Learn to code on us!

It's 2014, and, if you haven't heard yet: Programming is a useful skill to have. Web programming is especially useful, and, if you don't know how to code yet -- we wanted to help spur you onward.

Today forward, we're going to be offering a $100 account credit to any user that completes Codecademy's PHP course, and another $100 for completing their HTML & CSS courses.

*Why? *Why not :) Coincidentally, we're a web hosting provider (primarily PHP) that's hosts over 8,000 websites. If you don't have an account with us yet, you should consider learning more about us.

Get started, sign-up is free at codecademy. Send us screenshot upon completion & we'll add the credit to your account!

Side note: I was able to personally complete the course in roughly ~6 hours, aided by a little Collier & Mckeel (an especially wonderful Whiskey from Tennessee), and solid music over the course of three evenings.

*p.s. In the Chattanooga area? Between ages of 12-18? *Dev Dev is doing a summer of code for $250, and we'd be happy to pay for your spot in the class, just get in touch at support@fused.com

If you're not within that age range, sign-up at the local library for a library card -- they offer free access to treehouse, another fantastic place to learn to code: Learn more here.

The true cost of peace of mind

A story about domain squatters and the competition

A story of domain squatters and the internet. A must read for any business owner.

My cost, annually? $1,594.86

One thousand five hundred & ninety-four dollars and eight six cents if you ask my domain registrar; Just don't ask my shrink. While we were busy improving, optimizing, configuring, and growing and doing our best to pay attention to clients, others look to steal what they can by cybersquatting. Cybersquatting is the equivalent of squatting residence in an empty house & terrorizing your neighbors because you have the ability due to proximity. In the internet world, that could mean using similar domain names, typosquatting (the act of sitting on misspelled domain names, e.g. fsued.com) and even squatting on usernames using social networks like twitter, facebook & blogging platforms like blogger, wordpress.com, and many others.

Along came a spider named George

Just slightly more than a year after we had launched under Fused Network, someone else had a similar idea. We'll call him "George" for now. George was in a land far, far away began launching a similar company, Fused Networks. Not unlike us, he liked the name "Fused Network". So began what would be part of the next five years attempting to contact George. We'd start negotiating, he'd disappear, and we'd begin attempting to contact him some more.. Luckily, for our sake they George seemed busy and was slow to fully launch Fused Networks. Finally, he came to an agreement to part ways with the domain: Roughly about the same time when he went silent again.

Oh, bother..

Not even a week later, press releases began to flow from the United Kingdom. A massive company had rebranded to the name 'Fused Networks'. News outlets began covering the story, and 'Fused Networks' was born. Little did anyone know that while all this celebration was going on, we were here sweating bullets; The individual we had spent years negotiating with was also located in the U.K and had remained silent. Our stomachs sank as we imagined all of the negotiations having fallen apart. Visions of massive amounts of money started floating around in our heads: Had we been outgunned?

Fear.

Not unlike Microsoft suddenly rebranding to John's Software Shop. We were John the software guy and that creek that we had been in without a paddle had suddenly become a raging sea. Admittedly, my emails to George must have made me sound like raving lunatic: I don't suspect he noted the frantic nature and what seemed like instant responses from my side, as he soon again agreed to finalize the sale. "Let's do this today, if you have time!", I urged him. We settled that same day via paypal and I awaited further communication..

The new 'fused networks', quasi-microsoft sized company? They had swapped their older, more popular domain for 'fused-networks.co.uk' just as we received 'fuseds.co.uk' just in time.. We still get contacted by their clients almost daily, and not too long ago they went bankrupt & what remained was bought out.

We learn things the hard way. All of us do, but if there's one thing this lesson shows is that a little preventative measures / maintenance go a long way in advance. We've since purchased every variant we can possibly think of for our domain names: despite us having ~70 of them, there are still more to be had and many more we need to acquire.

For brick and mortar shops, there's little that can be done about the barber shop that moves in across from your barber shop -- but for web-based businesses, it's unwise not to heavily invest in domain names to prevent confusion*, chaos, and more.

Tips, tricks, and good ideas

Here's a few tricks of the trade we've learned over the years that you should adhere to:

  • It's a landgrab as far as social media is concerned. Get those usernames on every imagineble network -- even variants. Painful, but necessary.

  • Buy every variant of your domain name, especially the .org, .com, .net and even respective country TLDs like .ca, .us, .co.uk

  • Hyphens. If you've got two-word names, buy any variants that might have hyphens.

  • Careful, people swap letters. Fuzed is just as good as Fused. There's alternatives that work for any company name so consider getting them all

  • If you operate with a particular service, consider that it might end up being a variant too. *Someone launched 'Fused Hosting' not long after George

Domains are cheap compared to legal battles

The cost of all that extra effort & domain name fees can become expensive. As we noted, we pay $1,594+ ourselves on an annual basis, not including all of the time spent hunting around for variants that someone might decide to sit on. It's a costly activity but a single cybersquatter, typosquatter or anything in between can cause immense amount of brand damage, confusion, and chaos.

Grab what you can while you still can & stay alert.

Five requirements to start a web hosting company

I have waded through tonnes of posts on the internet about startups, web hosting, business launching and entrepreneurs and realized that there's a few things lacking. Time and time again I've read about business plans, infrastructure, lines of credit & divvying out stock, but I'll dish out the real secret sauce to launching a hosting company that very rarely has been told.

Pick a name!

The first thing you're going to do when launching a hosting company is choose a name. Consider first what's in a name, glance at a couple examples and perhaps gain some inspiration from them. There's various ways you could do this -- some companies simply add an 's', like fused networks did, for example: fused networks (now defunct, though acquired by a 3rd party). Or you could acquire another top-level-domain for a company like the lovely fused hosting (also now defunct) did. As much as this can get you in legal heat later on little consideration should be put into it as you can simply pick a new name later & start over.

If none of these options suit your needs, you could always combine the word 'host' with a random animal. Though many of the common ones are taken, there's still a few available like 'swamp rat'. After googling around a bit further I've found that every other type of animal is taken: You're out of luck, so try one of the previous methods. (Even 'parrot hosting' is taken)

Remember the best way to duplicate success is to copy someone precisely.

Pick a mascot!

Every company has to portray an image and if you're anything like myself & have a face for radio you best get a mascot. Considering you'll be launching your company on dreams, hopes & blood sweat and tears, I suggest you go for a realistic mascot like a unicorn. The now defunct 'hostingpuppy' would easily still be in business had they chosen a unicorn to represent their company financially: Trust me, everything is better with rainbows and unicorns -- particularly bankruptcy filings.

Here's a tutorial you can learn how to draw a unicorn if you're unable to source an image from google image search: Walter Foster's how to draw a unicorn.

Livechat

If you've browsed enough web hosting sites you'll quickly note that something consistent with a great deal of them are livechat pop-ups. The easiest way to convince someone to sign-up with your hosting company is to initiate a chat with them each time they wander to a new page on your site. Leaving clients to read the pages on their own without a pop-up every few moments is just bad form. I suggest setting up a timer that automatically pops up a livechat request every 15 to 30 seconds. It doesn't hurt to cover your site with pictures of pretty representatives who don't actually work at your company either, it leads us to our next point...

Sex sells!

If superbowl ads tell us anything, sex sells. Though I can attest I've never purchased anything that was the direct result of sex. If you do intend on utilizing sex in your advertising just don't don't forget to cover all of your potential markets like these fine chaps do:

A slogan!

Last, but not least, every company needs a tagline. If you ever intend on your company being advertised on late-night television in between cardio workout video infomercials & blenders, you'll need a slogan. You will never amount to much unless your company can eat up the competition so I suggest a slogan that's easy to remember like "Always low prices, always low quality" to ensure customers keep gobbling it up...

I could go on, but in all honesty.. as much as this post was written in slight jest: launching your own company can be extremely rewarding and such a fantastic learning experience: I highly recommend getting involved first-hand with something you're passionate & love. In the end, do what you love and love what you do :)

_No animals were harmed in the making of this post. Hosts, maybe. _

Support from hell

We've all been there. You run into some problem with some software, device or service and you require some help. You're often left navigating some phone system or website that resembles a "choose your own adventure" book written by the devil himself.

You rarely ever arrive at "Press one for somebody with a clue who can actually help you", and more often than not more akin to pressing all of the buttons simultaneously as you slam your phone & head against the wall to the beat of elevator music.

We have all been there. In fact, I'm positive I've experienced enough appalling support to write harvard business school case-studies on it. From banks, software firms and even web hosting providers: Service levels are frustrating, profits are up and consumer satisfaction is measured in revenue & stock dividends instead of happy clients.

I often imagine that there are white-haired men that sit around a boardroom table laughing, bourbon in hand, while they listen to the sobs & screams of clients in voicemail boxes. It wouldn't surprise me in the least, as more often than not companies do happily tear away support pillars to reduce costs and put profits first.

As I sit awake at 6AM EST just hours before our own clients wake up, I'm patiently awaiting a third-party vendor to respond to a mission critical request of our own that they've sat on for eight hours. It reminds me of an instance about a decade ago that resulted in us launching the company that is now Fused Network. A web hosting provider had allocated my domain name to a third party and dealing with their support team made any solution impossible. Despite the verdict essentially meaning the loss of my other company I gave up. All of our attempts proved futile and left us frustrated and unamused.

Fused Network launched not too long after that when I decided I could do better, and we've just past our 10th year in business. We strive daily to continue to improve our own support because we're users too, and know just how frustrating bad support is.

Do you have any horror stories of your own? I'd love to hear about them in the comments.

Loving the unlovable

On patience, and loving the unlovable. When internet support goes wrong & how we can all correct it. On loving the unlovable -- the title may be slightly misleading, as all of my titles are. In any industry (service or otherwise) we often find ourselves dealing with folks who have little knowledge of the topic at hand. I admit, I used to find myself in situations where I would have trouble dealing with those on the other end of the line -- it's very easy to let anger take over. The internet is full of sites dedicated to throwing sticks & stones, and being condescending. Clients from hell is a prime example of this -- originally intended for developers/designers who are obviously working with people less educated than themselves in the topic at hand.

It's a prime example of what's wrong with a lot of people in the service industry (I reiterate, I'm guilty) -- the lack of patience, time and love quickly turns into the ripe situation and gives us the opportunity to deride someone on the other end. I recall a particular phone call from a client many years ago where a client could sense my frustration levels rising along with his own, too. A short while after our first call ended, he later called and apologized and explained that while he may not be the most technical minded, he was a doctor of medicine. He explained to me situations in his own industry where he could easily get frustrated when someone didn't know much about the topic at hand. We ended up having a lengthy discussion where we opened up and had the opportunity to simply be human. Instead of him getting angry over his own frustrations, we would laugh it off -- the opportunity to be human, and understand that we all get frustrated quickly turned into a tool to keep one another calm.

The end result was my realization that the goal of everyone in situations like these was education -- instead of getting frustrated in situations where minor mistakes, we could take the time to educate someone on the topic at hand or at least offer our expertise in the situation. I have been frequently humbled by people who may be uneducated in one particular topic, but experts in their own right in another. We can learn a lot from one another by simply being patient, and respecting one another's levels of knowledge in different topics and remembering to be human in every interaction.