Webair Hosts Future

John Stuart
In 1996, Michael Christopher's ex-girlfriend asked him to design a website for her father's chiropractic insurance company. For his efforts, he was promised the impressive fee of $1,000.

But there was one problem. Michael didn't know what the heck he was doing.

"I was a web designer, but I really didn't know how to design," Christopher recalls. "But I did it, and it was a great learning experience. It made me realize that there was potential big business in hosting. After that, I started advertising for hosting. I was working out of my apartment bedroom at first. When I started hiring people, I moved the business into my living room. Eventually, I had to rent an office, and when we outgrew that, we had to expand."

Since then, Webair has expanded out of six offices, and the firm currently occupies 7,000 square feet of office space and employs 60 people, making it one of the top mission-critical managed hosting companies in the U.S. The firm now provides managed hosting services for all types of hosting clients, and also offers unmanaged services, co-location and virtual hosting.

"Basically, we manage and maintain your servers for you," explains Christopher, President and CEO of Webair. "You can have the content for your website, and your scripts on the servers. Whatever type of content you have, or whatever type of website you're running, we manage and maintain the servers for your business."

"If you have a website with content in HTML, design and code that you want to upload to our services, we rent you the space, so that you can upload all of your images and content. On our side, you're connected to high bandwidth, multiple carriers, and data centers. Everything within Webair is redundant."

Christopher's company has been headquartered in New York since its inception, but recently it has expanded its footprint internationally. The 2007 purchase of, for instance, has opened up a new market in Canada.

"Wisol was part of the company,," Christopher says. "They were looking to sell their hosting end, and we felt it was a perfect fit. We assumed its clients, and its location in Canada, which allowed us to expand our presence there. We set up our routers, and we manage and maintain our own network there, which has been tapped into our New York setup. So the bandwidth, the connectivity, and the peering groups are there.

"Aside from the obvious benefit of adding clients to Webair, we've assumed the annual income of Wisol, along with all of their clients, and we support and maintain all of their servers. They're basically part of Webair now."

Two years prior to buying Wisol, Christopher opened a Webair office in Amsterdam, and recently improved that venue by expanding its data center. Now the firm plans to take full advantage of the facilities available in Amsterdam, which Christopher claims are better than the ones in the U.S.

"It's the way they do things over there," he adds. "They don't skip a beat."

In addition to opening new offices, Webair constantly adds sites to its portfolio, which numbers more than 100,000 IPs today, according to Christopher. The company hosts mainstream as well as adult sites, and its reputation is attracting new clients every day.

"After all the years, customers are pretty much coming at us," Christopher says. "But we still advertise. We're always looking for who we're not connected to, and who might be a good partner for us, and we'll go after them, as well.

"We connect to different peering locations. Hypothetically, if you're on Optimum Online, and we're peered with them, it's more of a direct connection from you to our service and to our data center. You're basically bypassing the carriers like MCI and Level-3, because you don't need that bandwidth to get to our servers. You're basically going through a peering route, and we have hundreds of peering routes."

Although the reputation built up over the past 11 years accounts for much of the new business Webair enjoys, Christopher insists there is another more important reason why his company keeps adding happy clients.

It's the company dedication to keeping those clients happy.

"First and foremost, our personalized service makes us stand apart from the competition," he says. "Also, we offer a wide range of services, many of which are not offered by other hosting companies. Finally, we're ICANN accredited, which means we are a registrar through which people can purchase domains at discounted prices. We've kept the prices really low. We only charge $7.49 per year, and every once in a while, we throw a nice $5.99 special out there. I think we're the only ICANN accredited hosting company in the business and it's been very beneficial to offer that service, because you get it back tenfold."

Aside from offering exclusive services that make Webair more attractive to clients, Christopher has stressed the importance of keeping his company on the edge of the technological envelope. It's an expensive and labor-intensive route, but it's been a deciding factor in the success Webair has enjoyed in the often difficult arena of virtual hosting.

"There are a lot of hosts out there that shy away from newer technologies," Christopher says. "We're more directed toward virtual hosting, which is very challenging, because those are basically smaller accounts spread among shared servers. On one server, we could have 200 clients. But going with virtual hosting is challenging, because it uses a lot of resources for support. It appeals usually to the up-and-coming smaller guys, who need to have their hand held along the way. We do that. We just invested more than $2 million to improve our virtual infrastructure. We put in heavy duty Enterprise-class servers that are completely redundant. Now we can offer customers high end virtual services, VPS [Virtual Private Servers], and VDS [Virtual Dedicated Servers]. Most of the other hosting companies don't even offer virtual hosting. They refer customers that want it to other people, and hopefully those people will be referred to us.

Over the years, Christopher's business philosophy consistently has been directed at taking care of the "small guy" who is just starting out, "because you never know who they're going to be. Over the years, some of my largest clients that now have multiple dedicated or managed servers, started out with a little $9.95 plan."

It's no surprise that Christopher stresses the importance of connecting with and aiding the "small guys just starting out," because in every way, these clients mirror the story of Webair. What began as a lark has become a life's work. And no one knows better than Christopher how a tiny operation that began with one guy working in a cramped bedroom can grow into an astounding multimillion dollar business.

"The moment I knew that this was going to be my career was when I couldn't keep up with the orders, and had to hire help," Christopher muses.