so good? Well, in search for one of the truly great ones, I found InMotion Hosting, a large and successful company with what I would call perfect customer knowledge. Their philosophy is quite simple “Fast, Reliable and Affordable Hosting” and it shows in pretty much everything they do.

InMotion Hosting isn’t just your ordinary hosting company, they always go an extra mile to exceed your expectations. The acclaimed awards dating all the way back to 2003 clearly show their excellence and they aren’t stopping anytime soon. Dedicated to making 2010 yet another successful year, they are taking their business to the next level. I managed to get an interview with Sunil Saxena, one of the co-founders of InMotion Hosting, and I was allowed in, behind the scenes, right into the very core of their company. As you will learn, InMotion Hosting is sure to showcase what a good hosting company should look like.

1. InMotion Hosting was founded in 2001 and throughout its lifetime has won many prestigious awards. When you started InMotion Hosting what was your goal and how did it all start?

Essentially, the goal when the company was founded was to get customer service right. Todd and I felt that, in our experience, no hosting company had done that, so they started their own hosting company with the goals of thrilling the customer and giving them the best possible customer experience. To this day, the main goal of the company is to provide that customer experience while being on the leading edge in reliability, products, and features.

2. Handling the servers here at Bit Rebels myself I know it can be quite a feat sometimes just to make sure everything is optimized to meet the “Digg Effect”. Being just one person, it is sure a full time job sometimes. How many people work at InMotion Hosting and how are they divided?

We have 70 employees, with 55 located in Virginia Beach and 15 located in Los Angeles/Marina del Rey. Of that number, fully 39 are devoted to customer service and systems.

3. There are always milestones in a company’s life cycle that take it from good to great. What was the first real break and milestone that really threw InMotion Hosting to the masses and how many of those milestones have you had since?

As a company, the first major milestone reached was after the first year, when Todd and Sunil realized the renewal rate — customers re-signing after that first year of hosting — was well above industry standard. Seeing that rate being so far above the norm was the first indication that they were doing something right and achieving their goal of putting customer service first. To date, the rate at which we retain customers remains well above average. We’ve also grown significantly as company — in accounts, in employees, in number of domains hosted, and in number of machines. We also, in 2009, opened a second data center (located just outside Washington DC), so we could offer a physically closer data center to customers worldwide.

4. Having been around for about 9 years now you must have quite a few grand clients that you consider mega accounts. What client was your first mega account and how did you first handle the build?

Typically, our focus is on small and medium businesses — we don’t really get into the whole “enterprise” thing — but we do have quite a few larger accounts, the first major one being Avery Dennison, which is a major consumer products/technology company in the U.S.

5. We had an article here on Bit Rebels a while ago that described Google’s server park and how many servers they had to cope with all the traffic generated from their business. There are always facts about a company and its core mechanics. How big is your server park and how wide is your combined bandwidth to date?

Our bandwidth is OC 192, which gives us up to 10 gigs in capacity, while our existing server operations cover upwards of 10,000 square feet between our two locations. Including virtual machines, we operate around 4,000 servers.

6. There usually is a contest going on between technology companies and how geeky they are in comparison. The geekier the better. How would you describe the staff of InMotion Hosting? Geeks, Tech Savvies or just ordinary people knowing their stuff?

I don’t know that I’d describe any of our tech people as “geeky” so much as “incredibly, amazingly proficient at all matters tech.” One thing that’s amazed me is how passionate they are about technology, as well as with experimentation. Most of our main systems people do the exact same things at work that they do at home. They write programs, they develop software, and they solve problems by making things work better. That’s exactly what they do at work — from the most senior systems folks to the newest support hire. They know their stuff, they’re eager to learn new stuff, and they have an amazing ability to fix or improve stuff that could be better.

7. We have entered a new decade and the inspiration is high in most companies. What is your goal during this new year and decade and where are you guys going to put the energy?

Our goals for this year are pretty much the same as they’ve been all along — enhance the customer experience and grow as a company, both in accounts and in employees. We want to continue to decrease customer hold times, increase our response time, and keep our server farms as optimized and efficient as possible. We’re also expanding our product offerings; specifically, we’re launching full site services, including custom design and managed sites.

8. I am very impressed by the support you guys offer. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s quite impressive and I am sure it must take a lot of resources to keep that up and going. What is the average wait time for a support ticket and what do you think makes InMotion Hosting so much better than the rest on the market?

The average wait time for a ticket is 30-60 minutes. That’s from contact to problem solved. You can tell by the numbers of employees we devote to support and systems that we take that aspect of the business pretty seriously, and we’re always looking to improve our response times and services.

9. Each company has their routines throughout the day. How would you describe a day at InMotion Hosting?

The day-to-day routine varies pretty greatly based on which department any given employee works for. For support staff, they come in and check the tickets to see which can be put to rest immediately and which might require escalation. For management, it’s constantly moving between the departments to make things flow easier and, when collaboration between departments is required (which is pretty frequently), making it go as smoothly as possible. For systems — actually, I’m happier not knowing what they do all day. Seriously, though, they’re always on, solving problems; going to the data center to install, service, and upgrade the machines; and generally answering questions from people like me.

10. After talking about work pretty much throughout the interview it’s time to check in on the “break/past time” at InMotion Hosting. What do you guys do for relaxation? Are you playing Wii, inhouse softball or what is your edge as a competitor for the coolest company to work for in 2010?

In a lot of ways, it’s a pretty typical tech company — lots of personality and lots of time spent together in and out of the office.

We’ve got the Wii, we go out together, and we collaborate on projects both in and out of the office. We’re actively involved in company-wide service projects, as well as related endeavors such as WordCamp (local WordPress gatherings/conventions). But mostly, we spend our time in the office thinking of ways we can get better for our customers.

We understand that we host not only people’s websites, but their livelihoods as well. We take it seriously and everything we do revolves around maintaining the level of support that our customers are used to.

Odd Facts

1. Our very first server was named “Asimov,” due to our founder/president’s love of sci-fi novels and movies.

2. Asimov is still in use in our president’s office.

3. Since we have two locations (one in LA, one in Virginia Beach), we do a lot of our collaborative work in chat. One of the ways we manage our workflow is through HUDbot, which is a chat program created by one of our sysadmins, Marco. HUDbot will answer any question you ask him, but still struggles to understand this thing we humans call “love.”

4. We just passed an important milestone as a company — we recently signed up our 100,000th hosted domain.

5. Our longest active client has been with us for nearly 7 years. They’re still on a shared hosting account. Just kidding. I have no idea what kind of account they have. They don’t let me know that kind of stuff.


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