Industry Analyst & Strategist
The wave continues: new partnerships, acquisitions, and services in the web hosting industry—an industry that is undergoing significant change. Emerging technologies and evolving customer expectations have shifted the landscape and many are curious as to what 2020 holds. One of the biggest trends I’ve seen is increased specialization to address the increasingly complex needs of both SMBs and enterprises. To dig deeper into this and other trends, I asked the experts for their thoughts, predictions, and advice on next-gen web hosting.
This is the sixth in a series of Q&A articles with thought leaders within the web hosting industry. My sixth interviewee is Michele Neylon, Founder & CEO of Blacknight Internet Solutions. Over 15+ years, Blacknight has become Ireland’s largest hosting company.
Robert: We’re seeing a big wave of acquisitions within the web hosting space. What do you think this signals in terms of the new landscape of the industry?
Michele: I’ve got mixed feelings about this. In many respects the M & A activity is a very positive signal. It shows that the infrastructure industry as a whole is maturing. However at the same time there is a risk that with so many smaller players being acquired we will end up with a small number of “mega” hosts that will target the lowest common denominator.
Robert: What is your big prediction for web hosting in 2020? Who will the big players be?
Michele: Traditional hosting is still a very active market segment, but the lines are increasingly blurred between hosting providers such as ourselves and the website builder solutions such as Wix, Weebly, Squarespace etc., In terms of volumes those companies are growing fast and show no signs of slowing down. So in some respects I see them taking over.
Robert: What services set web hosting companies apart from the competition?
Michele: Ultimately the key differentiator is customer service. Much of what we all offer is highly commoditised so the service aspect is the way to change the game.
Robert: Do you have any predictions in terms of website design trends for 2020? With mobile traffic eclipsing desktop traffic, responsive design/mobile-first is table stakes. But what other projections do you have about how web design trends will begin to take shape in the next year?
Michele: Voice and video are going to continue to grow in importance. With so many people using assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google to run their lives sites will need to be designed to handle voice commands and that in turn will also impact the approach to SEO.
Robert: How will web hosts need to adapt as website creation gets “easier” and more complex at the same time. Anyone can build a website, but there are a lot of emerging best practices that major companies will be looking to abide by. How can web hosts best serve these enterprise customers?
Michele: Most of the “off the shelf” type solutions are primarily aimed at the lower end of the market. For the bigger companies website design will continue to be much more bespoke, but I’d expect to see more emphasis being placed on integrations with existing application and services.
Robert: The digital threat landscape is evolving at a lightning-fast pace. What are the major security concerns that web hosts need to consider to best serve clients?
Michele: Providers need to approach security from end to end. Both in terms of their networks, their clients’ infrastructure and also their own internal operations. While some providers are doing a pretty good job of dealing with phishing and other forms of infrastructural abuse there has been a marked “race to the bottom” in pricing, which has had the nasty knock-on effect that many of the providers are doing little to nothing about addressing abuse. The internet is a complex eco system and the actions, or more often inactions, of a provider on the other side of the globe can have a negative impact on a company 8 timezones away. Ultimately we in industry need to improve the overall “cleanliness” of the network of networks or we risk losing it all. Without trust the internet industry can falter.
Robert: Have you seen any trends in terms of partnerships or acquisitions in the web hosting space that you think are important to note? What do you think these signify?
Michele: In the last couple of years companies like Centralnic and Afilias have been buying up a lot of other providers in the hosting, registrar and registry businesses. The growth of a small number of players to become as big as they have become is creating a different dynamic and it’s not clear yet what the implications of that will be.
Stay tuned. I will be interviewing more brilliant experts in the coming weeks to get their take on where hosting, SaaS, and open source are headed — and what can be done today to prepare.