The Planet: Value Hosting Leader?

The Planet is the largest privately-held dedicated web server company in North America. But bigger doesn't always mean better. That's why The Planet is positioning itself around "value." I spoke to Doug Erwin, CEO of The Planet, about how they're getting there and what MSPs stand to gain. Here are some perspectives.

Back in 2006, The Planet merged with fellow hosting company Everyones Internet, which greatly expanded the services they were able to offer, Erwin says, but caused the company to lose their focus on the small and medium-sized dedicated server customers.

After the merger, The Planet quickly gained a reputation for being a large, faceless "discount house" rather than a real, viable competitor in the hosting market. That, Erwin says, is what had to change at The Planet - and that's what caused him to launch a company-wide shakedown, changing anything and everything.

We've reported on the software bundles that now come with The Planet dedicated servers, and that's what's going to draw a lot of MSPs to their offering. But below the surface, Erwin says, they've reworked The Planet's customer service along the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain model, where if a customer has to ask for a basic service, they've already failed.

That was a common theme in my conversation with Erwin. He told me about constantly striving to come up with new and better customer satisfaction metrics, and about the little things The Planet can do to help bring those numbers up, like increase the window for refunds on unused months of service.

And if that's not enough, The Planet is investing $8 million in network and portal upgrades to make everything more usable and run more smoothly, Erwin says. They're also rolling out ERP and CRM systems this year, he says.

On the totally free side of things, Erwin's pet Sand Castle project, designed to give free servers to 500 deserving entrepreneurs, has been a resounding success, he says. A hundred of those free servers are already gone, and there are already plenty of candidates for the remainder. Erwin again emphasized that Sand Castle was a chance for The Planet, a company largely untouched by the economic downturn, to give something back and help create jobs.

In short, The Planet is aiming to build their business by using this new value proposition and new focus on customer service to lure you away from competing providers like Rackspace. They have a newly-revamped partner program, featuring a referral system that Erwin probably unfortunately refers to as "a little like Amway."

If this new strategy is enough to propel them to market leadership, only time will tell. We'll be watching The Planet closely in the coming weeks.

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