Pluto Hosting interview with the current founder and Managing Director of Pluto Hosting. Ashley.S. is a 22 year old male from the UK who has run Pluto Hosting since 2009. A guy who likes to play video games when not working on Pluto Hosting and a passionate forumer.
1. Max Pen: Who is the guy behind Pluto Hosting? (Introduce yourself.)
Ashley.S.: I’ve been on the internet since late 2005 under various aliases (emuXzone, A&GH , Ashley.S. , SpacewardAsh, etc.) but I am probably best known as Ashley.S. or quite recently SpacewardAsh.
I’m 22, and live in Falmouth, Cornwall, UK. I am one of the founders of Pluto Hosting and currently I’m the guy who runs Pluto Hosting overall on behalf of the owners/shareholders mainly in an advisor role to ensure everything runs smoothly.
2. Max Pen: What made you start PH and what did you do before hosting related?
Ashley.S.: I’ve previously run many forums with a few friends, with my most successful one being called Entertainment Avenue. I also was training to be a chef during my time at school/college and still also do freelance chef work around my local area.
3. Max Pen: Did you learn the most before or during running PH? (As in how servers are configured, server language,hosting stuff, etc...)
Ashley.S.: Most of it I have learned whilst working on PH with assistance from my host to help with the learning curve of managing your own servers.
4. Max Pen: Was PH first a side-project or hobby project and did it latter on turn into a business project for you? Or has it always been a business project?
Ashley.S.: To me it has always been a hobby project, but as the shareholders have come on board, it is slowly becoming more of a business project in order to continually secure the future of PH as you cannot stand still forever.
5. Max Pen: What are the pros and cons of running a hosting company in general? Which of those have you personally experienced?
Ashley.S.: I’d say the pros are that you get a chance to connect with all your clients personally and don’t just ignore them like many other hosts out there. You also get the chance to fully manage your own servers rather than rely on a reseller and be unable to cater for custom requests.
However, there are quite a few cons; One of them being the amount off time it takes, the hosting business is not just a typical 9 till 5 job as you need to be on call 24/7 just encase anything bad happens, such as a server failure. You can also find yourself repeating yourself constantly to each new potential client and then your clients who need support, but in the same time it helps you improve because it tells you what sort of questions need to be answered within the knowledge base.
6. Max Pen: Where do most hosting companies fail where at that point PH managed to pull through?
Ashley.S.: I think the main thing would be commitment, investment and using a quality host. Many people seem to think that a cheap reseller will be enough, but quite often it is not as it is still a shared environment and you are unable to cater for custom requests server side.
7. Max Pen: Running a hosting company isn’t a easy task, what are the basics one must know before starting a hosting company? Do you consider yourself someone with:
A) Basic understanding
B) Good understanding
C) Advanced understanding
D) Expert understanding in the knowledge of running a host.
Ashley.S.: I would no way say I was an expert since I have only been in hosting since early 2009 back in the days of moderating Fi.ST, but you certainly need to have at least a good understanding of how things like cPanel/WHM & your server works, along with any hosted software so you can provide support to your clients as you cannot always rely on your host to help you out.
8. Max Pen: What have been the biggest challenges so far throughout the life of PH?
Ashley.S.: As a new host it is hard to convince users to try us out, also finding the right provider has been a hard task as when you are on a small budget to start, you cannot afford to pay top dollar for a high spec server, but at the same time you need to still have a reliable one and sadly PH at the beginning kept making the wrong choices up until July 2010 when we finally got settled into VPS Latch, and then later in 2011 HostDime.
9. Max Pen: Have you ever had issues with the host that maintains your server for PH? If so, what do you recommend people to look or do when searching for a host that can offer them to be a host to?
Ashley.S.: I won’t go into much detail, but the first host we went with, we ended up with a lot of downtime, so we were migrated to a new node, and then when that host was sold, we were forced to leave because the quality support was no longer there. The second host was sadly just as bad, and then we got settled into VPS Latch and things started to get better from then on. When looking for a host, you need to look for one with quality 6+ month reviews and not look for these budget hosts as it is near on impossible to put quality and budget host together.
10. Max Pen: Other then running PH, what keeps you usually occupied aswell?
Ashley.S.: I usually find myself playing games on my laptop, DSlite & Xbox 360 when I am not working on PH
11. Max Pen: How has it been in general to get PH out there, known by the people? What are the best/worst ways of promoting a web host?
Ashley.S.: It’s been pretty hard because you’ve got to convince all these people that you are here to stay and are not going to close overnight and run away with their money. I’d recommend advertising via social networking and also programmes like Google AdWords. Posting to various forums in my opinion is not worth it since 99% of the community will already have hosting or will just not care about hosting at all.
12. Max Pen: Has PH done any contests, events, discounts on hosting packages, etc…? Did these do there job well or have some been a disappointment?
Ashley.S.: Our launch was a success, but sadly that was scuppered by our host brining us constant downtime. Other successful promotions have been through the Christmas & New Year periods. We also run regular daily, weekly and monthly promotions, and with the launch of our community forums, we hope to offer more contests in the near future.
13. Max Pen: What is currently on your to-do list for most important things that need to be done of changes or additions on PH?
Ashley.S.: On my current to-do list is to get the new website sorted, but that is sort of on hold at the moment due to waiting for WHMCS 5.1 to come out. PH really needs to get it’s latest products pushed out and also updating our knowledge base, but again updating the website is relying on WHMCS 5.1 coming out.
14. Max Pen: Until now what has been the hardest/easiest support ticket to solve?
Ashley.S.: The easiest one is usually correcting DNS issues and assisting clients with the default website page which is present for security reasons. The hardest one most definitely has been trying to deal with compromised WordPress accounts and trying to deter the dangerous website notice that most browsers will redirect you to if the site you try and visit has been attacked at some point.
15. Max Pen: How would you describe your client base based on interactions with you or PH in 5 words?
Ashley.S.: Excellent, friendly, loyal, personal & professional.
16. Max Pen: Who is now on the staff team and what is there role in the company? Do you find it in general easy or hard to come by staff these days? Do you give new staff full access that they need or wait until you trust them enough?
Ashley.S.: Finding staff is a hard task as working on a host is a pretty demanding job, manning live help, answering tickets and working on projects, etc. Right now we have around 10 staff, some only have access to the forums, some only have basic access to our client area, some have access to WHM for more complex items, and others have 100% full access. It all depends on what their job is but generally only basic access is given out before full access is provided as not every job requires it.
17. Max Pen: About your clients, when or how do you usually check if they are breaking any rules of PH? What are the consequences if one breaks a rule?
Ashley.S.: We are pretty laid back, we only really check when something suspicious shows up in our logs, but we do occasionally do full checks on accounts and all of our orders from new clients are screened for fraud and manually accepted by our staff in order to lower the risk of accounts breaking our terms.
18. Max Pen: What are your standards of server specs a hosting company should have?
Ashley.S.: I believe if you are serious, you will look for a reasonably high spec VPS or even a dedicated server with your budget starting out at around $50-$150 a month as that will usually get you a fairly good deal for HDD space, Bandwidth, RAM, CPU, etc. It all depends on what host you plan to go with, and what they offer.
19. Max Pen: Has PH ever been at risk of closing down due certain reasons? (Like it not working out financially.)
Ashley.S.: Last year PH risked closing because of personal reasons beyond my control, so I sold the majority shares to Nicholi & Joe, and they have secured the long term future of PH for everyone.
20. Max Pen: What would have to happen for PH to be at risk of closing down? If PH would ever close down what would you plan to do for the people who use its hosting? (Move them to a friend host, etc…)
Ashley.S.: As stated on our website, in the event that PH should have to close down, we would give at least 28 days notice and assist all clients in finding a new host through our recommendations.
21. Max Pen: How does PH stand out from the competition?
Ashley.S.: I believe we stand out because of the quality personal honest service we offer starting at $3.99 a month. Other hosts will try and sell you something you won’t want, or inform you that hosting will cost $0.99 a month for example, when in fact it will cost you $35.64 because the special monthly price is only if you pay for 3 years up front.
22. Max Pen: If you could change the past of PH its history, what would you alter and why?
Ashley.S.: I would probably change what VPS providers we used when we launched in order to minimise the downtime, and also started offering more value for money like we do today, rather than offering minimal features at a minimal price trying to attract the crowds with our low prices, when we should have been targeting those who wanted quality hosting.
-Ashley.S. [ Pluto Hosting Managing Director ]
Thank you Ashley.S. for doing this interview with me. I hope you enjoyed answering my questions and I hope the reader enjoys reading them. -Max Pen