Interview with Stuart Melling of 34SP.com: “Exceptional Service and Support”

It’s rare to see a web hosting company put such a huge emphasis on personalized customer service like 34SP.com. With over 15 years of experience in the web hosting business, the company provides nothing less than exceptional and reliable service – the likes of which you’d be hard-pressed to find even in larger web hosting enterprises. To give us an insider’s look at how this awesome company works, here’s Stuart of 34SP.com.

We appreciate you taking the time to chat with us, Stuart! First, if you don’t mind, we do like to ask one glaring question that’s been on our minds today. Where did the name “34SP.com” came from? Does it stand for something?

The reality is somewhat less exciting than the numerous stories we’ve heard over the years. Put simply, way back in the mists of hosting time, giving out a free URL was common practice. We needed a short URL and .34SP.com randomly popped up on our radar. Every new client received a free .34SP.com domain with their hosting. That feature was withdrawn quite some time ago, but the company name remained.

In line with the question above, we would also like to know more about the origins of 34SP.com as a company. How did it start? Who is the team behind it?

Myself and my colleague Daniel Foster, our managing director, are the two company founders. We started the business after being frustrated by the lack of affordable hosting options we ourselves struggled to find while working on university projects. Indeed our initial marketing campaigns focused around our old university stomping grounds of Manchester and today we still retain links to our local Universities – offering free hosting for students on computer science courses.

Additionally when we started 34SP.com the hosting industry as a whole had a less than savory reputation. Our second founding aim was to deliver exceptional service whenever we could. For us this means everything from a support team trained and operated in house through to open and honest business practices. For example, the price you see is the price you pay, you won’t get to our shopping basket only to see a hidden fee or charge added at the last minute.

Aside from the many testimonials that you’ve received from satisfied customers, you’ve also been named by Netcraft as one of the Most Reliable Hosting Providers in the UK list. Congratulations on that! So our question is: in this already saturated market of web hosting providers, how did 34SP.com manage to stand out? You were obviously noticed by Netcraft for your good qualities of course, but what exactly are those qualities that you have that other web hosting companies lack?

We’re really committed to delivering on our support promise. It sounds cliched, I know a lot of companies say this, but we truly live and breathe it every day. With that in mind, every support ticket generates a feedback request to the client. Every last response, good or bad is read by a company director. Every single response that is less than good receives a response from a director too.

The negative feedback is every bit as important to us as the great feedback. We dig into each and every issue we find. We’re striving on a daily basis to improve in every single facet of our business.

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Great stuff, Stuart! Let’s talk a bit about the quality of hosting services that 34SP.com offers. From the status page on the 34SP.com website, there have been relatively minimal outages over the past month or so. The honesty of the status page on the 34SP.com website is something that we think all web hosting companies should emulate- so kudos on that.

Again that open and honest approach is just part of our DNA. I remember in our first month of business our very first server suffered a catastrophic disk failure. Just a month into businesses and we were completely offline. Back then we hosted our servers in the states. We had the disk overnight shipped from the states, we recovered the data ourselves and then had everything back online ASAP.

The key point though was that we communicated every step of the process to our clients – and they in turn stuck with us, even though we we’re such a young company. That approach to business is critical to us. We have outages like any company, and when we do, to this day we communicate in real time during the event (using tools like Twitter, Facebook and Slack) and then always breakdown the fault after the event, explaining in detail what happened, why and what we aim to improve to prevent a repeat.

From there, the quickness of the 34SP.com team in resolving these problems have also become apparent. How do you guys manage to iron out kinks that fast? And how secure are the 34SP.com servers and datacentres?

On the datacenter side of things we rely on Equinix facilities here in Manchester. The data center is specced just as you’d imagine for a world leading infrastructure provider. It’s a fully N+1 redundant facility with all the bells and whistles you’d come to expect from a leading, global datacenter provider. Additionally, we run an internal team named ‘Server Watch’ that operate around the clock. In tandem with the engineers at Equinix we cover any hardware or systems faults on a 365/24/7 basis.

On the hosting side of things, we take a layered approach to security. Every platform is slightly different based on the particular needs of the user and application. For example, our managed WordPress hosting plan is tailored specifically to threats that affect WordPress.

We start by installing the latest version of the CMS, disable insecure FTP and use unique install paths. We then deploy a WAF with our own in house curated security rule set. From there we deter brute force attacks with fail2ban and run daily scans of accounts for known WordPress vulnerabilities using the WordPress vulnerability database service. We also offer clients SSL out of the box for free using Let’s Encrypt.

Since you’re based in the UK, do you find trouble handling support issues from people based in different locations and timezones? Can 34SP.com provide the same level of service and reliability to people outside the country as they do with their UK-based customers?

We’re definitely tailored towards the UK market. Our whole support team is based here and our focus is the UK marketplace. That said we do support clients all across the globe. The key is the end client’s own requirements. We’re open for support every day of the year – and on most days 8am to 8pm via email and phone. If a potential international client is happy with how those support hours match their own time zone and needs – we’re more than happy to assist them with their website. And again, our systems team watches over our network and servers 365/24/7.

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Who is the ideal customer for each of your hosting packages (Professional, WordPress, Business, and Reseller Hosting)? We’re asking this on behalf of our readers who might want to try 34SP.com out and have no idea which package to choose.

Professional hosting is our entry level plan, for small personal use. It’s a traditional shared hosting plan that allows fairly open ended usage. From there, our containerized plans are optimized for specific use cases. Our WordPress platform focuses on users who need a managed WordPress solution while our business hosting is for users that need a similar containerized option but don’t run WordPress. Finally we have our reseller hosting, which again is a containerized solution for clients that host multiple sites – it runs using the popular Plesk control panel.

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34SP.com is currently spotlighting its WordPress hosting service, as evidenced by the fact that it is placed front and center on the website right now. How exactly is this service better for WordPress users than your other hosting packages? What’s the difference between this package and the other ones that 34SP.com is currently offering?

Our managed WordPress hosting stack is built from the ground up. We took our decade plus experience of hosting WordPress and built the platform with the very best, battle tested tech.

That means things like the resource friendly webserver Nginx, optimised caching and developer friendly features such as free staging sites, wp-cli and git facilities. We take care of the updates on the platform, from the OS through the CMS and plugins. The result is a platform that can serve more than 1,000 concurrent users per second and has no limits on page views or bandwidth.

In today’s web environment we believe it’s really important to have optimized solutions for specific applications. Security is an increasing concern, as is site loading speed. A fast loading site is going to help with everything from Google SEO to higher sales conversions. A shared web hosting account with a one click installer, just doesn’t cut it in our eyes.

We offer all of that for 14.95 a month which we believe makes ours the best value for a managed WordPress platform in the UK bar none; oh, and did I mention each plan will host three WodPress websites out of the box.

Aside from providing top notch hosting services to customers, 34SP.com is also into philanthropy! You guys have a program of sorts wherein you provide free hosting services to charities- that is very commendable. Kudos on that. Do you have any more charity-related programs or events in the future that our readers should know about?

Our main focus is our free charity hosting, for registered UK charities:

https://www.34SP.com/charityhosting

We’re very keen to give back where we can and while free hosting doesn’t grab the headlines – it delivers real savings for charities making real differences in the community; the funds they save on hosting, can in turn be spent on delivering the services they offer.

We’re very glad that you took the time to answer our questions today, Stuart! To cap this interview off, do you have any discount codes that our readers can use should they decide to use the services of 34SP.com for their web hosting needs?

Of course! We’ve created the code HRB for your readers. If they use this during checkout on our site they will receive 3 free months on our WordPress hosting plan that I spoke about above. The offer is valid right through to the end of 2016.

There you have it folks! If it’s mere web hosting you’re looking for, then there are lots of companies there that can cater to your needs. But if you want excellent service as well as personalized, reliable support, then 34SP.com will be perfect for you.

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