A brief history of hosting – escaping the “hamster wheel”

A brief history of hosting – escaping the “hamster wheel”

Blue Rock never set out to be a hosting company and traditionally always installed their systems on customers equipment sat in the corner of office.  This was for two reasons – the first was the enormous setup cost to create a hosting centre and the other was that our classic customer had a “distrust” of having their precious data in the ether and not surrounded by their own bricks and mortar.

A fortunate event combined with cultural shift from the customer base completely changed all that to the point that virtually every new installation or upgrade that we perform is hosted on our private array of equipment in the UK’s most secure hosting centre in Kent.

Our traditional customer base – small to medium sized owner managed distributors and merchants – took comfort in Blue Rock supplying the software and the hardware; a “one stop shop” with one call to make regardless of the system issue. However, they knew that every 4-6 years technology, operating systems, and expansion would drive them to make a capital investment in hardware. Whilst there is no escape from keeping up to date with Software Operating Systems and Security, the Hardware would have little or no asset value within days and could not always be upgraded at a component level. This “Hamster Wheel” of investment would prove tiresome and invasive with some inherent system down time.

In 2014 we acquired a company called Soltec, who, whilst quite small, were ahead of the curve in terms of cloud and hosting. They already had the hosting centre setup with a handful of installations on board but two of the contracts would end because of acquisition from overseas, and the likelihood was that we would end up with spare capacity.

The UK’s roll out of cheaper, high speed communications and internet would instantly make hosting more affordable – which was particularly important for multi branch customers.

We started to promote full desk top hosting to our client base and to new clients. Progress was slow at first and in the first two years we added 8 clients to the hosting centre, in 2018 a further 4 and then 14 in 2019, 15 in 2020 and 10 within the first two months of 2021. It was not just the number of clients that grew but the average user site increased exponentially as well and by the time this article is posted we will be supporting well over 2,000 users.

Blue Rock are not alone in doing this of course. AWS (Amazon) and Microsoft’s Azure are commonplace solutions and quite well regarded, but none of our customers use these platforms (although they could). By common consensus, the fact that we have direct, physical, access to the servers (and that we are responsible for them) provides our clients with that “one stop shop” comfort again. They also get their full desktop hosted (if they want) and a pretty much fixed price for the term without the complexity and vagaries of pricing promoted by others.

The investment in equipment on a continual basis is now Blue Rock’s concern (not the customers) as is the investment in talented systems, security and hosting engineers and it is a path that we can’t envisage diverting from. With renewals running at 100% – it would appear that our customers feel the same.

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