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Interview with Vidahost’s Seb de Lemos

vidahost

Vidahost are a rarity in the ever expanding world of hosting companies. Not only do they offer very affordable yet professional and technically sound hosting, they have also gained a reputation amongst their customers and potential customers of having unparalleled customer service. You only have to type their name in to Google and you’ll find a sea of comments from happy customers with the odd complaint thrown in every now and then for good measure. They’re not perfect. But from their early days of being a fledgling two-man company starting out, to today with their 100 strong customer service desk, things have not changed, the support has remained consistent. It’s an old adage, but you truly are more than a number with Vidahost. Dominic and Seb started the business some 15 – 20 years ago and so we was very pleased when Seb took time out of his busy schedule to give us a quick interview at Angry Frog.

Hi Seb, please tell us a bit about Vidahost and where it started out?

Of course. I used to run my own websites and pay various web hosts for poor service and slow servers. I started running those websites on dedicated servers I leased, initially splitting the cost of the server and then trying to cover the cost myself. To do that I sold web hosting services to various people on forums, friends and so on. It was a slow start but it kind of snowballed from there as people told their friends, or their businesses grew and so on. We kind of knew it would be a matter of time, because we had clients we knew were rocketing in growth and requirements and we wanted to be there for them when they did. So plenty of our largest customers now started off on a £2/month Starter plan.

What do you have lined up for Vidahost going forward?

Lots of exciting things.

We’re currently deploying equipment to Singapore, and the US is arranged for Q2 2015. That means customers will be able to deploy their websites to different locations depending on their customers.

The last year we have spent a lot of time offering a huge range of new gTLD domains, so now we’re shifting the development time to offering more hosting features. Also planned is the option to change the setup of your site in the control panel (move it to a virtual or dedicated server in a couple of clicks for instance). And of course a new website (the current one is very dated) in Q2, fully responsive.

Who is Xerxes?

Xerxes is our office superstar dog. He’s been with Vidahost since I used to work from home and he was the impetus for me to get outside rather than sit behind a computer all day. He’s the most laid back Labrador I’ve ever known and gets a fair bit of attention now. He even has memes after him and his Imgur thread has over 3 million views (https://imgur.com/a/5DmTH).

Do you hark back to the early days when it was just you and Dominic starting out?

Not really. It was tough and we didn’t make any money for around seven years. Luckily I studied at the time so did not have many living costs. We’ve evolved quite a lot of course since then and there were a lot of fun periods — for instance when there were three of us (Dominic, Chris — our head of digital — and myself) sharing an amazing office in Bath in 2010, or when in 2009 I was able to work for six months from Berlin.

How have you managed to retain the levels of support your customers have come to expect whilst your customer base has grown and grown?

We know that there are only really two things which set us apart from other hosts: the fact the hosting is technically excellent, and the quality of our customer support. Our support now is infinitely better than it was years ago: We now have just shy of 100 Vidahost team members spread between two offices, call every new customer, migrate hundreds of websites to us every day with a brilliant migration team and provide hosting completely free to any charity. I tell every new support member that they need to be a superstar, and that they should always try to go beyond what’s expected with every support require. Our volume is staggering — thousands of tickets per day and hundreds of calls – and we do occasionally make mistakes of course – but I cant think of another IT company that even comes close to the level of support we offer.

How do you use Social Media to your advantage?

We only have a tiny marketing team (two people, one of which is on a six month sabbatical travelling around South East Asia!), and social media for us is more about keeping customers updated with system changes and features, as well as responding to questions and enquiries. For a while we thought about ways we could offer official support via Twitter, but the security complications were a little too messy.

Working in support often results in a love / hate relationship of IT. Do you still get the same buzz working with computers every day, seeing the latest advances in IT, the delivery of a new server or the latest iPhone?

I still love hosting and computers, but I’ve very little interest in gadgets I’m afraid. We have so many servers and computers (half a million £’s worth of servers arrived this week) that I’m a bit bored of phones. I’d go back to an old Nokia with a week long battery life if it handled emails properly.

Finally, how does one go about getting a job at Vidahost?

Great question — email jobs@paragon.net.uk or support@vidahost.com with a cover letter and CV and we’ll be in touch. We’re based in Slough, UK.

Thanks again Seb. For more info on Vidahost, visit their website here.

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