The Biggest Secret in Web Hosting?

In the Seinfeld episode “The Millennium,” Elaine feels slighted by a sales clerk and decides to try to put the store out of business. As part of this ill-conceived plan, she buys a ton of stuff from a competitor, only to find out that both stores are owned by the same woman who annoyed Elaine in the first place. Much of what makes this funny is that Elaine was such a reactionary, but another factor is that it’s not happening to us.

We have a similar situation going on in web hosting. A large number of web hosts are actually owned by one company that most web developer, designers, and bloggers have never heard of. That company is Endurance International Group and they have over 700,000 customers spread over 25 different hosting brands.

Here’s a quick glance at the web hosts they own:

apollo bizland bluedomino domainhost dotfive
easycgi ehost entryhost fatcow freeyellow
globat hostcentric hypermart imoutdoorshosting ipower
ipowerweb networks powweb purehost readyhosting
startlogic usanet virtualavenue webstrike xeran

Don’t take my word for it. You can see their listing with the Better Business Bureau.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with a company having multiple brands. BlueHost and HostMonster are the same company for example. Similarly, midPhase and ANHosting are both part of the UK2 group. It is a little unusual for a company to have this many brands in one area, but it would be a dull world if every company used the same marketing strategy.

There are plus sides to this. If you like any of Endurance’s services, you actually have a vast number of different plans to pick from that all lead to the same thing. Also, by pooling all their customers, they’ve been able to invest in a well-designed hosting infrastructure that is shared across brands. And their service has gone green, with their offices and data centers both using wind-generated power.

Some people may find it a little odd that they do not list all their brands on their corporate web site. After all, the UK2 website lists all their web hosts and Matt Heaton cheerfully mentions the relationship between BlueHost and HostMonster on his blog. So why the secrecy?

Actually, they may have a perfectly good reason for being a little less than public about their brands. In 1984, a conglomerate called Beatrice decided to start using a “We’re Beatrice” tagline at the end of their commercials. The problem was that they owned everything from Butterball and Altoids to Playtex, Samsonite, and Avis rental car and nobody had ever heard the name Beatrice before. To quote Wikipedia: It was determined that the campaign alienated consumers, calling attention to the fact that it was a far-reaching multinational corporation, and the campaign was pulled off the air by autumn.

Endurance is not a sprawling conglomerate, of course, but when people find out that one company owns so many things, some find it creepy. The reality is that it is simply business. Personally, I don’t think they would suffer by listing them, but that is their choice to make.

So what is the upshot here? Sinister plot or what? Actually, this article was just to educate people a bit. Whether you love or hate any of their brands, it behooves you to know they are all running at the same two data centers. A little knowledge can go a long way toward helping you make good hosting decisions.

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