In an industry that is overrun by players, all fighting to gain a greater share in a Darwinian-like playing field, web hosting providers are forced to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the consumer market.
Companies that lose sight of the needs of their customers, as well as the current market trends, will have to struggle to stay afloat.
The Planet is one web hosting company that continues to adapt to the changing landscape of the consumer market, paying careful attention to what customers want and the direction the industry is heading towards.
The company introduced this week two new divisions - Planet Alpha Dedicated Servers and Planet Northstar Managed Hosting - enabling customers to choose from self-managed dedicated hosting, self-managed with optional services or a fully managed hosted solution.
This latest initiative to provide "a full breadth of managed services" coincides with the launch of its new website, which showcases these new divisions on its front page.
The website also features a new shopping cart that enable Planet Alpha customers to select new servers, as well as view tours of the company's data centers and network, customer videos, case studies and new white papers, such as its recent Yankee Group paper on how managed hosting can lower IT infrastructure costs.
"You'll see that you have very few players that participate predominately on the fully managed side, but don't provide a lot of options for customers that want to own more of the management themselves," says Urvish Vashi, director of product management at The Planet. "Then you have a series of players on the other side which focus on self-managed services but they really don't provide much of a choice."
Planet Alpha Dedicated Servers is the company's new dedicated hosting division, adding a broader range of servers and new advanced services. Planet Northstar Managed Hosting, on the other hand, offers a choice between lightly managed hosting services or premium enterprise-class managed hosting services.
The company is certainly no stranger to updating its services to better accommodate its customers. When The Planet and EV1 Servers merged in late 2006 to form the company as it is today, The Planet redefined its product portfolio, service offerings, uptime guarantees and business model to best suit the IT infrastructure needs of small and mid-sized businesses.
The first new division, Planet Alpha, offers a complete line of dedicated servers, ranging from single servers and complex hosting solutions that include private and virtual racks, to leading-brand servers and one-hour Ready To Go servers.
The new Alpha Advanced Services are designed to supplement the administration and maintenance of customers' self-managed dedicated server, while enabling them to reduce their operational costs, and add to or improve the security and availability of their hosted environment.
"We're able to offer these new services through a combination of investments we've made in our business, investments we've made in our team by hiring some of the best and brightest in the industry, and also some of the a la carte services we've acquired," says Vashi.
Planet Alpha Advanced Services include server monitoring, security and server administration, which the company acquired in May from server administration management services provider Touch Support.
With its second new division, Planet Northstar Managed Hosting, the company has developed a proactive methodology it dubs the 'Anticipation Advantage'.
Using this new approach, The Planet thoroughly analyzes and assesses the customer's business and technology goals and requirements by establishing benchmarks and identifying key trends, as well as through quarterly interactive meetings.
SMB customers can use enterprise-class IT managed hosting services - starting with just two servers - backed by an IT support team comprised of a technical account manager, a senior database administrator, senior systems engineer and network specialist.
The team is personally accountable for the customer's success, managing and maintaining the site, incorporating change control and security to anticipate and mitigate risks.
Additionally, each customer has access to other certified senior engineers for specific functions such as storage, backup, email and security.
Ultimately, this new direction for The Planet helps break down any previous market assumptions, giving customers greater flexibility in the kinds of services they can choose from.
"I think there is an incorrect perception in the market place that large customers are the ones that want management and small customers don't," says Vashi. "I think what we found is that some large customers want management, some want a little, some want less. There isn't a strong correlation between level of management needs and the size of a customer. It turns out that we need a full range of choice up and down the infrastructure scale."
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