The history of Websavers

In our menu, we ask “Why websavers?” with the question: why should you choose websavers as your hosting company? Instead, I’d like to examine this question from a different perspective, one which we’ve been asked about many times in the past. Why the name websavers?

It’s 2004…

And Adam Bate and I are finishing our first year of Computer Science at Dalhousie University here in Halifax. Adam, having started (and selling) a hosting company with another friend back in High school suggests we create a hosting company. I knew nothing about web servers and hosting, but figured there was nothing to lose. In the first year or so, Adam footed the bill for our servers and we had about 5 clients, if I remember correctly. He came up with the name and got our website all set up.

Over the years we would joke about the name by coming up with ridiculous ad concepts like a server floating in the water wrapped by a life preserver or (even worse) slogans like “Saving the web one site at a time.” You can guess just how grateful I am that we didn’t go with anything like that for any of our ads. They’re about as corny as one can get with this name. Not only are they corny, but I don’t think we even believed that we were ‘saving the web’ like the slogan (let alone the name of the company) describes!

Growth

Yet despite all the corniness, there’s some truth to it, we simply didn’t realize it yet. Fast forward to just a few years ago, not long after graduation. We realized we had a great opportunity in front of us to take the company we had been slowly nurturing throughout our time at Dalhousie a bit more seriously. We sunk our time and money into redesigning our website, training ourselves on WordPress development, upgrading our servers to cloud-based scalable systems, expanding our self-help knowledgebase, and investing in software tech that is simpler to use and considerably more flexible for both us and our clients. It worked; we grew considerably faster in the following two years than we ever had over the first 6 years of the company’s existence! Better yet, after all the investment in our company’s future we started to get a feel for the personality of websavers.

The Dawning

In our eyes, websavers became all about a few key values. Automation, customer service and ease of use — particularly in regards to our do-it-yourself information. The company finally had a definable personality! This didn’t only help us provide a straightforward image for the company to our clients (via marketing and promotion), but it also helped us become more confident in what we stood for. It became the cushions that we fall back on for just about every interaction our clients have with our company. Not just when interacting with us, but also when interacting with our web sites and our Client Centre.

We stuck with those values and built all of our policies around them. Sort of like Google’s “Do no Harm” code of conduct we wound up with an unwritten code of conduct rule of our own that stemmed from our interpretation of the values: “do what’s right”. Sure that’s left up to some pretty open-ended interpretation, but I think that Adam and I have a very similar concept of right and wrong and that because of this we’ve executed on it extremely well. I also think our clients would agree. We stick to our guns and we make our decisions based on what we feel is the right thing to do. And this is how everything comes full circle, some 8 years later, the company becomes the name.

The Company Becomes the Name

In all these years hosting, we’ve transferred our clients from dozens of companies, both global and regional, such as GoDaddy, HostPapa, Dreamhost, Eastlink, BellAliant, Network Solutions and tons more. In all of our interactions with other hosting companies, we discovered problems that we worked to solve in our own hosting solutions. Problems and resolutions such as:

  1. Simplifying the user experience by not placing ads for services all over the place, much like GoDaddy (and many others). This makes managing things like your domain name registration about as simple as possible — particularly for such a technical service.
  2. Providing our clients with a powerful and the simplest available hosting management system. This is evidenced in our Client Centre design, organized around making it easier to find what you need, as well as our choice of control panel (Plesk) which organizes all of your hosting features in a clean hierarchy rather than throwing everything at you at once (like cPanel and others)
  3. Ensuring our clients maintain access to and ownership over their website and domain registration. It’s amazing how often I run into a hosting company that either makes it a two week long process to transfer my client’s domain name (even though the customer clearly owns it!) or even worse, they hold it for ransom and claim that since the owner didn’t pay, they now get to keep the name. Dirty, dirty stuff. These guys certainly don’t know how to ‘do the right thing’.
  4. Customer service agents that have no idea what they’re doing. Many companies outsource their support and provide scripts for their tech support agents to follow. This is extremely frustrating when you want something simple fixed and the rep keeps asking the same question over and over again or sending you the same article, rather than actually getting to the root of the problem. We may not have dozens of support agents at the ready, but at least when one of us replies we know what we’re doing and we explain it in clear english.

And then it dawned on me (quite recently, in fact). As corny as it may sound, we really are trying to ‘save the web’… the name makes perfect sense! We created and built up a company around values that transformed into actions that lead right back to the words that came (somewhat randomly) from the very beginning – websavers. Everything we’ve done in the past few years has been in the name of trying to help save our client’s websites from the companies that are doing the wrong thing. And that is something I’m extremely proud of.

Jordan is a computer, security, and network systems expert and a lover of all things web and tech. Jordan consults with project management for software companies. Jordan is a founder and managing partner at Websavers Inc.