I cannot believe it but it’s been another fiscal year for Hawk Host Inc. already. Our Fiscal year end always falls on August 31st and that has already passed. It’s been an exciting year for us with lots going on in nearly every portion of Hawk Host.
Best Year Yet
It seems like I’m saying this every year or even every month but it was our best year ever. It took us just over 6 months to pass the previous year in revenue which is just awesome. We also doubled our client base over the year as well so we’re basically twice the size we were last year at this time. Just so no worries about it going to waste profits were up as well so we’re a healthy company. A lot of web hosting companies make more money but pay more so they never get ahead. We’re most definitely not one of those cases as we’re growing while maintaining our margins for the most part.
Tons of Upgrades
Over the past year we’ve upgraded a lot of our fleet. We’re now running strictly SAS disks and mostly dual Xeon 5520 or dual 5620’s with a few dual 5400 series CPU’s on some machines due to age or availability at the time. All those machines though have 12gb ram if they’re web hosting servers or 24gb of ram if they’re virtual private server nodes. So here are the machines that got upgraded this past year
Web Hosting / Reseller Hosting
Skyline – 09-05-2009
Saturn – 10-07-2009
Mars – 10-22-2009
Mercury – 10-28-2009
Jupiter – 11-04-2009
Neptune – 11-25-2009
Pluto – 03-03-2010
Yoda – 10-20-2009
Jedi – 11-01-2009
Marlin – 04-08-10
Raptor – 01-25-2010
Bosco – 05-08-10
So in the past year we upgraded 7 web servers, 4 VPS nodes and even our backup server. We’ve turned every machine into a high end server at that point in time. It’s highly unlikely we’ll do such upgrades again any time soon though. The limiting factor is typically the hard drives and only solid state drives will help with this. Right now though solid state drives do not meet our requirements for space or price wise. Any other upgrade from say a 5520 to a 5620 would not provide any noticable gains. Then adding ram if ever necessary is easy to do without any major migrations.
Lightning – 08-06-2010
Mirage – 07-05-2010
Mustang – 02-23-2010
Spitfire – 04-12-2010
Tornado – 07-31-2010
Voodoo – 05-27-10
Once we finished upgrading machines and we needed even more capacity we started adding new servers. So we added 6 high end servers recently which are filling fast. It has felt like we’ve been adding machines every month or close to it. It’s allowed us to separate our services fully with shared web hosting running their own servers and reseller running their own servers. No longer are we using anonymous hostnames on all servers as our shared web hosting there is no point it not advertising it’s a Hawk Host server.
As a note, some of you will notice we recently added Hurricane to the fleet on 09-03-2010. Technically this was added after the fiscal year closed, but it’s close enough we’ll mention it!
This year we saw the introduction of new software to our servers as well. We were not that happy with Fantastico and the fact it was installing out of date scripts which some were exploitable right after the install. We looked around and Softaculous was highly recommended and gaining steam so we added it. We still offer Fantastico however as many believe it’s the only auto installer or the best one when in fact it no longer is due to neglect by the makers of the software.
There have obviously been updates to the various software use. So a new cPanel version, various Litespeed versions, PHP and MySQL upgrades here and there. We always keep up to date with versions though so this is really not news.
One piece of software we’re still evaluating is exciting though and that’s CloudLinux. One problem we deal with all the time it’s people abusing our server resources. Technicians are manually suspending accounts and warning users and this is not great for scaling. We’ve been working on deploying this on our servers but it has not gone as planned as of yet. It’s active and working fine on Frog Host but on Hawk Host servers it has not worked as planned. We’re still working with CloudLinux to get to the bottom of why it did not work for us on our already deployed servers. We’ve deployed it on a new server that was launched in September though and it’s working fine thus far.
We also finally launched our unlimited brand. It’s growing slowly but at a pace we’re comfortable with. It just most recently became profitable which is great considering it’s about 7 months old. There are a lot of obstacles with it in comparison to launching a brand where unlimited was not offered. A lot of places where we’d normally advertise we’re not allowed to. Lots of users frown on it so recommendations do not happen as often as usual. We’re happy with where we are though and with CloudLinux there to restrict CPU and memory we’ve been able to offer a stable environment.
It’s allowed us to get customers we would normally lose to providers who were offering unlimited resources. If you’re finding this problem when recommending Hawk Host and you still want to support us, you can recommend Frog Host! While you’re at it, make an account if you’re interested in the affiliate program as it has a 50% affiliate payout which on an account that is $100 would be $50.
This is something we’ll always be striving to improve which we are. We’ve added all kinds of new knowledge base articles to avoid tickets even being created. We’ve also been actively improving our pre-defined replies to help stream line common questions and problems. A lot of people associate this with being a negative but we use it strictly for common questions where our knowledge base articles are missed by the user. For example how to reset a cPanel password is a common one for us as we do not reset them via ticket. So the pre-defined reply outlines this and provides a quick guide on to do it as well as linking to the knowledge base article. We also added all kinds of pre-defined replies for escalations purposes. While this may seem silly it saves a technician 30 seconds typing out that they’re moving it to billing or our system administration department or abuse or whatever it’s going.
We’re still looking at ways to improve though it does not end there. We’ve started testing Kayako v4 which is the new version of our support system. From our testing we believe it’ll help us improve our efficiency of support as well as improve our quality control.
Better Internal Tools
One aspect in improving efficiency of our company is to make sure we have tools internally used that do their job. This has meant better management of configurations and easily deploy new features. This is where Puppet comes in which has helped us better manage our servers and quickly bug fix problems. So we’ve found cPanel bugs and quickly tested the fixes on our test machines then deployed them across our entire fleet within an hours time. That hour being just how long it takes before every single server is confirmed to have synced up with our change.
It’s not just things like that to make our job quicker. We also have added more pro-active tools to help stop problems. We’ve improved our tools to pick up on hacked accounts much more quickly. We’ve also improved our systems to track server load so technicians can better address the problems. Everyone here has a lot more great idea’s that we hope to implement as soon as possible.
The best part of all the new tools is our own internal portal system for sales, billing and technical support. It bridges the gap between our billing and servers themselves to some degrees. It also supports any brand we run which is extremely helpful. The most useful thing I’d say right now is the fact it helps us manage our IP allocations much better. We use VLAN routed IP’s so we route IP’s in locations to various servers. So keeping track of where they are is very important otherwise we’d be inefficient with our allocations. Along with that it integrates right into our billing system so we know exactly which account has which IP address. It allows us to also quickly look up what user is on a specific IP. For example attacks it comes in handy when technicians check and see a lot of traffic designed for a specific IP address. They can quickly look it up find out if it’s owned by a shared ip, dedicated ip for a shared user, reseller ip or even a virtual private server ip. This leads to quickly knowing the best course of action to alleviate the problem.
Our very own VPS panel is something I’ve talked about before and it’s a slow process as it’s low on the totem pole of priorities. It’s coming along though and we’re hoping to have it used as our primary panel before the end of the year. Once it’s implemented it’ll allow us to add many features we’d like to see, as well as having much more refined control to improve our internal efficiencies. This could mean integration with our internal tools to make less work for deployments or technicians handling tickets. The sky is the limit when you control the road map of the software.
We finally got around to having our own cPanel theme. This has allowed us to add useful features to user control panels. Right now it just has links to our support area, forums, client area and a few other things. It just allows users who do not read our account information email to have those features right there in front of them in their control panel. It is not going to be entirely cosmetic though as we have a CloudLinux version of our theme which adds some useful data. It adds CPU, memory and I/O stats right to the control panel along with tracking of inodes (not CloudLinux but we thought it would be nice). We also have plans of other new features for the control panel. As to when all of this will come together it is difficult to say we don’t have a huge development team behind us so things take time.
We’ve never said our affiliate program is the best out there we’re not paying $100 per signup or anything like that. We have however seen customers starting to promote us and even get significant payouts. While we may not pay the $100 for a signup not every end user people want to refer to a hosting company wants to pay $100+ a year for hosting either. So we’ve found ourselves on several web hosting blogs and lists as we appeal to users wishing to pay less the majority of the time.
We hope everyone continues to use our affiliate system. It helps us out but also you can make a bit of money in the process for almost no work. If you’re not interested in money even before the payout amount we have no problem turning any amount into account credit which can be used to pay future invoices. If you’re interested check it out at http://www.hawkhost.com/Affiliate — we even had custom banners made!
Other Random Things
So just a few other random things that happened this year. We’ve had users asking about Alipay and someone from them reached out to us a while back. We have the wheels in motion to offer this as a payment option. We’re having an Alipay module built for our billing system right now then it’s just a matter of getting the Alipay side of things setup. We’re hoping it’s added late 2010 but it could be early 2011 we just cannot give an actual date as of yet. We have a growing customer base in China and we’re not going to ignore them that’s for sure which is why we’re going to add Alipay.
Competitors of ours have asked if we’re for sale and every time it’s been an absolute NO. So no one has to worry about us growing so big then selling. I think we’d rather buy companies then be the one being sold. Maybe the next inquiry we’ll ask if they’re for sale instead.
New office is another thing we’ve been discussing off and on this year. On one hand we love having a remote company where we don’t have to pay for an expensive office. We’re more green as a result of no one driving to work. There are efficiencies though with having an office so I would not be surprised if we eventually got one possibly in 2011. So don’t be surprised if eventually we’re taking pictures of some office building or something like that. Or maybe not and we’ll never have an office who knows.
So to summarize everything real quick. It’s been a great year here we’ve expanded in every aspect, improved our services and will continue to grow and improve services next year. We appreciate everyone recommending using us to their friends and on their web sites and we hope everyone continues to do that. We look forward to another exciting year at Hawk Host and we hope everyone continues to love our hosting.