Thinks Big for SMB Services

The Web hosting provider for SMBs launches a new on-demand IT infrastructure services plan.

A top provider of Web hosting services for small and midsize businesses has launched a new managed services plan.

With new leaders at the helm and a corporate merger under its belt, Dallas-based Internet Services is moving in a new direction for 2007.

"Weve got some grand and glorious plans," said CEO Doug Erwin.

The past seven months have been pretty busy in the offices of The Planet. The company merged with EV1 Servers, another Web hosting company, in May. Since the merger, The Planet has more than doubled its sales force. The Planet now serves more than 22,000 customers and powers more than 2.8 million Web sites. It also operates six geographically distributed and highly redundant data centers linked by one of the worlds fastest networks at 100G bps, according to the company.

Company officials said they are now targeting the SMB market with redefined monthly IT infrastructure offerings that feature a three-tiered service model with network-based security and around-the-clock technical support in each. All three service levels include constant monitoring by two fully redundant network operations centers located in Houston and Dallas.

Many SMBs can only hire IT staff to work 9 to 5 on weekdays, and have them on call during weekends, Erwin said. The Planet, however, has staff working 24 hours a day, every day, to provide its services, he said.

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Dan Golding, vice president of New York-based Tier 1, said The Planet is shifting its strategy at the right time. There is competition on the low end for shared Web hosting from companies such as Microsoft and Google, which provide such services for free, he said. Also, many SMBs are not interested in managing their own sites anymore, as their IT departments are often busy with other tasks.

"Theyve got a lot on their plate," Golding said of IT departments at small businesses. "They dont need to be managing databases. Those guys are usually overloaded already."

Gary Chen, an analyst for the Yankee Group, said there is a definite trend among businesses to subscribe to IT host services. The market for such services will boom in two or three years, he predicted.

"I think the awareness in the market is growing," Chen said.

The business implications of using a Web hosting service are very clear to Doug Turpin, director of information and technology for Atlantic Bay Mortgage, in Virginia Beach, Va. The mortgage company first began using The Planet about five years ago to handle its e-mail, and has since outsourced management of more critical servers, Turpin said.

"A missed e-mail could cause us to have to buy back a loan on a house," he said. "Their network uptime is better than we anything we can do."

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