Souhil and Michael, can you give us some information on your background and on OIS?
Michael Butler: I am one of the co-owners along with Souhil. We
incorporated the company back in 2003. Both Souhil and I come from a long IT background,
with each of us having approximately 20 years of IT experience.
Souhil Benammour: I am the co-owner along with Michael. OIS was focused on Microsoft
technologies from early on, and lately we have started offering Virtual Private
Servers, which we feel will be the next generation of hosting.
Why go with Microsoft?
Souhil: We decided to go with Microsoft because we felt that Microsoft
had some great new emerging technology at the time such as ASP.NET, and we also
thought SQL Server was a very strong database platform.
We also saw that with the release of Windows Server 2003, Microsoft was making a
push to get hosters on Windows. That made it a very good time to get into the hosting
business with Microsoft.
Microsoft had done a good job of providing documentation and a strong SDK for new
Web development technologies such as ASP.NET. We saw a lot of developers becoming
interested in building applications on top of ASP.NET and Windows.
Microsoft also made it easy to purchase Windows as a hoster, in terms of keeping
the overall cost for licenses low.
Has Microsoft been able to help you drive new business for OIS?
Michael: They have a number of resources for hosters to take advantage
of, from broad-based marketing resources to lead-generation tools.
Trying to go out there and find customers on your own can be a very expensive proposition.
One of the things that Microsoft helps us with is that they bring us leads and they
help us to identify and target the right ones to go after.
We have had many customers come to us through Microsoft sites and Microsoft-based
channels. We have customers coming to us from all over the world.
What are some differences that you as a hoster see between Linux and Windows?
Souhil: A bad point about Linux is that it can’t simply be a black
box. With Linux, I had some issues that I couldn't initially fix on my own. I had
to just basically copy and paste some things I found without really knowing what
was going on after I applied the fix.
In terms of keeping systems patched, what differences have you seen between Linux
Souhil: It is definitely easier to patch an application running
on Windows than one running on Linux. There is no doubt about that. On a Linux-based
server, you have to first look for the right distribution, then the right patch,
download it, decompress it, run the script, and then make sure everything works
correctly. There are definitely different approaches to patching when you compare
Windows and Linux.
In this area, the big problem that I have with Linux is that there are tons and
tons of software libraries and a number of small tools, and that can make it hard
to determine what approach to take to solve a problem and which application to install
to solve it the best way.
That makes it hard to maintain a server.
What about configuring each platform? Have you seen some key differences?
Michael: There are always going to be more question marks around
configuring a Linux server. With Windows, I think we all feel a bit more comfortable
in knowing that it is going to operate as we expect it to. With Linux, it might
be free and all, but there seems to be more work to get things to really work right.
What about cost differences between Linux and Windows?
Souhil: We have a hoster-specific license agreement with Microsoft,
so all of our licenses go through that agreement. Basically, we report on a monthly
basis how many licenses we need and go from there.
Linux is free, of course, but with Microsoft you get a consistent, secure server.
There is a cost for that in the form of an up-front license cost, but with the revenue
we get from the Windows hosting side of our business, the cost for licenses isn’t
How do you feel about Microsoft offering PHP support on Windows Server?
Souhil: By offering PHP on Windows, Microsoft recognized that PHP
is in use by a fair number of developers, so I think offering PHP on Windows is
a good thing. It will give potential customers choice in where they run PHP-based
What are your thoughts on the fact that the number of IIS-based Web servers are
essentially on par with the number of Apache-based Web servers?
Souhil: I think this is happening for two reasons. First, there
are more and more open source projects and open source applications supported on
Windows. I know that there are a lot more open source applications, Web applications,
CMS applications, and others that are going to be used on top of IIS. And the second
thing is that there is better PHP compatibility with Windows and IIS.
Michael: Microsoft has improved IIS over time. The stability is
there now, and the feature set has increased to the point where the gap has closed
between IIS and some of the other competitive Web servers. People are more trusting
of IIS now, and they are more confident in its ability to deliver. I think that
is one of the reasons the gap has definitely narrowed.