An Interview with Nikola Tanaskovic, COO, AltusHost
As the current COO and one of the founders of AltusHost, Nikola has a lot to share about the company’s development since its founding in 2008. From the start of the company, however, a few goals remain the same: to provide high-quality managed web hosting services at the lowest possible rate and the highest customer satisfaction. We met with Nikola to learn more about how their early challenges they faced shaped these goals, where they see themselves in the web hosting space, and his personal advice for anyone seeking web hosting services.
HostAdvice: Hi Nikola! Can you tell me a bit about yourself, your career path, and how you came to be the COO of AltusHost?
Sure. I've been in the web hosting business almost my entire life. Before that official business step in web hosting, I was always more or less an IT/ICT oriented person.
Back in 2008 I was one of the founders of AltusHost. The entire idea of founding the web hosting originated from our search for a web host for our web design projects. At the time, we were making some websites for our clients. The year 2008 wasn't the best time economically, so on one hand, it really wasn't a very good time to start a good business. But back then IT had a lot of potential, and it still does. Web hosting is one of the backbones of IT services, because of servers, you have IT management and development, so we weren't too afraid.
HostAdvice: Tell me a bit about the history of the company, and how it got started.
We were starting to learn from our current clients and trying to understand the need for a global market. We looked around for a while for the best location of our infrastructure for our servers. Back then we were also resellers as well, but I'll speak more about that later.
We found the Netherlands to be one of the best locations because of all the interconnections and the stability of the infrastructure. We provide services mostly for European clients, so choosing to be located in the Netherlands made sense for everyone.
Basically, AltusHost was developing slowly between 2008-2012, but 2012 was a crucial year for us because we found a new Dutch partner, and we moved our company to the Netherlands.
Before 2012, I can honestly say that we made a lot of mistakes. For instance, at first, we didn’t pay enough attention to the type of clients we chose to be on our network. We were trying to make it easy for people to pay for our services and back in 2008, and as a result, we had a number of clients who attracted a lot of hacking attacks. Servers they were hosted on suffered DDoS attacks almost every day. AltusHost was at risk, from cost and legal perspective, as these clients were in some pretty shady industries at the time. But even so, these mistakes were a kind of a test for us because if once we learn to serve difficult customers then it’s much easier to serve normal customers.
We're much stronger and smarter now after making our mistakes. Just like in your personal life.
HostAdvice: Who is your target audience? How do you see your products being competitive in the web hosting landscape?
Our target audience is mostly small and medium-sized enterprises, but we have a lot of big companies in our portfolio, such as AVG (acquired by Avast software). Web hosting can be a bit overcrowded industry and there are a lot of companies providing various services. At first glance, we all seem to be offering the same thing, but the differences can be huge, from infrastructure to educated and experienced customer support.
Our prices at AltusHost are not the cheapest one in the market, and it's not even something we want to offer, because once you start competing with budget-providers, neither you nor your clients are going to win. If we want to offer stability and top-notch support around the clock, we have to charge for it. Many of our competitors don't see it this way, but as a result, after a few years they aren't in business anymore. Also, most of these companies don't actually invest in development and infrastructure. And that should be crucial, nowadays.
One of the strategies we at AltusHost implement on a corporate level is that 90% of our profits goes to the development of new services, improving our infrastructure, etc.
HostAdvice: Your data centers operate throughout Europe. Why did you choose to focus on this target market? How is it different from other markets?
We operate four data centers across Europe, 2 in the Netherlands, 1 in Sweden, and this month we're opening one in Bulgaria. We chose Europe because our clients were in Europe. Europe has really good infrastructure to offer, especially in the Netherlands. You can build a high-quality network there, it's much easier than in some other places such as Asia, where it's still very expensive to get high-quality bandwidth. In the Netherlands, there are so many network providers on the market it reduces the bandwidth price, while increasing the quality of the overall services. And that’s what our clients can benefit from, as well.
HostAdvice: In addition to offering the traditional shared, dedicated and VPS hosting servers, you offer enterprise level Dedicated hosting. Can you tell me more about that?
That's correct, although we are currently modifying the traditional shared hosting. We are now offering Pure SSD hosting and Pure SSD VPS Hosting with DDoS Protection included free of charge. These days people want SSD for their website, and there's also a huge advantage of SSD storage. The real benefit is for some clients who have demanding databases.
For our shared hosting we use, LiteSpeed and CloudLinux, and we provide daily backups for a very reasonable price.
We offer Enterprise Class Dedicated Servers as well. It's one of the main products we sell. AltusHost uses only premium hardware such as SuperMicro and Dell. Many of our clients receive a customized server that perfectly suits their needs, and that's something that they don’t get from budget providers.
Finding an unsatisfied AltusHost Dedicated Server client is almost impossible because of the overall value they receive from us.
HostAdvice: What's the product breakdown – percentage-wise – among your different service offerings?
I'd say that about 70% of our income comes from providing dedicated servers to business clients all over the globe. Over time, we've shaped our offer. In the early stage of our company we didn't have a clear focus of what we offered to whom. We offered VPS and shared hosting and just a few dedicated servers. Today, it’s completely reversed: Dedicated servers first, with VPS following and shared hosting at the end. A big part of our sale process is to understand exactly what our customers need. We also have a standard offer for when customers don’t quite know what they need at the moment.
The other 20-25% of our income comes from VPS hosting. Shared hosting is only about 5- 10% of our income, but we offer it because it helps our smaller clients grow. Of course, we offer a lot of “value added” services such as Remote Backup Services, Spam Protection, Domain Names Registration, but they aren't our core focus.
HostAdvice: How would you describe your typical customer? Who are some of your biggest customers?
Our typical customer would be a small business owner or entrepreneur trying to develop his own internet business. Or he or she just needs a safe and secure place for their business online and understands how important that is.
We have many clients like this that have been with AltusHost from day one. We helped them to get through the challenges of growing a company in the beginning with reliable and fast infrastructure. Some of our bigger clients, really value this kind of professional relationship. Also, I personally manage some of the customers who have been with us since 2008, and we have many of them. Back in 2008, they had standard shared hosting or reseller hosting, and now, they work on 20 or 30 dedicated servers. These customers grow with AltusHost over the years.
Some of the biggest US and Asian Web Hosting companies are working with us in order to have a proper business presence in Europe. They rent our infrastructure to do so. We are especially proud of this, because in 2008 we were only resellers, and now we've come full circle.
HostAdvice: How many employees do you have today? Where are they located?
We operate teams in four countries: Netherlands, Serbia, Sweden and a team in India. We have around 30 people around the world in total. This includes technical support, marketing and sales. And our team is expanding every day.
HostAdvice: What are your future plans for AltusHost?
This year we'll have a lot of good news to release. As I mentioned, we're opening a new data center in Sofia, Bulgaria. We did this to better serve our gaming clients. The location of the servers are really important to them – so with Bulgaria, Sweden and the Netherlands we've covered pretty much all of Europe. Bulgaria is also a good backup site for our servers in the Netherlands and Sweden.
The plan for the next month is to introduce DDoS Protection as a commercial product to clients who are hosted with some other company, not just for clients on our infrastructure.
And, through our partnership with Acronis, backup and data protection solutions company,
we will provide our current and new clients with storage of their backups (servers, mobile
phones, work stations) in our datacenters across Europe. Right now, AltusHost offers
Remote Backup Services, but this is mainly a super cost-effective solution for Linux servers.
From our new platform, more or less every device can be safe and sound.
HostAdvice: Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
Yes! I would like to share many things, but I'll highlight just a few for people looking for a hosting company to start their own internet business.
First, I want to stress that there's been a massive amount of growth in technology, and this has impacted the web hosting company and infrastructure as well. There are many companies offering similar services to attract customers. A small piece of personal advice would be: Don't look for the cheapest solution, look for the web host that you can really trust. The one that you can call in the middle of the night for any problem or a concern you might have. The one that will be there for you and your business even in the next five to ten years.
Second, I would like to say again how important backups are for any company, regardless of the provider that you choose. No matter what Service Level Agreement you have with a provider or what promises they give you, always make your own backups! I cannot stress enough how important this is. Do it at least once a month. People only realize how important their data is to them when they lose it.
And one more thing: Thanks to Hostadvice for this interview. It's really rare to see a web hosting portal focused on quality reviews and content that care about the trust of their readers.