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Interview: Greg Lubbelinkhof of BudgetHost

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Here Ethan interviews Greg Lubbelinkhof of BudgetHost (external link) Inc, a Canadian web hosting company.

Lowter: To start off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Greg Lubbelinkhof. I live in a small town in Ontario, Canada. I recently married the love of my life, Paige. She is the most amazing thing to happen to me in my 21+ years. I enjoy playing and watching sports, and keeping up to date with local and international news. Like most hosts, I am a bit of a computer geek as well.

Lowter: Can you give us a brief background about your current hosting company, BudgetHost?

BudgetHost was incorporated in early 2005 and has since grown to host over one hundred customers and hundreds of domains. We provide 24/7 support to our clients and amazing prices and services.

Lowter: How did you get started with web hosting?

Being the computer geek in my family, someone asked me to setup a hosting account for them about seven years ago. Being that I did not know much about it then, I picked a large company that I had heard of before. Once I learned how easy it was to setup, I went ahead and setup a few sites of my own. After awhile, though, I got frustrated by the usability of their control panels and lack of support. So I found out about reseller accounts, which allow you to host multiple domains. That eventually led to me starting a company called Hometown Hosting in late 2003, which I ended up selling in late 2004. Before selling Hometown Hosting, it had grown to hundreds of clients and it hosted over 1500 domains.

Lowter: As a web hosting provider, how does your average work day go? Many people want to go into web hosting because they believe working at home will be more flexible. How true is this?

Any small business owner will tell you that there usually are not set hours, and hosting is no different. Our clients are all around the world in different time zones, so we try our best to get back to them all as fast as possible. Having 24/7 support is a must, as far as I am concerned; 9-5 support just will not cut it for someone around the world, whom is sleeping during those hours. I, like many other hosting owners, do not have set hours; I work the hours that are needed each day, whether that be a few hours a day or 16 hours per day.

Lowter: Previously you owned Hometown Hosting, what did you learn from its sale? How do you think you benefited from it when you opened a second web hosting company?

I sold Hometown Hosting in November 2004. At the time, it felt like the right thing to do, and I left it in what I felt were capable hands. Unfortunately, that company later sold to another company - where things completely fell apart. I felt extremely bad about that whole situation - even though the company I sold to did a pretty good job - the next sale went wrong. I felt that I had in some way betrayed my former customers. I had already started to really miss being a part of the hosting industry and that situation made me want to return even more with a new brand and company. I wanted to provide the same great service I offered when I had Hometown Hosting.

Lowter: Do you find web hosting a profitable business? What have you noticed about the profitability of the market in general over the past year?

It can be. Starting up, we have put a lot of money into infrastructure to make our growth easier, so we do not expect to be overly profitable for the first year. In the long run, hosting can be very profitable when you offer services that can still pay the bills. The market, in general, is far less profitable then it once was, but many people still make a very good living at it.

Lowter: What do you think helps the most to make a web host successful? Low costs? Great support? Reliable servers?

I think uptime is king, because if the server is always online then support is not as important and the cost is worthwhile. However, support and cost can be what separates a company. Being able to offer amazing uptime and great support all at an affordable price is what BudgetHost strives for, and is what we feel our customers deserve.

Lowter: Support is a crucial factor in web hosting. What mediums of support do you think are most effective? Which one do your customers use most often?

We have offered 24/7 ticket and email support since the start. We feel this is probably the best medium of communicating with our customers about their support issues. Phone support can be valuable, but it can also be a hindrance - it is very difficult to explain to a person a lengthy error over the phone. Language is also a major barrier, being that we service the international market, accents and poor English can make things so much more difficult. We have recently started offering live-chat as an option, but it is not available 24/7. It may be the best option, but it can raise costs on hosting accounts a great deal. When we can provide ticket responses in less then thirty minutes, we feel it works just as well and keeps hosting costs as low as possible.

Lowter: Personally, why do you think your customers choose BudgetHost?

Because of our personal approach and great services. If a customer can relate to the company and people they are dealing with, it goes a long way to getting them signed up. By providing amazing uptime, great support, and affordable prices, we can bring the customers to our site and we sell them on us once they get there. I feel as the owner of the company that if I can sell a potential client on me, then selling them on the hosting becomes a whole lot easier.

I appreciate the chance to share some of my thoughts and ideas with you at Lowter, you have an amazing site, full of resources that are useful to all webmasters. Kudos!

Lowter: Which skills and qualities do you think are most important for running a successful web hosting business?

Being honest and responsive to your customers is very important. From my time in the hosting industry, the past few years I cannot count how many "customers" I would now consider friends. Getting to know a customer on a more personal level is great for all concerned, as the hosting operator; it is enjoyable and helps build stronger bonds. A customer who knows you on a more personal level is much less likely to jump over to another host with a special promotion. As a client, I would hope that as they get to know me, they will see me as a real person, and see things as more then just business, but a personal friendship.

Lowter: Do you have any words of encouragement or hints to others hoping to build a web hosting business?

Be prepared! You need to be prepared on so many levels. You need to be prepared to spend the money to do things right, to take a loss if something happens, and to upgrade services when needed. Your need to be prepared to put a tremendous amount of time and energy into the company. You need to have the support of your family; this is very important. If your significant other does not support your new business, then it is destined to become a problem. Be prepared to succeed! Many hosts that become popular are not ready for the growth of their company and end up having many problems in the growing stages; so always plan ahead.

I would like to thank Ethan and Lowter for the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with your community.