Interview: Ben Gabler of IX Web Hosting

IX Web Hosting is located in Columbus, Ohio, and has been in business since 1999. IX is one of the best hosting services out there, according to Web Hosting Madness users.

Ben Gabler, Director of Hosting for the company, is an industry mainstay. He has held positions as President at HostNine, Chief Operating Officer at Host Gator, and shared hosting product manager at UK2 Group.

I asked Ben to answer a few questions about how the hosting industry is changing, core elements of online success, and his general business philosophy.

What are some broad changes you’ve seen in the hosting industry in the last twelve months?

The industry seems to be heading towards more of a “Small Business” and a “Create-your-website-easily” offering. This is something I’ve seen coming for a long time, but everyone seemed to be afraid of it in the past. It’s a huge market, and it’s also a great market, because hosting companies have the chance to do the right things and really make a difference both in how people do business and how people create their sites.

What are some forecasts you have over the next year for the direction of the industry?

I foresee a larger percentage of businesses having an online presence. With all of these marketing campaigns from 1&1, Go Daddy, and Web.com, people are realizing just how easy it is to get online.

What are some basic elements of hosting that every online business or entrepreneur should know?

A few years ago the focus was always on uptime and features. Today (and in my opinion always), the most basic but rather important element is the Service & Support. Anyone can offer hosting with cPanel, but where the real difference comes from is the customer experience.

As a business, I want to get help when I need it, as I’m here to make money and feed my family. When I owned my last hosting company, HostNine, I always said to myself, “Your business is only as good as your employees” – and it’s true. If we didn’t answer our phones and give great support, there was another company out there that would.

What are some security concerns that are at the forefront for a top hosting provider?

The main concern would have to be customer data. As a hosting provider, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of your customer data 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That includes their websites *and* their personal information.

What to you are key components of online success?

The key component to online success would be sticking true to your product and offering. If you offer 24×7 support, you better have someone there. If you offer an easy to use site builder, it better be easy to use.

I would also have to say your website and overall user experience. What a lot of people fail to realize is your website is your shop. Treat your website as you would a retail storefront. Easy, Clean, and Professional.

What business practices do you consider crucial to success, generally speaking?

Creativity. Especially in the hosting industry. As we all know there are *tons* of hosting companies out there offering the same exact thing. It’s very important to let creativity come into play and be different.

Sure, you will want to offer at minimum what everyone else does, but try to one-up them and offer something different…. Use creative ways to make your customers’ lives easier and better.

What are the most important management techniques?

As a Manager/Boss, always be an employee. Put yourself in your employee’s shoes and ask yourself if you would enjoy their job. No one wants to work in an unfriendly environment. As an employee I always told myself, the day I dread going to work is the day I will find a new career.

How do you balance focus on a proven model with new business development?

This is extremely tough. There is always that *idea* that is the *best*. How do you properly balance what gets done first? It’s almost impossible.

What I try to do is rate each project by importance from a company standpoint. There are tons and tons of questions involved in this process, but I feel we all struggle with the same issues in prioritizing developers.

What are some key aspects of scalability? How should we prepare for success and a massive influx of traffic?

I hate to sound so dry, but sometimes it really just is a matter of cost/benefit analysis. You always want to be ready to scale, ready to adapt, and prepared for the best, but you need to make sure that what you’re putting into that readiness will come back eventually.

No small business should be concerned about scaling up for traffic before they’ve solidified their product line, but everyone should be concerned with whether or not their hosting and their website is appropriate for their needs and the needs of their customers.

What are important things to remember when marketing online?

Know your budget. Always make sure your budget is realistic and is comfortable for you and your business. Also, find a great company/individual to manage your campaigns. Be sure to get references as this is one of the trickiest parts of the Internet world.

What are the ways that IX Web Hosting tries to separate itself and stand out from other hosts?

IX listens. Many large company initiatives come from suggestions our customers have made or common issues they tend to have.

We’ve also been able to predict a lot of the hosting trends and preempt them. We are very involved with our small business customers, and we create and group products intended to improve their ability to do what they do.

Above all else, however, our customer support is really different. Our team is 24/7 and available on so many platforms that our customers can always find a convenient way to contact us. Our staff is hand-picked, friendly, extremely bright, and patient.

If you could change one thing about the hosting industry, what would it be?

Boy, this is a tough one to answer. I’m not sure I’d change anything about our industry at this point. I might have had something to say back in the unlimited/budget days but I think we’re really heading in a solid direction where we’re focusing on a Product approach rather than a “hosting service” approach.

I mean, you can buy web hosting in a store now…. That’s just crazy!

What words of wisdom do you have for hosting customers to improve their businesses?

Utilize all of your free tools! Whether it be free marketing credits, SEO tools, or Twitter/Facebook. Use everything you can to get max exposure for your business. You would be very surprised at how far Facebook and Twitter can really go for your business.

Conclusion: By the Numbers

IX Web Hosting has a user rating of 95%, both in 2013 and all-time. The company has received an average of 5 out of 5 stars in all categories we assess – performance, quality, uptime, and price. To check out IX Web Hosting, go here. To view Ben’s personal website, go here.

by Kent Roberts

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