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  •  Tuesday, October 2, 2012   
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We’ve been working closely with a number of hosts in the last few months & we decided it’d be great to understand a little more about their business – including there thoughts on the industry & hopefully get into some of the technical detail about their setups. Use our contact form to get in touch if you’d like to participate.

Nick Adams (@Mr_Nicky_A) the owner of RamNode has kindly taken the time to answer some questions I sent him, I’ve tried to tailor the questions to each host to hopefully mix things up & bit plus touch on some different topics.

RamNode isn’t your first web hosting company. Tell us a little bit about how you got started?

I started back in 2006 doing shared web hosting at NickHost.net. It was a natural transition from designing small websites for a family friend to hosting those websites and eventually others for local contacts. Then after a few years of basically running NickHost as a hobby, I started promoting my services on Twitter. I eventually gained larger clients with needs for more robust hosting solutions than what I currently offered. At that point I jumped into the VPS hosting market, just trying to offer enough RAM to serve a few of those bigger clients. Around the same time, Minecraft hosting caught my eye. It was really starting to take off and I fortunately had the resources available to enter the market with a quality product. I originally hosted a few Minecraft servers at NickHost before founding MinecraftLayer around August of 2011. I never had any interest in really targeting the general VPS market until a friend suggested it in May of this year. That’s when I started RamNode, and we haven’t looked back since!

What do you think are your main differentiators from competitors?

I think RamNode has come to be synonymous with performance. Our clients expect high performing VPSs and top quality service from us because that has been our track record to date. It is hard to differentiate yourself in this crowded VPS market, but I think we were able to impact the market in a large way by offering SSD VPSs at low costs. I’ve noticed a lot of other hosts starting to replicate our model, which is both a compliment and a challenge to never stop improving. I think we’ve met that challenge along every step of the way, offering the best performance to price ratio on the market.

Minecraft hosting is going through a bit of a boom at the moment, what are your thoughts on that particular sector of the industry?

Minecraft hosting has definitely been an interesting phenomenon to be a part of. The best time to enter the market was probably about 16 months ago, though. It has become very tough over the past 6 months or so in terms of both the competition and the client base. Pretty much every Minecraft host offers the same kind of setup now, which makes it difficult to differentiate one’s self except on the intangible features like customer service. Demand has remained high, but it has certainly become a race to the bottom with all the new hosts and their Kimsufis constantly jumping into the market. This directly contributes to the fact that many inexperienced Minecraft clients expect to pay rock bottom prices and still receive full management from their hosts. I appreciate all of my clients at MinecraftLayer, but it is certainly not an easy niche to serve!

You’ve recently just launched some new products, SSD cached nodes & KVM plans. Tell us more about the move away from a pure SSD offering.

We know that not everyone can fit their VPS on 20GB of space, and also that many people want and/or need features that OpenVZ cannot offer. KVM is one of the most popular platforms now, and it seemed like the best second virtualization to offer at RamNode. I’ve heard many people complain about the I/O degradation that inherently comes with KVM, so I wanted to meet that particular need with SSD-powered KVM. Our SSD-Cached nodes not only meet the larger storage needs of some clients, but they’re also very fast themselves! I would not be surprised if demand drops for the all-SSD systems and increases for SSD-Cached systems over time. It’s hard to beat the combo of lots of HDD space plus SSD performance on demand.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a provider?

Forcing myself to not buy too much new hardware! I’ve become a performance nut, always seeking to raise the bar for ourselves so that our clients and future clients have the best. But on a different note, I constantly work to solve the general problems all business owners face: balancing the budget, managing staff, keeping customer satisfaction high. It really is a 24 hour workday at this point.

Being a one man show you must have to divide your time between support, product, marketing & everything else in-between. Any tips on how you keep on top of it all?

It’s definitely stressful at times, but I focus on the goals I’ve set for myself and RamNode. Some of my techs from MinecraftLayer also provide support at RamNode when I’m not available. I also have a supportive wife who helps keep me sane!

How fast is RamNode growing at the moment? Where do you see yourself in a few years time?

The future certainly looks bright. Along with researching high performance technologies, I’m also constantly looking into new VPS hosting options. I could certainly see RamNode jumping into the Cloud in the near future. I also expect to open another location (probably west coast) within a year. We’ve already received many requests to expand west, and that’s definitely on my priority list.

Tell us a little bit more about how you market your business. In particular you seem to use limited time coupons to your advantage?

I like to rotate several good lifetime coupons on the various sites on which I advertise, every now and then throwing out a crazy deal. Usually those deals pop up on Twitter or IRC, which means if you’re reading this and you want a ridiculous deal, you better join #ramnode or follow @RamNode!

You’ve been fast to integrate ServerBear & benchmarks in general to your marketing strategy. What tips do you have for other providers?

ServerBear has been great for RamNode since much of our target niche revolves around high performance hosting. It has also help us promote our newest (and now only) location in Atlanta. What I’ve learned regarding marketing, though, is to build up loyalty among my clients and they become my best advertising. I would tell other providers to deliver what you promise to your clients (they chose you for a reason, after all), and offer them genuine customer service. Those two things go a long way.

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