Q&A: Dominic Monkhouse, MD, PEER 1 Hosting

PEER 1 is an international hosting provider which has over 10,000 customers (this site included) and 17 data centres across Europe and North America. In just over 10 years, PEER 1 has grown into one of the world’s top 5 hosting providers. The company boasts a SuperNetwork, which is 13,000 miles of fibre connectivity which delivers Fast-Ethernet and Gigabit-Ethernet access. The European headquarters of PEER 1 is based in Southampton and is run by Dominic Monkhouse. We caught up with Dominic to find out a little more about the company.

Tell us about your role at PEER 1
At PEER 1, our message is Ping and People, which is exactly what I focus on. This is a combination of providing the latest technology with a high level of customer service. Without satisfied customers, you won’t have a successful business. Customer satisfaction is a number one priority and here at PEER 1, we go all out to ensure this. My theory is that if your customers are happy, business will be successful. There is nothing worse for a business than having unsatisfied customers.

Having motivated employees is another task which I focus on. The PEER 1 UK offices is not your average office block. Firstly, there is a no suit policy, meaning that the only time an employee needs to wear a suit is to the interview. Next there is a putt-putt golf course in the office as well as a Nintendo Wii, which staff can use when they feel they need a break. When you have employees who enjoy being in their work environment, it will reflect on their work, which for PEER 1, is producing the best quality customer service there is.

Why should people consider using PEER 1 over other hosting services? What are your selling points?
PEER 1 Hosting is a service business first, and a technology business second. Our unique selling points lie both within our service commitment and in our technology. It is in our interest to help businesses grow by providing reliable, scalable and tailored solutions. We work with customers to make sure they get what you need when you need it so that they can focus on building and growing rather than worrying about the underlying hardware.

Who is PEER 1’s target market?
PEER 1 Hosting works with a range of different sized businesses with a significant portion of clients being fast-growing online businesses where the internet is critical to their revenue. These are typically Web-design agencies or businesses with less than 250 employees that make their money on online, so reliable, scalable and secure Web Hosting is crucial.

We operate on a ‘pay as you grow’ model allowing it to adapt quickly to the changing needs of its customers. It is able to accommodate spikes in Web traffic as a result of a particular promotion, for example. It was able to bring online 50 additional servers in just 48 hours for one customer, and can easily provision additional servers for a matter of months before scaling back down as the customer’s needs change.

PEER 1 HOSTING, and its dedicated Hosting arm ServerBeach, also operates its own Content Delivery Network (CDN) and high performance 10GB SuperNetwork to ensure image and data-heavy sites deliver an excellent customer experience. Customers include high-profile Web-based businesses such as YouTube and WordPress plus smaller start-ups including cloud Hosting provider ElasticHosts.

With technology continuing to grow at an alarming rate, how is PEER 1 planning for the future?
PEER 1 HOSTING’s strategy is to work with best-of-breed technology providers to deliver outstanding, enterprise-class performance and reliability to our customers, no matter what size their business is. We recently brought a state-of-the-art data centre online in Toronto which includes a number of green features, plus co-location, managed and dedicated Hosting services all under one roof with connectivity to our SuperNetwork.

We also recognise the significance of cloud computing and delivery of on-demand bandwidth and compute to customers. We already offer SaasGrid, a software-as-a-service enabler and we provide the infrastructure and support to enable cloud service providers to develop and grow cloud services.

In the first half of 2010 we will also offer Storage-as-a-Service based on EMC Atmos to enable instant access to information across distributed geographies and efficiently deliver content and information services over the Web.

Our latest advancement that we are very proud of is the introduction of the first large-scale graphics processed unit (GPU) cloud in the UK. The system runs the RealityServer 3D Web application service platform, developed by mental images, a wholly owned subsidiary of nVidia. The RealityServer platform is a powerful combination of nVidia Tesla GPUs and 3D Web services software. It delivers interactive and photorealistic applications over the Web, which enables animators, product designers, architects and consumers to easily visualise 3D scenes with remarkable realism.

We have also introduced The Net Promoter Score. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) approach measures how likely a customer would be to recommend PEER 1 Hosting on a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 indicating the customer definitely would. Our NPS is an integral part of the PEER 1 Hosting business model.

Customers that don’t give the company a 9 or 10 receive immediate and personal contact to find out how service can be improved; this is how 7s are turned into 10s in a way they will respond to. A measure of any PEER 1 Hosting customer initiative is whether or not it improved our NPS score. The score for the month is looked at in line with the customer service initiatives undertaken, and the feedback is used to plan the next initiative. The result has seen PEER 1’s NPS score rise to 36+ over the past year, when the industry average for IT support is 7.

What benefits can you offer your customers?
One of the great things about PEER 1 HOSTING is we ask, listen and respond to customer feedback. We implement based on feedback, for instance in a recent customer survey, one of the most common customer concerns was reaching their limit of backup space and bandwidth, resulting in unplanned overage charges.

Surprise bills are never popular, so in response to this feedback, PEER 1 Hosting cut overage fees by over 70% as well as proactively calling all customers that are progressing towards breaching their limit throughout the month, to ensure they are on the most cost-effective contract.

Our TAM (Technical Account Manager) programme is very unique and hugely beneficial. A TAM is in place so that customers have a specific PEER 1 service contact who knows your infrastructure inside out to act as an extension of your IT team. If you are planning to run a marketing campaign and want to be sure your infrastructure can cope, call your TAM on an 0800 number. He/she will be able to advise based on past trends and performance as to whether it will handle the additional load and make recommendations on how to increase capacity from a completely technical perspective.

Christian Harris is editor and publisher of BCW. Christian has over 20 years' publishing experience and in that time has contributed to most major IT magazines and Web sites in the UK. He launched BCW in 2009 as he felt there was a need for honest and personal commentary on a wide range of business computing issues. Christian has a BA (Hons) in Publishing from the London College of Communication.