Ryan Flowers: Top 3 Things I’ve Learned Over 24 Years In The Web Hosting Industry

Ryan Flowers: Top 3 Things I've Learned Over 24 Years In The Web Hosting Industry
  • 6 min read

After Jeff Trumble, our Director of Marketing, talked about his first experiences in the web hosting industry with Rocket.net last year, I’m taking up the challenge and telling you my personal story this time.

My name is Ryan Flowers and proud to be Rocket’s Manager of Customer Success, I’ve been in the hosting industry for 24 years now and seen just about everything over my career.

In this blog post, I’m going to take you through a bit of my own history in the web hosting industry and share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. You’ll also learn how Rocket.net has applied the lessons learned by myself and my colleagues and what that means for our customers.

Humble Beginnings

The year was 1999. I was in my early 20’s, and I had just entered the web hosting industry, which at the time was only a few years old. Linux was less than a decade old, processors were still single core, and 256MB memory was considered a lot. Google wasn’t a word, and Amazon was a rainforest. 

Most hosts were using Bash or Perl scripts to manage their hosting. If there were any control panels they were fully proprietary and took deep pockets to develop. The small web hosting startup I worked for used paper files to keep track of accounts, and account management was fully manual. If a customer signed up a new account, we’d run their credit card with a phone based merchant where we had to enter their credit card number manually.

Early career memories in the web hosting industry
Early in my hosting career after battling a DDOS attack (and almost losing)

 Early servers were powered by Intel Pentium II’s and Celerons with SCSI 1.2GB hard drives. They lived in mini tower cases on garage shelves in our office.  New accounts had to be created using the “useradd” command. Adding a website meant editing Apache configurations by hand. Email addresses, SSL certificates, and even the most basic add-on features were all done The Old Fashioned Way.

To say it was time consuming would be an understatement. Even worse, it was incredibly error prone. A simple typo could render a server offline until it was found and fixed.

Even though there were so many differences between web hosting then and web hosting now, with its fully automated self-serve account management, there were lessons learned early on that still remain fully relevant today.

Lesson #1: Customer Service ALWAYS Comes First

Early in my career, before I had even heard of web hosting (and before it existed) I learned that Customer Service was the foremost part of any product. And I learned that it has to be genuine, not some contrived version of sincerity aimed at pleasing customers. 

Through the years, I have done my best to instill customer service values into hundreds of people from every inhabitable continent. What I learned as a result is that good customer service doesn’t start with good training: It starts with good hiring practices. It is far more important that somebody has the right attitude than the right skill set. Skills can be taught, but almost no amount of training can cause somebody to care

At Rocket.net, we’ve applied these lessons to great effect. It all starts with hiring people who genuinely care about their customers. They are equally passionate about taking care of Rocket.net’s customers and propagating our company culture both internally and externally.

I was so excited to join the team for my first Rocket.net onsite meeting in Jupiter Florida!
I was so excited to join the team for my first Rocket.net onsite meeting in Jupiter Florida!

Although we received some serious early traction in the WordPress hosting community because of our unmatched speed and performance, it’s always been our customer support that makes Rocket better than all the other hosting companies out there.

The results stand on their own. Rocket.net’s Customer Service and Technical Support is a leader in our space, as reflected in our Trustpilot reviews and countless independent online reviews. Our customers always come first.

Lesson #2: Do One Thing Very Well

Diversity is as important as any of the other qualities that a company might possess. A strong team is made up of diverse people of various cultures, backgrounds and levels of experience. But when it comes to a company’s core competencies, diversity is an enemy. 

I’ve personally seen the ill consequences of too much product diversity at more than one company. In the case of my first hosting job, we attempted to make use of unused bandwidth by selling dial-up services, back when dialup hadn’t yet gone the way of the rotary phone. Consultants were hired, equipment was purchased, and some customers were gained. In the end we shut down the service and resold for a nationwide dialup ISP. It added to our pocketbook slightly, and bolstered our services portfolio, but didn’t add to our value and to our core competency: Web Hosting.

Years later, I witnessed a company overreach their expertise when they forced themselves into a specialized niche in the Web Hosting industry all for the sake of an extra buck. Unfortunately that ended in absolute disaster, hurting both the company and the customers who were affected.

For these reasons, it’s important to do one thing very well, and stick to it. I’m proud to say that at Rocket.net, we’ve done just that. Early on, we rejected the idea of even offering DNS or email hosting. Why? Because there are already companies that are doing great work in those spaces: Why duplicate the effort if it doesn’t add value for our customers? 

This has allowed Rocket.net to do one thing very well:  Provide the World’s fastest WordPress hosting.

Lesson #3: Having The Right Web Host Matters

When you work in the web hosting industry, there are certain things that become normal, even if you don’t like them. Take email for example. Email hosting is very hard to do right, and almost every hosting company out there will admit that. That isn’t to say it’s impossible to do right, but it’s hard, and there’s a reason that there are companies who specialize in only email hosting. This is a legitimately normal view.

But there are other “normal” views of hosting that I learned over the years that aren’t legitimate. The first of these is “your host’s security doesn’t matter as long as your site is secure by being up to date” and the second is that “hosting doesn’t matter when it comes to site speed: If your site is slow, it’s your fault.”

At the extreme ends of the spectrum there are some elements of truth to both of these assertions, but these aren’t nearly as universal as I expected. And what’s interesting is that I’d never have known the difference had I not started working at Rocket.net. What do I mean?

What Rocket.net has taught me is that a fast site is going to be slow on a slow host. We regularly see customers with sites that they’ve optimized endlessly with no real results until their site is migrated to Rocket.net. The moment they move it over, the site is faster with TTFB’s under 100ms worldwide, and they are instantly getting much higher scores on various web tests. Hosting matters.

The other thing that Rocket.net has taught me is that if your site is getting hacked, it might not be your fault. Most hosts don’t have the high level of protection that our Enterprise WAF, coupled with Imunify360 on the nodes, can provide. Instead, they resort to victim blaming and perpetuating the myth that “you’ll have this problem at any host until you fix it.” 

So yes, having the right host matters especially when it comes to speed and security. And for WordPress, Rocket.net is the right host.

Trust Your Business With True Web Hosting Industry Experts!

These are not the only lessons I’ve learned in the last 24 years, but they stand out the most to me. And what’s more, they’re the lessons that have been baked right into Rocket.net. Our customers rave about our outstanding customer service and technical support and what that’s meant to them in times of need.

And we’re well known for proving our point: Your WordPress site is in the right place at Rocket.net for all the right reasons.

New call-to-action

BTW – Looking to start your own journey in the web hosting industry? Make sure to visit our careers page for open positions available at Rocket.net!