Interview with Zak Boca of SingleHop

SingleHop hosting industry

If you are looking for a dedicated hosting deal, SingleHop Inc. is a name that you must not miss. Founded by Zak Boca and Dan Ushman in 2006, the company grew exponentially (see Google Insights), surged to a high revenue record recently, and is now a major player in the industry.

To help you learn more about SingleHop, I’m honored to have Zak Boca, founder and CEO of the company, in this interview. Without any further delay, here goes our Q & A session.

Q&A with SingleHop CEO, Zak Boca

Hi there, thanks a lot for being with us today. Please introduce yourself and your company SingleHop.

Zak Boca, CEO of SingleHop. My responsibilities include general oversight and direction of the company.

SingleHop is a fun & energetic provider of web hosting services; specifically, we (presently) provide unmanaged and managed hosting services as well as complex hosting such as large web and database cluster configurations. SingleHop has been providing services since 2006, and today we host over 4,000 dedicated servers.

Thanks for the intro! SingleHop marked over 100% y-o-y revenue increase* in year 2009 and the company now claims itself as the ‘Fastest Growing Dedicated Server Company’. Can you pinpoint what exactly led to SingleHop’s success?

I think a variety of things happened, and continue to happen. I like to say that we’re always firing on all cylinders, which means essentially that we’re a very active company. We are constantly working to improve our LEAP platform. So much so, we launched LEAP iPad the day the iPad was released, but really to pinpoint exactly what it is that is contributing to our growth is impossible. We have quite a neat company culture going on, where every client is placed in to a portfolio, which is managed by an Account Executive. Each portfolio is given resources, such as Account Managers, subpages along with specials to offer clients, and the control over what happens within the portfolio.

*Ref: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUS132751+30-Oct-2009+PRN20091030

Speaking about LEAP, I don’t see many other hosting providers offer something similar. What can we know more about the Ajax based webtop?

LEAP is our client facing system. To power LEAP requires a great deal of backend tasks, and systems. The vast majority of what we develop is done on the backend, then what’s valuable to the client is extended to the client via LEAP. While that’s evident, it’s just very impressive the amount of automation our business has on the backend.

For example, spammers are a huge problem in the industry for providers like us. A spammer signs up, and if we don’t catch it as fraud, they’ll get a server (within minutes mind you :)), and send out a lot of email. When we cancel that server, the IP’s are put back in our provisionable IP’s. When a new client signs up, we automatically scan the IP’s against RBL’s to ensure we don’t give the client dirty IP’s. It’s simple, yet incredibly important, though not so evident to the client via LEAP.

LEAP to me is impressive; though it shows only a very small portion of the automation it takes to run a company like SingleHop operationally. We focus an incredible amount on automation, which keeps us lean and mean. To the best of my knowledge, if you divided our revenue and employees, to get our revenue per employee, we’ll have the highest revenue per employee. This is an important number to manage closely for a growing business, and is indicative of exactly how automated our company is. A small percentage of those tools are extended to LEAP, the vast majority are used on the backend to manage the business.

I am just a guy with little IT knowledge and wish to start a hosting-reselling business. How can I do this with SingleHop?

Tandem is the SingleHop reseller program, which simply put is the best in the industry. As a Tandem Reseller, you get unlimited free SSL’s (wildcard SSL’s as well), free R1Soft backups, and Tandem Panel (tandem mobile, tandem widget etc.). Basically, it allows you be able to sell servers, and leverage the buying power that SingleHop has, and the investments we’ve made in to the automation.

The idea is that you login to Tandem, upload your logo, are given a private-labeled URL where you clients can manage their servers, marketing material with your logo, and a number of great selling tools, all put together to allow you to sell more servers.

I owned a large shared hosting company prior to SingleHop. I don’t recall the exact number, but we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars a year buying SSL’s. Leveraging another companies investment to get those for free would have been incredible, and leveraging the millions that have gone in to the automation of services to get something like Tandem Panel would have been a big hit as well.

Your expertise in hosting industry is extremely valuable to some of our readers. Please advise how we should choose between dedicated and cloud hosting. What kind of websites needs cloud; and when should we just stick with the old dedicated hosting solutions?

Go with cloud if you don’t need a dedicated server, but you have to keep in mind that the way clouds are sold now the MOST that you can scale to is a dedicated server. In other words, these cloud providers are NOT putting CPU & RAM on the cloud- you are still limited to the CPU & RAM on the server you are on. You can only scale from a VPS to a dedicated server, so I don’t see much overlap with cloud and dedicated. I know we aren’t slowing down, as a result of cloud computing, but here’s what I recommend.

Wait for Cascade , the SingleHop cloud to come out (sorry, I needed a plug here!), or select a VPS cloud if you’re looking to save money and have limited growth projections. Otherwise, stick to a dedicated server.

What are the changes you expect in web hosting industry as well as SingleHop in the next 5 years?

From a business point of view, I see the industry continuing to consolidate. Try this- name 10 dedicated server providers with any scale. The number of providers has reduced over the past couple of years, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get in to the business. Shared hosting is equally difficult to get in to, as a result of high customer acquisition costs. We personally feel that companies with strong reseller channels will emerge the strong players, hence the Tandem push.

Cloud we see developing, and while we’re late to the game with an offering, we feel strongly that we’ll positively change the way cloud computing is currently offered. I couldn’t be more excited, and I’m not sure I have been this excited about a product in my career.

Well thanks a lot for your time and that’s all for my questions. Is there anything you wish to add for this Q&A session?

Thanks a lot for your time as well.

To learn more about SingleHop, visit http://www.singlehop.com.