Ever since my involvement in the hosting industry a decade ago, Cartika has consistently been one of the top performing webhosts. Even their direct competitors believe they’re doing a pretty good job. This is why I got so excited to interview Andrew Rouchotas, Cartika Hosting CEO. If you’re looking to learn about the human face behind Cartika Hosting, or looking to start your own webhost, you’ll enjoy the interview.
I asked Andrew 3 questions, to which he replied thoroughly. Here they are:
Andrew, there must be a fascinating story behind such a fabulous company. Can you describe Cartika’s story in a few word?
Sure. Back before I founded Cartika in 1999, I had been working at IBM and identified an opportunity in a field that didn’t exist yet. At the time, they were called “application services,” but these days we know it as SaaS (Software-as- a-Service). So I went all in and decided to start Cartika.
We started with ecommerce solutions, handling everything from design, implementation, consulting, and training. Cartika first began by buying a hosting reseller account and focusing on application hosting, but as the needs of our clients grew, so did we. A year later, we secured our own dedicated servers and pivoted to full IaaS (Infrastructure-as- a-Service), offering an entire suite of IT solutions.
What makes us different more than anything else is that we are truly a customer-focused company. I’ve built the business based solely on what our clients want and need.
We’ve always thought of our clients as partners and try to provide IT services SMBs can completely rely on. In some cases that means literally “being” their IT department. In other situations, we work with their existing team to fill any gaps they may have internally.
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced while scaling your platform to accommodate for the growth you witnessed while growing as a company? How did you overcome them?
It’s always a big challenge to keep up with the current and near-term workloads without building too, much too soon.
In the days before cloud, high-performance servers were extremely expensive. It was a careful balance to have enough infrastructure available for what comes, without over-provisioning and waiting for revenues to catch up.
We managed these high costs by investing in cloud-based services well before cloud became and industry standard. Today most of our clients are using cloud-based infrastructure, which has helped us scale and easily adjust for anything that comes our way. If we suddenly sign a client that needs a large environment quickly, it’s not an issue anymore.
The other way we overcame this obstacle of staying right-sized was creating a good strategic roadmap before we built our cloud environment. In fairness , we did have a few iterations early on like everyone else does . But, then we realized it was time to step back and carefully plan what the future would look like in our exact path to get there .This was absolutely key in allowing us to seamlessly scale. You want to make sure you don’t hit a wall when the overall environment gets to a certain size. Many Managed Services Providers (MSPs ) figure this out the hard way after years of building an IaaS “house of cards.” Some get to a point where everything starts to break because of sheer complexity, or inherent issues that have festered.
How do you find and retain good developers to help build your platform?
With the experience and training I had before starting Cartika, I developed a strong technical background. I love the technical side of things and have always been very hands-on with that side of the business along with the strategic and administration functions. But one person can’t manage that kind of scale on their own so as we expanded, I quickly realized we needed to find some great people, and fast!
I was determined to connect with some of those types of individuals early on – ones who understood my vision and completely rallied behind it. We needed to make sure we had a team of developers that could deliver high quality, creativity, and consistency on the technical side.
Fortunately, we found an ideal pool of talent in Russia and the Ukraine we worked well with. So, we set up offices there and have been continually impressed with the results of the engineering and development coming from those teams. We also do everything we can to support them and make sure they feel part of the big picture.
Hi Samer and Andrew,
Thanks for this interview. I used to provide hosting many years ago, but never at anything like this level. So it’s insightful to understand a bit more.
What’s fascinating to me is the size of the hosting industry. It must be HUGE.
Are specialist hosting producers needed more and more?
I am so glad to read about a tech-company which lives a customer-centered approach.There are so many companies out there because they lost touch with their customers and their customer’s need. Good luck, Andrew!
I’d love to hear more about what Cartika did to be more customer-focused and innovate in this industry.
Very nice interview, short and straight to the point.
What I loved the most is establishing Cartika as customer-focused company and scaling successfully the business from one level to another.
This is the strong base of any successful institution that currently a lot of businesses lack.
Hello all and thank you for your comments and feedback. Samer who performed the interview here, has asked me to address some questions asked here. I will try and be brief in these answers, but, as that is unlikely, I want to apologize in advance for the lengthy post 🙂
@Scott Gould – specialist service providers are more important today then ever before, and more difficult to find. As more and more large scale IaaS providers continue to build out massive and global footprints (AWS, Google Cloud, Azure), you are seeing larger and larger gaps develop in the market. To receive any type of real (yet reactive) sys admin support from someone like AWS for example, you are looking at a cost of $15,000/month or higher – https://goo.gl/VKo0nN – many startups in this space these days are completing avoiding their own infrastructure footprints and are instead layering their various services on top of “big cloud” / IaaS providers and filling in the massive gaps providers like AWS/Azure/Google have created, specifically in the management and support side of the business. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is value in being able to fire up infrastructure literally anywhere, and at some point, we (Cartika) will also be layering our services/management/support offerings on top of large public cloud infrastructure as well. But, our ability to offer both our own infrastructure solutions, and the various levels of management and support we offer, is a massive value add. The service providers that have the longevity to have transitioned to the new IaaS approach, while maintaining their own infrastructure capabilities, with their management and support models, and then can also layer these services on “big cloud” footprints, I think, are very very well positioned moving forward and demand for their services will continue to see exceptional growth
@Lionel – the list of actions and directions we have taken to ensure our customer centric approach is just too long to list. especially over almost 20 years. Speaking more recently, we try and provide real value on the customer support and management side. the typical mid market customer, even with their own extensive IT resources, just need more help then most providers will offer. Even some of the biggest companies, do not have a full 24×7 sys admin team, and even if they do, they may lack some of the systems, procedures and policies to maintain environments 24×7, maintain availability, maintain and monitor data backups, data recovery and disaster recovery. Our approach has been to continually build more value into our support and management solutions and help both business owners and IT staff streamline their day to day operations. Moving work loads to the cloud is great, and its definitely the current trend which is not going away anytime soon (or maybe ever). But, this presents new challenges to companies IT departments, and these are all areas a company like us have a lot of experience in. We help businesses and IT people return their focus to business objectives, and allow us to manage the day to day availability of not only their infrastructure, but, also their services running on top of that infrastructure – https://goo.gl/IQ8APk. this of course is just one example on the management, service and support side, where we work very hard to bring more and more value to our customers for services and workloads they have moved to the cloud. After that, having support for all customers, 24×7, via various channels, is an approach being abandoned by the “big cloud” providers which we feel is absolutely the wrong approach to this type of business. As for some more historical examples, our customers wanted to see more and more self service abilities in managing their data backup and data restore capabilities. As nothing actually existed which accommodated the requirements of a service provider like us to backup and restore literally everything, and allow customers, on every service we offer, to restore their own data, in the most granular manner – we went ahead and built our own backup and recovery platform, and integrated it into every service offering we offer. Customers can now, regardless of the service offering you have with us, restore any file, database or database table from any restore point within seconds, and right from their client interface. Customers can also use this solution to back up any of their data, hosted anywhere, and manage their restore processes centrally and intelligently. Next up for Cartika – and something our customers have been asking for, and something that is not simple or easy, but, will be rolled out as soon as humanly possible 🙂 – Our existing customers, potential customers, partner channel customers, other service providers, have been asking us to better enable VM/Cloud/IaaS migrations. Migrating customers from their own inhouse private VMware cloud, to “big public clouds” like AWS, etc is always a challenge and the tools available often simply do not work and stagnate migrations or worse. Moving customers from “big public clouds” to more specialized providers like Cartika, or to other service providers, is a serious issue. Differing hypervisor platforms, constantly changing versions, non homogenous underlying infrastructure with differing drivers, etc. its a big big problem and challenge out there, and we are trying to address this from a unique perspective then whats currently being tried. I really could go on and on, but, essentially, every decision we make, is continually measured against our ability to service our customers better and bringing added value to our customers on our existing offerings and those to come.
@uddy Zeaiter, @Franz Sauerstein thank you for your kind comments and best wishes 🙂