Mason Crollie, the founder and CEO of Hosting Specialists in the United Kingdom, is a young main with great ambitions and goals. We had the opportunity to discuss what it's like building a hosting company in the UK, how he plans to beat his competitors, and how he loves to contribute to cool technology projects.
HostAdvice: Hi Mason - Can you please start by telling me a little bit about yourself and your background?
I’m a highly driven individual with a keen interest in hosting. I’ve been interested in hosting for as long as I can remember. Since a young age I was always interested in hosting forums online based on my various hobbies at the time. In doing so I then found my love for hosting.
I wasn’t satisfied with just working at a hosting company, I wanted to run one – my way. After a few years of working with hosting companies and hosting support outsourcing companies, I decided to start Hosting Specialists, carrying over my knowledge and experience to launch and operate the company.
HostAdvice: When and why did you decide to establish Hosting Specialists?
After offering web hosting for over a year privately to friends and family, both personal and business, I decided to launch Hosting Specialists. After a few months of planning and spending lots of money getting things in place, Hosting Specialists launched smoothly on the 8th of December 2015 and has had a very promising start.
HostAdvice: Is running Hosting Specialists a full-time job for you, or is it something that runs on its own to a large extent? How big is your staff?
I have invested a lot of time and money into automation. While I’ve made sure that it is very easy to contact our staff via live chat, support ticket and telephone, I have personally always preferred for things to be automatic when I am the customer. The last thing I would want as a customer is to purchase some web hosting and have to wait 48 hours for it to be set up. We have made it so that there is less need to contact our support team to get things done. Although, if you do need us, we’re ready and waiting! For this reason, I have invested a lot into having as many processes automatic - for example, all service setups, administration tasks etc. This frees up more time for the staff team to get to work on the more serious problems.
While Hosting Specialists does take up a lot of time for me, it does leave me some time to do what I want to do outside of the business.
HostAdvice: What do you like to do outside of the business?
I like to do many things outside of the business I like to ride my motorcycle, meet with friends and go on Holidays to different countries. I sometimes like to stay indoors, browse the internet, including social media, forums and of course, watch YouTube videos!
HostAdvice: Who is your target audience? How do you market to them?
When Hosting Specialists was launched it already had a small client base of small UK businesses and personal clients, so the original intention was to target small/medium UK businesses. After a few months, it became apparent that we were making a lot of sales overseas, especially in USA, for personal and business clients that wanted servers in the UK for their European extension of their business etc.
The UK is a big target market for any company, having the 5th largest economy in the World. In terms of marketing to UK clients, it isn’t always easy. I think the best way of finding new clients in the UK, or anywhere in the World, is word of mouth. People will always talk about and recommend things that they like. Many people love the service that we provide.
HostAdvice: How do you feel you are better or different than your local competitors?
In terms of local competitors, many if not all, are charging excessive amounts of money to local businesses that need a website but don’t have the knowledge or experience to get one online themselves. We have many clients on a managed service that suits them, without charging over the top prices.
I’d also challenge a lot of local competitors to beat our current uptime records. We’ve not seen downtime on most servers since the company was launched, thanks to brand new, top of the range hardware, great network and DDoS protection as standard across all services.
Finally, I feel our customer support experience is much more personalized and quicker than others I have experienced locally in the previous years. Most helpdesks have the “conveyor belt” feel to them. By this I mean a support ticket is just another job to be passed down the line of staff and marked complete. We like to get to know our clients and go the extra mile to ensure we have done everything we can to support them and their website/business.
HostAdvice: About how many customers do you have today? How do they break down among your different service offerings?
We currently have just over 4,000 clients using/having used our services. At this time, we have 2,384 active services. This includes domains. Our VPS services are by far our most popular service, followed by shared hosting/domain registration, then dedicated servers. We are looking to expand and increase growth of our dedicated server services over the coming year.
HostAdvice: What are your projections for your future growth?
I am very hopeful for the future of Hosting Specialists. I can see the company growing a lot, making space for many more product lines to be introduced and of course more staff members. A very exciting future ahead!
HostAdvice: Are all of your customers UK-based or do you also have companies from outside the UK that want to have a presence in the UK?
As mentioned earlier, we have seen a huge increase in companies from outside of the UK that are looking to expand their company into the UK/European market. This is very exciting for us and other UK based hosts.
HostAdvice: Does the UK market differ in any significant ways from the US or North American market?
Data center costs are considerably higher in the UK compared with costs in the US due to power/fuel and land prices in this country. I’d say that the additional cost equipment having to be shipped into the UK probably also has an effect on the pricing. This does not affect us much as we do not focus on low end services. We focus on high end services with managed support for clients that need the best of the best, in terms of both their services and support.
HostAdvice: Did you build your own data center? What can you tell me about it?
We own all of our equipment that we sell to our clients but we rent a private suite with-in a facility in Coventry, UK. We have 24/7 access to all of our equipment and have a great relationship with the management team at the data center. The data center is staffed 24/7 and has very quick remote response times. We have staff members not far from the data center at all times in case we need to visit in an emergency.
HostAdvice: I see on your web site that in addition to the usual shared, VPS, and dedicated hosting, you also offer collocation. Can you please explain what exactly that is, how it differs from dedicated hosting, and when/why I would opt for that hosting solution?
Yes, we offer colocation, in addition to all of the other standard services. We have seen over time that some medium sized businesses like to purchase their own servers outright, or already have their own servers, but want to host them off-site. We offer a secure, fast and redundant place for their servers to be housed at affordable costs. The client only has to pay for the power, bandwidth and physical space taken up in the rack each month which often reduces costs for the company, compared with renting servers.
HostAdvice: On the other hand, I don’t see that you currently offer any sort of “cloud” hosting. Why is that? Do you have plans for that?
Cloud hosting is something that we have considered previously and are looking to expand to in the future, but right now, we are focusing on expanding our current services more before moving onto cloud.
Currently, we are very close to launching a Windows VPS product line as we are seeing popular demand for this in our sales support.
HostAdvice: Why do you think that is?
This is probably due to the simplicity of Windows and the fact that gaming is becoming more popular. Everybody wants to host their own game server these days and it’s only becoming easier and more affordable to do so. Hosting a game server on a Windows VPS is often the choice made by clients due to compatibility with the game they want to run (Windows only) and the ease of use compared with Linux.
HostAdvice: What are some of the key points you would share with someone who is looking for a new web hosting service?
I recommend that anyone who is not experienced with web hosting but needs a website to contact the web hosting company before making any purchases. Use their sales team to find exactly what you need. If you have lots of questions, ask all of them. Make sure you find out the SLAs. You want to find a web hosting company that has outstanding uptime, fast & personalized support etc. There is nothing worse than getting canned responses from support staff. My personal key point when choosing a host is that they have either live chat or a telephone number, if not, both! When I need assistance with a product or service, I am likely to need it fast.
Don’t hesitate to pay a little bit more per month if you know it’s going to get you a better service and support. If the service is cheaper than everywhere else, it’s probably not going to be as good as what you’d get everywhere else.
HostAdvice: How do you see the hosting market evolving – in the next 1, 2, and 5 years?
I can see it going many ways. Currently there are many different types of hosting for many different types of audience. I can see the cheaper, lower end hosting getting cheaper and cheaper, while the higher end hosting getting more powerful. The evolution and development of technology over the years is also causing prices on the higher end hosting to go down slightly.
HostAdvice: I noticed your name associated with an application called Israel Under Attack – can you tell me a little about that and how/why you got involved with it?
Sure, I was approached on a technology forum, being known on that forum for my knowledge in the hosting sector, to assist with getting the website online and protected from DDoS attacks. The website was a real-time map that monitored the path of rockets being launched from Gaza to Israel.
As you can imagine, the war between Israel and Palestine is a two sided argument and some groups online that opposed the objective of the website launched DDoS attacks etc. I was in control of keeping the website online during these times.
I decided that since this was such a technologically cool project, that I would fund all of the hosting needs free of charge. I also offered any input possible and become personal friends with Samuel Cardillo, the founder of Israel Under Attack.
Regardless of the politics and beliefs on the matter above, I was just so fascinated by the clever technology and coding behind the website that I wanted to support it.
The website and algorithms behind the website were sold later that year and the new owner of the website decided to take the website offline to protect the algorithms.
If anyone has any exciting projects such as the above, I’d also invite them to create a sales support ticket and ask for me. Let me know a little bit about the project/idea. Who knows, I am interested in doing this again, many times over. It’s very exciting!