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Should Advantagecom offer services based on another company's server hardware and datacenter?
Yes. If Advantagecom is considering it, then it must be good. [ 2 ]  [11.11%]
Yes. It's a great idea and I can live with the risks. [ 2 ]  [11.11%]
Yes. I like the idea of saving money and I'd make use of the extra resources, but I'm unsure if the risks would be an issue for me. [ 1 ]  [5.56%]
Maybe. I would wait and see how well other people liked it. [ 3 ]  [16.67%]
No. Advantagecom's current offerings are just fine. [ 3 ]  [16.67%]
No. I wouldn't be able to live with the uncertainty regarding reliability and price. [ 5 ]  [27.78%]
No. I've been burned by other companies and will only trust a purely "Advantagecom only" solution for my hosting needs. [ 2 ]  [11.11%]
Total Votes: 18
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andy
  Posted on Nov 16 2004, 01:22 PM
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Group: Advantagecom Staff
Posts: 4,340
Member No.: 9
Joined: 12-July 02



It has always been Advantagecom's goal to remove as much uncertainty from our hosting offerings as is possible. We've done this by building our own small datacenter in our own leased building and by buying/leasing all of our own hardware and software. Wherever possible, we've minimized our reliance on outside companies in the delivery of our services. This has worked well for us, but has often put us at a price disadvantage versus our competition which has usually resold (in some form) another company's cut-rate services.

These days, there are several reputable dedicated server firms offering tremendous deals on high-end dedicated servers (dual 2.8GHz Xeon, 3x73GB SCSI RAID 5, 4GB RAM, 2000GB of monthly data transfer). These deals are upwards of $500/month, but are still much less expensive than our own costs to get such hardware and data transfer at our own facility. Also, they can be purchased in larger volumes than we can afford on our own due to our limited access to investment capital. The low priced deals are due, in part, to other better capitalized companies attempting to take market share by deferring their expense recognition over longer periods. They can also afford to be in an extended (18 months or longer) cash flow negative position on their server and network investments due to their access to large amounts of investment capital. Another factor is location and labor costs. Labor costs in Washington state (our location) tend to be some of the highest in the nation due to poor legislative and executive decisions by this state's government over the years. Often, these deals are from companies in states like Texas, where labor is cheap and plentiful. Our location also forces many telecom services to be delivered by the expensive incumbent telephone monopoly, Qwest. The good deals are often from companies whose physical location gives them access to competitive telecom rates due to a wide selection of available local telecom service companies. As you can see, there are a variety of factors that keep our costs high while the competition is able to gain access to lower costs regularly.

So, my question, while relatively simple at first glance, has several key issues that must be considered.

If you could get a VPS or shared hosting account from Advantagecom that includes much more disk space, more data transfer, and more CPU power for about the same price as our current offerings, but that VPS or shared hosting account was from a datacenter that we don't own using hardware that we don't own and can't repair quickly in the event of a server outage since it is outside our geographic area, would that be of interest to you?

We would support the hosting account, we'd manage the server, we'd do the off-site data backups for the server, and we'd be able to remotely reboot and diagnose problems through remote management hardware. For all intents and purposes, it would be Advantagecom web hosting, but the traceroute would go to a different physical location than our office. However, if there is a critical failure other than a disk drive (which is handled by RAID), we have to rely on an outside company to do the repairs in an expedient and professional manner since they would own the server, the datacenter the server resides in, and the network used by the server.

In the past, reliance on outside companies to do their jobs timely and competently has been problematic for us, which is why this isn't the completely obvious decision it might appear to be.

Not only do they have to be able to do their jobs in a timely and competent manner, but the company providing the servers should be able to stay in business indefinitely without significantly changing their pricing. After all, they are often taking losses over an extended period of time in hopes of gaining market share, which can backfire if not closely managed. That is the real unknown. Over the last 8 years I've been involved with the hosting industry, I've seen hosting companies and datacenters come and go and change hands almost yearly. In nearly every case, the service suffers and prices increase.

So, here are the pros and cons, as I see them, for you as a customer of Advantagecom considering purchasing a plan like this.

Pros:
1. Same prices you're used to, but much larger amounts of included resources (disk space, data transfer, CPU).
2. Support from Advantagecom, just like any other account we offer.
3. A potentially faster network due to gigabit ethernet backbone links.
4. Newer server hardware available sooner and in nearly unlimited quantities.

Cons:
1. Potentially longer mean time to repair server and network outages. For instance, replacing a hard drive or failed power supply might take a few hours for a server in our own facility, but that same operation could take a week for a server at another company's facility.
2. Potentially variable pricing if Advantagecom's costs unexpectedly increase.
3. Second hand information regarding any outages or maintenance.
4. Several unknowns regarding the quality of the workmanship on the server or physical environment in which the server resides.
5. A potential extra charge for daily data backups since it may not be cost justifiable to automatically provide daily data backups for everyone using this type of account due to the fact that the data backups would likely use the monthly data transfer allotment of the server, causing overage charges to Advantagecom.
6. The unlikely possibility that the server could become inaccessible if the company selling services to Advantagecom goes out of business without making proper arrangements for their customers (I've seen it happen, unfortunately).


If the poll doesn't have the option you want or you would like to ask questions about how something would work with that potential type of plan, please post on this thread.


--------------------
Sincerely,
Andrew Kinney
CTO, Advantagecom Networks

Please do not private message me. My regular management duties preclude responding to every customer that sends me a support issue. Instead, post on the forum or contact tech support.
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andy
Posted on Nov 16 2004, 06:00 PM
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Group: Advantagecom Staff
Posts: 4,340
Member No.: 9
Joined: 12-July 02



Just so people know, since it might not be readily apparent, I don't plan to make a unilateral decision based on this information. Whatever decisions I do or don't make will take into account the wide variety of opinions represented by our customers. In other words, if the majority of our customers thought this was a great idea, we would still continue to sell plans as we do today from our own facility, but there would be additional plans available to choose from that are clearly labeled as using 'outsourced' servers and datacenters.

Since our most loyal customers tend to be the least vocal about their needs, I am hoping to get some active discussion on this topic so I can get a fairly balanced picture of what people are thinking about Advantagecom versus the competition. Anyone have any comments about it?


--------------------
Sincerely,
Andrew Kinney
CTO, Advantagecom Networks

Please do not private message me. My regular management duties preclude responding to every customer that sends me a support issue. Instead, post on the forum or contact tech support.
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fabrizio
Posted on Nov 16 2004, 11:05 PM
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Group: Members
Posts: 156
Member No.: 19
Joined: 16-July 02



Andy, just one word: reliability. That's why I kept you for so many years as my web hosting service.

Personally I prefer to spend a little more to have a reliable service.

Please, keep it!

Sincerely,
Fabrizio Ferrari
Virtual Sheet Music, Inc.


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-----------------------------------------
Fabrizio Ferrari - 'Violinist, contemporary and computer music composer'
E-MAIL: fabrizio@virtualsheetmusic.com
http://www.musicianspage.com
http://www.virtualsheetmusic.com
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mrickert
Posted on Nov 17 2004, 07:28 AM
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Joined: 2-December 03



I would look at it on a wait and see basis. The most important thing to me, and surely to many other customers, is reliability. If the "uptime" would be about the same, getting more bang for your buck sounds great. I chose Advantagecom because of the great customer service and reliability. You guys are amazing at fixing problems when they occur. How many hosting companies will have people get out of bed at 3am and fix a problem because their pager went off? I've been with 3 other companies and Advantagecom is by far the best I've ever used. I really think that moving in this direction could be a great idea, but I (along with many other customers I'm sure) would need to see some "hard data" dealing with respone times, uptime, etc. It is a bit scary to go from something that is reliable and reaches all your expectations, to something that you are unsure of. Whatever the outcome is, I'm very confident that Advantagecom will make the correct choice, you guys haven't let me down (yet) wink2.gif

Matt Rickert
V and V Appliance Parts Inc.
www.vvapplianceparts.com
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gyoungjr
Posted on Nov 17 2004, 10:34 AM
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Joined: 8-December 03



My opinion is that Advantagecom is a great value, and the exception rather than the norm in hosting companies.

With Advantagecom we always know what's going on, have the piece of mind that we can call up a person who can put their hands on the actual equipment our site is hosted on... and know the person on the other end is a direct recipient of our money and therefore much more interested and motivated to do a quality job.

Unfortunately we've fell victim to the "cons" many times. In particular #3 (second hand or no information about outages).. and worst of all #6 (twice!). I remember one occasion well ... after searching, doing whois lookups, etc for 3 days I finally found somebody "in the know". Her response to my concerns, "Don't worry, we aren't billing you any longer". How about my data? "All the servers have been wiped, and sold"...

I really hope that Advantagecom will maintain some "in house" solutions. I know it's probably hard to market, but Advantagecom really is a great deal. For us, it's almost like having our own datacenter and staff. We know the equipment is being well taken care of and monitored... and when the occasional problems arise we are kept informed of exactly what's going on.


Glenn Young
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andy
Posted on Nov 17 2004, 12:25 PM
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Group: Advantagecom Staff
Posts: 4,340
Member No.: 9
Joined: 12-July 02



QUOTE
I really hope that Advantagecom will maintain some "in house" solutions.


That part is definite. Regardless of how marketable they are, we will be maintaining and continuing to create new in-house solutions because we have some customers, both local and abroad, that value many of the same aspects of hosting with Advantagecom that you do. Over the years we've done very well at attracting and retaining refugees from other hosting companies.

I guess that the real issue here is that I'd like to be able to grow the company a little faster than it does naturally, but in the face of competition from much larger companies and resellers that claim to be large companies, we're having a rough time making it happen with our in-house costs versus typical price expectations by the market at large.


--------------------
Sincerely,
Andrew Kinney
CTO, Advantagecom Networks

Please do not private message me. My regular management duties preclude responding to every customer that sends me a support issue. Instead, post on the forum or contact tech support.
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BobLoveland
Posted on Nov 18 2004, 08:12 PM
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I think so long as you offer In-House as well as Out-House.. LOL laugh.gif things would be fine. Personally, I would opt for In-House. I like knowing where my sites are and have been totally satisfied with your services for years. So much that I have recommended it to everyone I know for hosting.

Me, I'd rather be on the shared U-pipe than anywhere else.. Have to many assosciates get burned by #6. They didnt even get a backup copy of the site they paid big bucks to have designed.

Bob.
............................................................
Sure you can host it somewhere else, but why would you? www.Schmolie.com
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BobLoveland
Posted on Dec 15 2004, 12:54 PM
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Actually, now that some time has passed, I believe that you SHOULD offer other plans even if hosted elsewhere, so long as it is in addition to what you are already doing.
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andy
Posted on Dec 16 2004, 07:27 AM
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Group: Advantagecom Staff
Posts: 4,340
Member No.: 9
Joined: 12-July 02



QUOTE
Actually, now that some time has passed, I believe that you SHOULD offer other plans even if hosted elsewhere, so long as it is in addition to what you are already doing.


What changed your mind? I'm always curious what causes our customers' opinions to change.


--------------------
Sincerely,
Andrew Kinney
CTO, Advantagecom Networks

Please do not private message me. My regular management duties preclude responding to every customer that sends me a support issue. Instead, post on the forum or contact tech support.
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Fest3er
Posted on Jan 5 2005, 02:01 PM
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The poll didn't seem to have an option for me, so here I spew.

I think outsourcing is a good idea for *some* things, such as people who just need a 'simple' web site, or some other 'limited' service. It might even make sense for people whose sites don't have all that much traffic, even though the website requires PHP and shell access. I don't think it would make sense for a business that truly requires the website be up and running 24x7. But that's really rather immaterial.

What does matter is that the outside source has a solid reputation for being reliable, punctual, courteous and customer-driven. Basically, if the outside source doesn't come pretty darned close to your own standards, it should not be further considered. I have almost no complaints about the services AdvantageCom has provided. The servers have been reliable, I've never lost any data, and I can't tell if any of the virtual servers interfere with each other. Except for that one protocol change, email operation has been rock solid. I'm in no hurry to run away.

And let us not forget security. Information and data security is very important. Any outsourcer must have rock solid security. I want to know that any data backups or copies you make will not fall into improper hands. Granted, a computer on the internet is not very secure, but there's a definite difference between having to hack into a reasonably protected system and simply using cpio to extract data from a mishandled backup tape.

So:
  • find an outsource that meets or exceeds your own standards and reputation
  • decide which products and services will help you grow and still provide excellent value to the customer
  • grow your business
  • look back only to see where you've been and as a check to make sure you're still headed
    in the right direction.

So long as you (and your outsourcers) continue to provide good value and prompt and secure services, it doesn't really matter where the computers are located. Shoot. Put 'em in India, Ireland or Mongolia, or Atlanta, Roanoke, Chicago or Paducah. Put 'em whereever you can find solid, trustworthy, hard-working, honest people. If they're as good as you are, there's no difference.

Neal
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andy
Posted on Jan 6 2005, 09:45 AM
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Group: Advantagecom Staff
Posts: 4,340
Member No.: 9
Joined: 12-July 02



QUOTE
What does matter is that the outside source has a solid reputation for being reliable, punctual, courteous and customer-driven. Basically, if the outside source doesn't come pretty darned close to your own standards, it should not be further considered.


This was a 'given' from my perspective, but I guess I should have stated that. Indeed, the outsource facility would have to have a solid reputation. If I wouldn't trust them with our simplywebhosting.com site, then I certainly wouldn't trust them with any customer web sites.

Having been a consumer of web hosting services for a little over 9 years and having run a hosting company for over 6 years, I've had a bit of time to develop standards regarding necessary quality and reliability of web hosting services. wink2.gif

Suffice it to say that we'd only buy from companies that are doing work equal to or better than what we could do with our own hardware in our own facility. That's how the competitive advantage of outsourcing would be derived. I'm certainly going to do whatever I can to minimize any potential impact on our reputation and that involves selecting a high quality company for any outsourced services.

Of course, I'm never going to be as confident in an outside company handling a server as I am in this company. I've hand picked the staff here, designed and built the network, and made all the decisions regarding our connectivity. Those are all unknowns when dealing with another company. A reputation, as I've learned, is only as good as the standards set by the users and users seem to have varying standards.

At any rate, I digress. You'll probably see something related to this show up in our service offerings in the next few weeks.


--------------------
Sincerely,
Andrew Kinney
CTO, Advantagecom Networks

Please do not private message me. My regular management duties preclude responding to every customer that sends me a support issue. Instead, post on the forum or contact tech support.
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