Hosting's Culture Shift

Updated: April 30, 2009

"One size fits all," an approach that has achieved only limited success in the fashion industry, is also rapidly falling out of favor with hosting providers.

Hosting customers not only come in different sizes, but they have varying needs, expectations and budgets. That's why a growing number of hosting providers are differentiating themselves from the competition by targeting specific types of customers, then "superserving" them with a set of tightly focused services. Here's a look at some of the ways that hosting providers are transforming themselves by tailoring their offerings.

By Price

Hosting providers have long competed against each other on price , offering customers various levels of service with specific rate tiers. But the market is now segmenting into so many different kinds of services — managed hosting , dedicated hosting , virtual hosting, clustered hosting, colocation and so on — that many providers have begun specializing in just a few types of services (or even only a single service) rather than attempting to do everything.

By Support

Let's face it: Some customers need more hand-holding than others. Taking a cue from the airline industry, a variety of hosting providers now offer stripped-down service plans that provide only a bare minimum of support — perhaps an FAQ page and maybe some automated troubleshooting help. On the opposite side of the spectrum, it's possible to buy a hosting package that includes 24/7 live-agent consultations, with the cost bundled into the plan.

By Need

As the Web becomes increasingly diverse, a growing number of hosting firms now target customers that have specific types of hosting needs. As a result, providers are now aiming for customers that need to host general-purpose Web sites, SaaS (software as a service) applications, rich-media content (such as streaming audio and video), and a variety of other specific services.

By Geographic Location

Not so long ago, a hosting provider's location was more or less irrelevant. But more customers are now paying attention to datacenter placement. Some businesses don't want to be served by a facility that's located in an area that is vulnerable to hurricanes or earthquakes, while other companies need to coordinate datacenter locations in order to cut down on database-transaction latency or to provide optimal rich-media-content delivery to a widely dispersed audience.

By Size

Most hosting providers are happy to serve any customer — ranging from a self-employed mitten knitter to a global conglomerate — as long as the business signs a service contract and makes its payments on time. But some providers now believe that they can ramp up revenue by serving a handful of major enterprises rather than a collection of small and large businesses. While big clients demand and consume more resources, they also tend to run up big bills, which allows a hosting company to cut costs by tailoring its infrastructure and operations to serve a specific type of customer.

By Social Goals

Numerous hosting companies are transforming themselves into "green " providers, targeting businesses that are concerned by climate change and related ecological issues. These providers offer standard hosting services but promise to provide them using earth-friendly resources and practices.

Customer specialization is a sign that the hosting market is maturing. Look at it this way: A growing number of hosting firms have decided to become very good at a few things rather than trying to be mediocre (or worse) at many things. That's great news for providers, customers and the entire hosting industry.

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