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Q&A: Interview with @Peer1 Hosting, Talking #Cloud, Services and #Startups

With the explosion of new start-ups, the number of professionals who identify themselves as an entrepreneur has skyrocketed.  And a lot of those folks are flocking to Kickstarter to make their dreams come true.  Unfortunately, despite all this entrepreneurial buzz going on, business failures are outpacing the birth of new companies.  Why?  Especially when there are so many cheap and effective cloud tools at the fingertips of today's entrepreneurs.  Shouldn't the cloud and cloud services help make a difference on the technology side of the business?  How much would this or should this help?

To get some answers, I spoke with Robert Miggins, the senior vice president of business development at Peer 1 Hosting

VMblog:  One of the strengths of the cloud - public or private - is that it is highly scalable, able to meet the needs of both large enterprises and smaller, more agile startups.  Based on your experience in the hosting industry, what are some of the key benefits of cloud services for entrepreneurs today?

Robert Miggins:  The cloud is a great hosting option for even the most cash-strapped startups, because it’s easy to set up your online presence in a public cloud without too much investment. With today’s managed cloud environments, if you have a great idea but relatively light technical skills, it’s still feasible to get your idea off the ground.

For example, as a Web entrepreneur today, you don’t need to hire a big development team, or buy and set up your own servers, both of which are historically very time-consuming and tough on a tight budget. You can have a demo website online in just a few days, hosted a multi-tenant cloud, and if you start to see traffic and need more capacity, it’s a simple matter to spin up a few new virtual machines. Plus, once you have your concept or prototype, you have a ready-made cloud ecosystem that makes it easier to take it live and connect to the interesting people who will help with your beta, or test phase. The theoretical becomes actual much more quickly.

VMblog:  Young people are flocking to sites like Kickstarter to try and become the next Mark Zuckerberg.  But they're not all succeeding.  Are entrepreneurs missing a beat if they're not thinking about the technology that underpins their growth?

Miggins:  The advantage of services like Kickstarter is that they lower the barrier to entry for all kinds of industries, which means more dreamers can get their ideas in front of people and became real disruptors and innovators. If you can raise money by recording a clever video that communicates your ideas to the right people, that’s a lot easier than going the traditional angel funding route, let alone going after venture capital. We love that sort of disruption at Peer 1, because we think the Internet is what truly powers human potential in today’s economy.

That said, even a successful run on Kickstarter won’t guarantee you success. Once you move beyond concept and go to market, you have some immediate technical challenges. Suddenly managing your website is like operating on live patients, when before you were dissecting frogs in science class. You need a robust infrastructure that ensures you have staying power, because the last thing you want is to hit massive funding success and get mentioned on TechCrunch, but then your site is down because you weren’t prepared to scale.

VMblog:  Today's cloud market is loaded with buzz words and catchall terms - public, private, hybrid, and every variety of -aaS.  Where can new entrants to the business world begin to start figuring out the best cloud strategy to meet their needs?

Miggins:  A new business light on IT resources, but with a great idea and product, should start with a highly scalable public cloud – one that can precisely add servers, RAM and CPU when activity reaches a certain threshold. When you work in a public cloud that has good auto-scale features, it ensures you can accommodate rapid spikes in traffic and transitions that (hopefully) will occur more and more as you grow. A little scalability testing goes a long way to ensure success.

As a company grows, it’s a pretty common trajectory to move gradually from a public cloud to a hybrid cloud model, or eventually an all-dedicated server environment. That’s because public clouds present a “noisy neighbor” problem that can be troublesome for larger companies with more resource demands. When you rely totally on shared infrastructure in a multi-tenant public cloud, you risk experiencing serious performance declines when your “neighbors” (other companies in the same hosting environment) are having a busy day. That becomes unacceptable for larger organizations that must meet specific SLAs for customers and have 100% uptime.

You could think of it as outgrowing living with five roommates in your early 20s – as you grow more autonomous, you need your own place where you can stretch your legs. A hybrid or totally dedicated environments gives you servers that are focusing on just your business. This offers the most customizability, complete control and certainty. You trade off some of the flexibility you get in a public cloud, but certainty become more important than flexibility.

VMblog:  Some analysts say that cloud is a commodity now, and that services themselves are more important than the servers, hypervisors and networks that underpin them.  These seems especially true for small businesses, who often don't have a huge IT budget or technical know-how.  As a service provider, would you agree with this?

Miggins:  I would definitely agree. The true value of the cloud for a new business is not just in its scalability – it’s in the service layer that you get from a great cloud provider. A provider with cloud expertise, that also understands your business, is the best suited to build you the right combination of RAM, CPU and storage. That’s invaluable for a lean organization that should only worry about getting to market quickly.

There are more “DIY” cloud options out there that skip on the service layer in favor of price cuts, but they present a real danger for small organizations. When something difficult happens, you could be stuck looking around saying, I have no idea how this thing works. An entrepreneur, especially one who’s not a server admin (which is most), needs to be in the hands of a great service provider that will be on the phone with them 24/7, and that cares about their success. It’s the more human side of the cloud.

VMblog:  Could you provide an example of a startup Peer 1 has worked with, that was able to grow quickly using your services?

Miggins:  Better Impact is a really interesting organization we work with. They provide nonprofits, schools and municipalities with volunteer management databases. Their unique software-as-a-service offering helps volunteers engage more effectively and efficiently.

Better Impact came to us during a period of rapid growth, because we could provide them not only with a datacenter near them (they’re located in Canada), but also a team of dedicated “remote hands” experts to guide them as they extended their infrastructure footprint. Companies like Better Impact are some of our favorites to work with, because not only are they growth oriented, but their values align with ours. We’re all about enabling change for the better, and we get that the Internet is nothing without the movers and shakers it connects.

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Once again, thanks to Robert Miggins, the senior vice president of business development for Peer 1 Hosting, for taking time out to answer a few questions.  He has worked for more than 14 years in IT infrastructure, including sales, marketing, product development and operations, and his expertise is welcomed.

Published Wednesday, July 16, 2014 6:37 AM by David Marshall
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