Founded in 2001, H4Y Technologies is a veteran in an industry that changes all the time. How can you keep up and establish your brand in a sector that seems to be revolutionized every couple of years? We asked that to Evan Kamlet, owner of H4Y Technologies to know more about its hosting services, customer base and cloud hosting technologies.
Please present H4Y to our audience.
H4Y is my life’s work. We’ve been in business since 2001 and operate 3 brands via our parent company H4Y Techonlogies: host4yourself.com (focused on high-end managed hosting and colocation), iwebfusion.net (focused on economical, shared and reseller hosting, self-managed hosting and colocation), and icloudfusion.net, which is an ongoing project focused on public cloud hosting.
I also happen to be a managing partner of Tier.Net, which is our sister company. Between all of these confusing brands, we operate in Charlotte, North Carolina; Bend, Oregon; Monticello, Iowa; Las Vegas, Nevada; Los Angeles, California; Staten Island, New York; Latham, New York; Ashburn, Virginia; and Dallas, Texas. We operate data center space in all of these locations and via other partners globally (if anyone needs European hosting, for instance).
We’ve got popular industry certifications for our data centers such as SOC 2. In Charlotte, we have a HIPAA-compliant data center, which is rare. We operate the entire data center in Bend, Oregon, using hydropower from local utility companies, which is an example of the type of “green hosting” we strive for.
We do have our own in-house staff at all major locations with direct access to our pods and cages. We also have sales offices in Dallas, Texas, and Binghamton, New York. So, we are all over the place and growing quickly. We’ve been growing each year since 2001 to the point that we really are comparable in size to some of the bigger names of industry at this point.
In addition, we are a top cPanel partner NOC, Cloudflare partner, Microsoft partner, MailChannels partner. So, we work closely with these industry-leading companies providing all possible software, control panels and email options.
Finally, I want to highlight the fact that we give back. In Oregon, our operations’ manager founded an internet exchange called the Central Oregon Internet Exchange, which helps save public bandwidth and keeps everything internal locally. We maintain official software repos for all versions of CentOS and Almalinux, which are some of the most popular distributions used in our industry. Our developers have created free software tools, such as administrative automation software for the hosting community, open-source and free.
Completing 21 years in this industry is something really impressive. What were the main challenges in that journey?
There are new challenges every year, every month and every week. This is not a static industry; new technology comes out and old technology becomes obsolete. We have to constantly stay on our toes to keep up with technology, the latest trends, which change all the time.
We own all of our hardware, so if we have clients operating on the new latest trend, then our challenges can be how to maintain inventory, how to make sure we have enough space and power to continue giving them what they need and not end up with cages upon cages of empty space when the next trend comes out.
Everything, from game server hosting to “botting”, which is one of the latest trends: being able to survive these trends is definitely the biggest challenge. You never know what’s going to come out next week, who’s going to jump on it and what is going to completely destroy or obsolete the last trend.
Who constitutes your customer base primarily?
It’s well spread across the spectrum. Many of our oldest clients are small businesses that have been with us for decades and have trusted their entire livelihood to us. We take that responsibility quite seriously. We don’t have a huge marketing department; we rely on our clients to spread the word.
We have plenty of enterprise clients that can do anything you imagine: from these “botting” companies that occupy entire pods of space in our data centers to other corporate clients that also rely on us for very advanced hosting with failover, load balancing and geographical redundancy. We even literally have kids using their parents’ credit cards playing games, setting up proxy hosting or “botting” themselves.
We cater to everyone from 14-year-olds getting into their hobbies all the way up to Fortune 500 companies with critical needs, some of the biggest names in the industry. Also, some of our resellers are quite well-known themselves.
How do you prepare for the growth of the usage of cloud hosting technologies? What are the main benefits of using cloud hosting?
Many people don’t even understand the concept of cloud hosting. My definition of it is simply virtualization inside of a larger physical infrastructure. Classic virtualization (VPS hosting) typically refers to taking a server and splitting it into virtual servers. Cloud hosting instead refers to splitting an entire datacenter or multiple datacenters, consisting of MANY nodes working together, into virtual servers and applications.
What cloud hosting provides is infrastructure as a service, where we provide the expensive datacenter infrastructure and the client gets to virtualize their servers inside of it. We provide all the tools for them to spin up the servers and do what they need to do, all by themselves, though we are there if they need us.
That’s what separates us from other cloud hosting providers: we are there to provide some handholding if you need it, but we also just blow away the pricing, for instance if compared to Amazon and Google. That industry is certainly evolving quickly, and I think a lot of the classical hosting providers are being left in the dust. That’s why we are into it as well; it is a solid option for many.
I think the disadvantage for smaller hosting companies is that it is very complicated. There’s an infrastructure to virtualize and, in order for it to be properly redundant and properly reliable, you have to invest heavily in that. You need to maintain it and to be able to upgrade it and scale it, even once you have thousands of clients within it, without causing downtime. Our uptime beats Amazon, even though we are a fraction of the price. Most smaller companies do not have the resources to properly maintain this infrastructure and unfortunately many users do not know any better and take a huge risk when they host “in the cloud”.
The entry level is much higher for cloud hosting and we’ll see where it goes in the next few years. I think there is still definitely certain benefits towards sticking to bare-metal hosting, dedicated servers as well. The classical hosting model is not dead at this point, and I think we are going to see some interesting surprises in the cloud hosting world in the next few years.
I think some smaller and bigger cloud providers are going to struggle with widely publicized problems and we are going to see some big failures and disasters. If you see Amazon go down and lose all of their customers’ data, we might start seeing a shift back towards the classical model. We continue to invest and maintain our cloud infrastructure as well as our bare metal and classic hosting infastructure to ensure that we are not the ones on the wrong side of the news!
With cloud hosting, there are many factors that a lot of people don’t know or understand when it comes to the complications surrounding it. There are a lot of hidden dangers in the details that people probably don’t consider, and maybe should. You should learn a little bit about what comprises the physical infrastructure behind “the cloud” before contracting this type of service.
You take pride in always finding a solution and being available to your customers. Please share some examples of that.
We can take the Ashburn data center as an example. a large client came to us, and I think we started them out in Charlotte. They thought they’d have better connections in Ashburn for what they needed to do, even though the Charlotte datacenter was only a few milliseconds away latency-wise. So, we actually went ahead and opened up a data center in Ashburn for that one client, and now it houses hundreds and thousands of clients.
Another quick example: another client of ours operated virtual conference software and, in the context of COVID, it became very popular to do industry conventions and expos online rather than in person. That client had developed an impressive software for that. He wanted to add redundancy and high availability to it, so we helped them out.
He prefers cPanel, a very popular control panel in the web hosting industry. cPanel has never included any built-in options for failover, redundancy or anything along those lines. So, we created an absolutely custom solution for him, where we used shared storage and Galera cluster to set up a SQL cluster between 3 nodes.
With Litespeed Webserver and some creative synching methods for cPanel, the multiple nodes operate as a single cPanel server with special load balancing and redundancy. It is quite unique. We are constantly creating automation and efficient custom solutions with our in-house and external developers, whereas other players in the industry perhaps don’t spend much time on that. I think that is one part of why we have been around for 20 years!