As Rackshack, EV1Servers pioneered the $99 dedicated server, growing from 200,000 hostnames at the start of 2003 to more than 833,000 this month. But that growth has slowed, with a net gain of just 52,000 hostnames in the past five months. Internal issues, including a data center expansion and server availability bottlenecks, have been a factor. But EV1Servers has also found itself squeezed by competitors on both ends, with some competitors offering even cheaper servers, while others focused on managed services.
"I've become strongly convinced that being a good hosting provider in 2004 takes more than fast reboot times and affordable monthly fees," said Robert Marsh, CEO of EV1Servers.
"When we started out in 2000, the $99 dedicated server was a one-size-fits-all solution," Marsh continued. "A good hosting provider was one that maintained a reliable network, provided timely support, and offered a wide range of hardware and software options. These features are no less important today, but they are no longer the be all and end all. What customers need is a long term partner who can fulfill their hosting requirements at every stage of their growth. And this is the role EV1 will strive to play."
The EV1Servers' home page, which once featured dedicated servers in the $89-$99 range, now highlights high-availability two-server clusters starting from $219 a month, and high-bandwidth plans from $199 a month. "Aside from the high bandwidth packages and clustered servers, we now offer private racks with customized load balancing and firewall solutions," Marsh said.
Another upgrade is FireSlayer, an in-house denial of service filter that is currently free. The DDoS protection - which is a paid service at other providers - is already getting a workout, according to Marsh. "On average, FireSlayer has been activated once per hour (or 720 times/month) to deflect attacks," he said.
Other providers have demonstarted the potential for selling managed services to dedicated server customers. Chief among them has been The Planet, which in the past five months has shown a net gain of more than 46,000 hostnames switching from EV1Servers.
But EV1Servers is also forging boldly into the VPS market, a strategy that allows it to capture shared hosting customers looking to move up, while squeezing more revenue from each server. VPSes use "virtual partitions" that allow a single machine to be used by multiple customers, with better security than shared hosting but many of the features of a dedicated server. Marsh believes VPS is "poised to break open a new top end shared hosting market," and has priced EV1's offerings at $39 a month.
"We see our hosting company customers as the primary distribution channel for this product," said Marsh. "In early October we will host a Virtuozzo training session for hosting providers who are interested in offering VPS hosting. We hope this will help jump start a new and potentially lucrative product line for these customers."
Marsh said the expansion was crafted after extensive feedback from existing customers. "Some of our users run high traffic content sites," said Marsh. "In addition to more flexible bandwidth pricing, they requested load balancing and clustering capabilities to maximize performance and accessibility. Others manage successful web hosting companies; they shared their frustration over denial of service attacks and time consuming administration tasks, and offered their thoughts on the 'next big things.' We've gradually implemented some of the suggested changes, and many new services are on the way."