The past 24 hours have been really fascinating for us at ServInt, both as a hosting provider and as a citizen of the internet.
When Reed decided he wanted to comment on the recent outages at Rackspace, we were initially taken aback. Why would we say anything about a competitor at all? After all, Ford doesn’t ‘stand by’ GM. Apple doesn’t ‘stand by’ Microsoft.
Fundamentally, we wanted to get the point across that we supported Rackspace/Slicehost as colleagues and friendly competitors. To use Reed’s great analogy, we were appalled by the sudden rush of opportunistic “vultures” smelling blood. They are bad for our business and for our industry.
Reed got a few paragraphs together, posted it on our blog, and things exploded. We saw a lot of support from Rackspace employees and Rackspace customers alike, and plenty of support from the twitterverse who understand how complex this technology can be. Like us at ServInt, many were impressed with the transparency and communication Rackspace displayed.
What this ordeal shows, however, is that a larger conversation has to happen about the industry as a whole. Companies like ServInt and Rackspace who have been around for a while know how great it is to be surrounded by competitors that challenge you to be better. To innovate. To collaborate. To create a marketplace that is, like many of our products, Open Source.
Now I don’t mean to sound coy, Rackspace is still a competitor and we feel that ServInt’s VPS and Dedicated Servers are the best, but they are friends and colleagues who have given a lot to our industry.
So, thank you to everyone who has stood with us in support of Rackspace, thanks to those of you who have learned about ServInt and visited our sites, and thanks to Rackspace for being one of the handful of companies out there with the guts to own their problem and prove they are one of the best.
Photo used and altered under Creative Commons license courtesy of Flickr user photofarmer.
ServInt has been in business for nearly 15 years. In that time we have seen incredible success, we have seen defeat, and we have seen resurgence. We have had honest, healthy competition from friends and colleagues and we have seen disingenuous poaching by hundreds of companies who — surprise — aren’t around anymore. What we are seeing now is a reminder of how a responsible company handles a serious issue, and how some companies try to take advantage of that.
Rackspace has had a series of power related issues in their Dallas-Fort Worth Data Center that temporarily brought down a not-insignificant number of customers. From the beginning and throughout the ordeal, Rackspace was communicative, forthright, and responsive about the entire process on their corporate blog as well as on Twitter. Customers were justifiably upset, after all their business is on the line, and they vocalized it appropriately in phone calls, emails, and tweets. All respectable webhosts strive to provide as much uptime as humanly possible and while I won’t speculate on the causes of the very public outages, I will say that in our mind we feel Rackspace has been incredibly professional and an exemplary Industry peer throughout this crisis.
ServInt’s last network outage was in 2004 when our major fiber lines were cut in the last mile. These lines were supposed to be redundant. However, our provider at the time combined the two at the last mile for reasons that they have still never disclosed to us (though we have since ensured that the same problem cannot reoccur). Murphy’s Law struck, and the combined line was cut, leaving ServInt’s customers without service for a considerable amount of time. I was literally standing on the sidewalk talking to the ServInt team on the phone and ensuring that the line was getting restored as quickly as possible. I was not a happy man that day in the freezing Washington, D.C. winter, having to explain to ServInt’s customers that we had let them down. It is not a good feeling.
So now, 5 years later, ServInt has fought hard to maintain the best uptime in the business, and we’ve done so knowing full well the consequences of failure and knowing that our customers would hold us accountable.
Rackspace is there right now. The weather might be nicer in Texas, but the sentiment is the same. They had a bad week, but are holding themselves accountable and encouraging their customers to do the same. Ultimately, the true test of a company is not how well it does at the top of its game, but how quickly it gets back up. Rackspace will get back up and we look forward to it.
There are several companies, if you can even call them companies, who have been in business for less time than a stale pot of coffee and are throwing mean spirited, transparent promotions out to justifiably angry customers. We feel this is not only in bad taste, but it is unethical and an excellent testament to how they view their fellow hosting providers. You attract customers by providing great service and thereby earning it, not by bashing someone else’s.
To those who are seriously considering these services, how do you feel about a company that devotes its time and energy as a vulture? If something similar happened to them, would they be as communicative? Could they even survive it? Would you want someone who holds such contempt for other businesses to be trusted to host your own?
Karma, after all, is the great equalizer of men.
As there are parallels between ServInt and Rackspace — we are competitors on some levels — both of us understand the complexity of large-scale hosting. ServInt has been through this before, we have come out a stronger company because of it, and we know that Rackspace and its employees, customers, and shareholders will walk away with a stronger company too. We at ServInt thank them for their contribution and innovation to our industry, and we wish them the best.
And here’s the bottom line for those of you who are thinking about jumping ship on Rackspace. There are always reasons to leave any hosting provider, but make sure that your reasons are the right ones. You might just go from “problem today, none tomorrow” to “here today, gone tomorrow”.