You've probably heard web hosting companies brag about fast speeds and great performance before.
Have you ever wondered just what goes into making a web hosting company fast, reliable and affordable? Fortunately, we were able to pick the brain of Chuck Charleston of Kickassd Inc. and get some inside tips you won't find anywhere else.
The Brains Behind Kickassd's Success
Even though Chuck Charlestown is the owner of Kickassd, the company wasn't actually started by him.
“I took Kickassd over not long after it was started. The base, and idea of it was already quite good and did not require much change on my part to get it in line with what I had envisioned.”
About four years before taking on Kickassd, Chuck was doing some freelance systems admin work and consulting. He also was in the oilfield and construction industries. “I was constantly thinking of something like Kickassd,” he shared. “Naturally, when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it.”
When the opportunity to buy Kickassd presented itself, Chuck jumped at the opportunity to fulfill his dream.
The company is still fairly new, so the time line from concept to completion is short. In August of 2016, Chuck was presented with the opportunity to take over the company. He didn't hesitate, but accepted immediately. “Growth of the company previous to me taking it over was quite slow.”
The Growth of a Startup
Chuck knew there were some very specific things he'd need to do in order to see growth of his newly acquired company.
“We have started now a well organized and concentrated advertising campaign that has already increased our growth substantially.”
Chuck shares that Kickassd's current growth is on target for what they want.
“Growing too quickly can be a bad thing, and we will avoid that.”
Customer Service Is Key
One thing that makes Kickassd stand out from the crowd is the unique qualities and the customer service. Chuck points to the company work environment as one of the reasons for their success.
He tells us that the team goes through extensive efforts to provide the highest quality support.
“At a glance, Kickassd might look like just another web host. It's not until you have a look under the hood, and take it for a test drive, that you realize things are different.”
Their customer service philosophy definitely makes them stand out in a crowded web hosting marketplace. Anyone who has ever had a hosting company with slow response times, or an uncaring attitude, will appreciate what Chuck has to say about his customers.
“Customers are #1!”
“Customers are #1! I don't care if we need to break out a laptop in the middle of a snowstorm 20 miles from nowhere to get it done, it just gets done.”
Here at WHSR, we believe that you can tell a lot about a company based on the way they treat even the most difficult situations.
I asked Chuck some hard-hitting questions, such as what was a tough situation with a customer and how did he resolve it? Of course, I did not ask for specific names as the goal was simply to dig into the problem solving skills behind the Kickassd customer service team.
“I made them a live video of me installing the same plugin and then triggering the Mod Security rule with a live log watch…”
“I recently dealt with a customer that was constantly triggering our server security and getting IP banned. That customer was convinced that it was our services going offline and was quite irritated. Even when I managed to narrow it down to a certain browser plugin that they had installed they still did not believe me. I made them a live video of me installing the same plugin and then triggering the Mod Security rule with a live log watch in SSH on the same screen, so they could actually see the system IP ban me and reference the browser plugin.”
“They accepted that and removed the plugin. On our side, we modified that particular rule to be less restrictive.”
Chuck's answer is impressive for a couple of reasons.
First, no web hosting company is going to let you continue activity that causes an IP to get banned. However, Chuck was patient with the customer. He went out of his way to show the customer what the problem was with the plugin. Then, he sought out a solution even after the customer removed the plugin so it wouldn't reoccur in the future. This shows his company's commitment to customer service and improving it from day to day interactions with clients.
His response was very respectful of his client and wasn't putting the blame anywhere other than the settings and the plugin interacting with each other.
The Joys of Working with Website Owners
Since I asked the difficult question of how he handled a tough situation, I thought I'd ask him what is the most rewarding part of his work.
“Not long ago I migrated a business website over to our servers. It was for a fairly high profile business that was extremely sensitive to downtime, unfortunately their scripts were very out of date and tricky to deal with. It required a fair bit of PHP and Mysql work in order to work on our servers. Everything went off without a hitch and we had an extremely happy customer. That was quite rewarding because of the difficulty of the migration.”
Again, his focus is on the customer experience and making sure the customer gets the service he needs and that he has gone above and beyond. This bodes well for this new company. Customers will forgive a lot if you treat them well.
Another unique aspect of Kickassd's customer support lies in their tech support. Chuck shares that outsourcing has become extremely common and generally leads to a reduction in quality of support. “We refuse to do this and instead keep support in-house.”
Chuck believes that small, highly efficient support team is much more effective than a larger team that is less efficient. They refuse to give clients canned responses.
Why Are Fast Servers Vital?
The loading speed of a website can have a huge impact on how successful your website ultimately is. In fact, loading time is one of the major factors that influence whether or not someone will abandon a page. The average user will only wait 6-10 seconds for a page to load and then they'll bounce away.
Kickassd features Litespeed. Chuck shares that Litespeed is extremely fast and has even been proven to be much faster than Apache, Nginx for HTTP and HTTPS.
“We also run Litespeeds Lscache on all of our servers which offers a massive performance boost,” shared Chuck.
What does this mean for those seeking packages through Kickassd? If you run a high traffic site, you can place it on a shared hosting plan. This is likely impossible on many other providers. For example, many providers would force such a high traffic site to upgrade to a VPS, which can be a lot more costly. Chuck points to Litespeed as one of the main reasons they can offer the performance they do at such a low price.
At this time, Kickassd's main focus is on their shared hosting service. Eventually, they plan to offer Docker as a value added service to their shared hosting. They don't currently offer VPS hosting unless an existing client needs it or specifically requests it.
“Litespeed now has a WordPress Cache Plugin that offers some truly stunning performance.”
“We do cater to WordPress hosting and have made some changes to our servers specifically for WordPress,” Chuck said. “Litespeed now has a WordPress Cache Plugin that offers some truly stunning performance. But in order to use this plugin it requires additional configuration at the server level which we have done on our servers.”
Initial Benchmarks of Litespeeds Wordpress Plugin VS WP Super-Cache. WP Super-Cache is fast but Litespeeds Cache WOW pic.twitter.com/eJZxWBsqqm
— ChuckC (@KickassdInc) March 21, 2016
“We cater to WordPress hosting.” Chuck points out that there is only a handful of providers out there that support the plugin at this time, but he expects that to change as that plugin outperforms every WordPress cache plugin out there that he knows of.
Websites are hacked every day. WordPress sites seem to be particular targets. I personally have had an experience in the past where my site kept getting hacked in spite of firewalls, security keys, etc. My server at the time could not figure out why, but I was fairly certain the attacks were coming via the shared hosting plan as I would trace where traffic was coming from and it was often from the root server during these attacks.
Because of that aggravation from my past, I always like to ask hosting company owners how they handle security issues. I asked Chuck about the issues with hacking out there and how Kickassd protects clients.
“[Hacking] is a real issue and something we have been fairly good at mitigating through a great set of Mod Security rules that we are constantly adding to and modifying. These rules along with our Firewalls block the majority of attacks on websites including Wordpress. Brute force attacks for example against the login page and xmlrpc.php are detected and blocked as are many other attacks such as cross site scripting attacks, injections and many more. We monitor server logs, and watch for new attacks so we can modify our rules accordingly.”
An Eye to the Future
The Kickassd website highlights how fast the web changes. Because of the rapidly changing nature of the Internet, Kickassd realizes how important it is to keep a finger on the pulse of future developments.
As Chuck Charleston states, the technology involved in web hosting both software and hardware is constantly evolving and changing.
“In order to offer our clients the best possible service, we watch very closely what is happening with technology in the industry.”
For example, Chuck points to the fact that there is marked move in the industry toward container technology such as Docker.
“We are currently experimenting with Docker integration, which would allow our clients to launch and manage Docker containers direct from their cPanel account. We are constantly looking for new ways to offer new tech as value added services.”
Chuck Charleston shared that their goals for 2017 are to continue on the way they have been. The focus isn't on fast growth and that is a good thing. A web hosting company that grows slowly often has time to put processes in place to handle a bigger client list and more demands on the server. This means that the service you get today is the service you can likely expect in the foreseeable future.
[icon calendar] Followup – March 2017 Updates
Notes by Jerry Low – The folks at Kickassd have been actively improving their users experience. The following are some changes and additional features in their hosting services.
- Kickassd now have toll free number and phone support. Users can now reach their host support via Live Chat, Tickets, Phone, and Slack chat.
- Shared Cloud: Kickassd have moved their shared and Wordpress hosting into the cloud to eliminate the chances of downtime due to hardware failure.
- You can now host your site at Frankfurt with Kickassd. Singapore, Chicago, London, and Helsinki are coming next.
- “Elastic Sites” deployed to Kickassd shared hosting plans. With Elastic Sites Kickassd offer plans that give you the same power as a VPS hosting, but keep the convenience and reduced cost of shared hosting.