What Went Down in Ask Me Anything with Contabo CEO Thomas Noglik

As we’ve recently reached 100.000 active customers, on February 25th, 2021 our CEO Thomas Noglik took part in an Ask Me Anything session with the Contabo community to celebrate that milestone. It was streamed live on Facebook and YouTube. You can watch the recording here:

For those of you who missed it and prefer to read what Thomas had to say, here is the transcript of the discussion:

Is everyone at Contabo German?

Not anymore! Over the last couple of months, Contabo moved more and more towards an international company in all regards. Not only did we open a Data Center in St. Louis last year, but we also hired non-German speaking people. Today, we are an international company, not only from an employee’s perspective but also from a customer’s perspective. Our entire business is international with less than 20% percent of our customers coming from Germany. The other 80% percent are spread all over the world and we have customers in more than 180 countries. I am proud to say that Contabo is not only a German company anymore, but we are an international player.

Are Torrent websites accepted at Contabo?

Generally speaking, we are not responsible and we do not limit our customers in what they are doing on their server. We are an infrastructure provider, meaning we provide virtual and dedicated servers and it is up to our customers what they want to run on their server. We do not limit that as long as it is legal. Of course, we have an abuse process in place to ensure that we only host legal content. In the end, we don’t care what the customer is using his server for and we support everything that our customers run on our infrastructure.

Is it a good idea to start a web hosting business in 2021?

The web hosting market is big enough and still growing, so I would invite all of our customers to become resellers and to provide web hosting services to their own customers. There is a huge demand on the market for web hosting so I don’t think it is too late and overall, it is a good idea for our customers to start now with web hosting.

How has the investment from Oakley Capital changed the way Contabo’s business operates?

Contabo is owned by a group of hosting experts including myself and Oakley Capital. I don’t think this has changed our operations for our customers a lot, maybe a little bit for the better. As I mentioned before we are now becoming more and more international due to the capabilities we have and for the future, this will only be beneficial for our customers. Our strategy going forward is to grow and to offer more services and more locations and at least to continue with our good support. I don’t think that the structure of the ownership of Contabo is the reason why customers are coming to us. The reason why customers are coming to us is our great support and our great products, and we will continue to expand both of this.

Does it make sense to use Contabo servers to mine cryptocurrencies?

Yes, you can if you want to. As said, we are an infrastructure provider so we offer you compute power and if you want to use this compute power to do crypto-mining then feel free to do so and we support this. It is a general question if it makes sense to mine cryptocurrencies but I personally think this would make sense.

Can we resell VPS through an API using WHMCS?

Not at the moment, there is no integration on WHMCS. We are right now working on an API, there is already one you can use to order a VPS or Dedicated Server but there is no API yet to manage the server. We are however working on this and this will come in the future. We did the first thing to help our resellers to be more automated and there are things to come.

What are the plans when it comes to new Locations?

Our Data Center footprint currently features servers in Germany. There we have three Data Centers and we provide the European market out of Germany. In addition to that we have our own Data Center in St. Louis, Missouri, where we provide our services for all the customers who want to have a server in the US. As part of our internationalization strategy, we plan to open new Data Centers and the next one will be in Singapore. This is planned to launch at the beginning of Q2 and there will be more Data Centers coming as we have already announced on our website. We want to launch a Data Center in India and we also want to expand our footprint in the US. There will be more Data Centers in the future!

What are the plans when it comes to a Data Center in South America?

Right now, we serve the South American market with our Data Center in St. Louis and that is in the middle of the United States and we try to address the needs the South American market with this Data Center. South America is a very interesting market, not only Chile but also Brazil and Argentina are countries where infrastructure hosting is very popular. Although we have no concrete plans there yet, we are always looking for new markets and new opportunities.

What is your policy when customers are using their servers for illegal activities?

We have clear Terms and Conditions where it states that all software has to be licensed and we do not support unlicensed software. The responsibility is at the customer’s side. In case we receive any abuse report that a non-licensed software is used or content which is fraud is running on the server, then we will act accordingly. We do not scan servers for licenses though. We are an infrastructure provider and our services is to deliver compute resources to our customers. Still, we stick to the law and if we realize that unlicensed software is being used, we will take actions to get this down.

What has changed at Contabo since you have joined the company?

A lot has changed. First of all, we are getting more international in all aspects, employees, Data Centers, we are growing and expanding our product portfolio. A good example for this is that we introduced Virtual Dedicated Servers, which is the bridge between VPS and Dedicated Servers, so a virtual server with dedicated resources. This is a completely new product line we introduced last summer and this is pretty successful. In addition to that we launched a new hardware platform based on AMD. We did a lot of things and the feedback we received from our customers is that this was for the better. In the future, we will see more things like our new Data Centers. From the product perspective we are planning to expand our product offering, so stay tuned what will come next.

What does “Contabo” mean?

Contabo is the abbreviation of Content Across Borders.

Do you we plan to get rid of setup fees?

It depends a little bit on the product. Let’s take Dedicated Servers as an example: On the one hand our provision process is pretty automated, on the other hand we still have manual things to do because we offer the opportunity to customize the server, so you can choose different disks, different configurations. For this it is required that the technician assembles and configures the server in the way the customer has ordered the server. That is the reason why we take setup fees. For our virtual products, let’s take Virtual Dedicated Servers as an example, you also have the opportunity to customize the server and add an additional disk. For most of our products, there is some customization and for this we need people and that is why we charge setup fees.

What are the plans when it comes to storage products at Contabo?

There are two plans. First of all, we offer a lot of configurations for our Dedicated Servers for example. We will continuously add additional disks so that the customers can order a server with a bunch of disks with huge capacity. Second, we are also planning to expand our product portfolio. Right now, our core competency is to provide compute resources but we also want to add products around storage and around network to our portfolio. Currently we are in the planning phase to expand our product portfolio towards storage.

Can we expect a more robust API and cloud provisioning?

Yes, we are working on this. I can’t announce a release date yet but don’t be surprised if we will release it this year. The first step for us was to release our API to order servers and the next step is to automate everything around provisioning and we are already working on this. I am pretty sure that we will have a good offering for you in the next couple of months.

How is it possible that you have such low prices?

There are several reasons why we are able to deliver our products at this price level. First of all, we are a small and agile company and we do not have a lot of administrative overhead. Second, we have a very standardized platform, so we are using our hardware for dedicated, virtual dedicated and virtual private servers, so we are completely standardized and highly automated.
Then we are also known in the market to be good at negotiating with our suppliers in terms of hardware prices, power, uplinks and so on. Our philosophy is to deliver the best price-/performance-ratio in the market. It is part of our DNA to deliver a good service for a reasonable price and the entire organization is completely focused on the customer. To give you some numbers, 80% of our employees are in direct contact with customers every day. This is a good evidence why we are lean and clean in terms of organization and focusing on our customers and providing the best service for the best price.

How do you deal with DMCA requests for Dedicated Servers or the new VDS?

We have an abuse process in place, but we must say that we realize that we have some requests which are pretty well documented and where we have enough information to act on this. But we also receive thousands of requests every day where the documentation is not sufficient enough to act on this. Depending on the level of detail we receive we act on this, but we need some proof and certainty that there is really abuse going on.

Are there plans to upgrade the Contabo dashboard?

We launched our new website a few weeks ago and we listen to our customers and we receive feedback that our Control Panel should be the next thing we should touch. We agree to that and we want to update our Control Panel. This is also one of the projects we are working on and it will unfortunately take some time because quality and a Control Panel which works well is also very important for us to deliver.

Why doesn’t Contabo sell game servers anymore?

We sell infrastructure and if the customer wants to run a game server on the infrastructure, this is more than possible. We do have customers who are running game servers. Although we do not offer specific software for that, our platform is well suited to run game servers on. We also have bigger customers who are using our platform as a reseller of game hosting. Feel free to use our servers for gaming, we just do not offer any specific software for that anymore.

Is there a chance to include MacOS images in the list of supported OS?

No, quite frankly there are no plans to support MacOS right now.

How does Contabo manage to maintain German quality in overseas Data Centers?

This is pretty easy. We have hired a German guy in the US, who is leading our operations there. So we are in a good position to have someone in charge there who has a mixture of both cultures, someone who knows both our requirements in terms of quality and the local philosophy. This guy is organizing our team there so the secret behind this is that we try to get people who are used to our German mindset and quality. In St. Louis, we have someone who is German but he has been living in the United States for 15 years now.

Will you expand usage of the Snapshot feature and offer more possibilities around that?

Our snapshot feature is supposed to give our customers some basic backup functionality. But part of our product roadmap is to deliver more professional applications to our customers. Looking ahead, we will also offer some commercial backup solutions which our customers can use to have more security around their data. Security and backups are in the responsibility of the customer so we want to provide more tools in order to support our customers to be on the safe side.

Did you notice more brute force attacked across Contabo recently?

We see at the number of attacks is increasing, not only at Contabo but in the entire Internet. The amount of DDoS and brute force attacks are increasing and is now reaching a level where our solution which we have in place is also getting to its limits. We are elaborating on additional protections for our customers and hopefully we will have a solution in place for our customers in the next months. The current solution is good but somewhat limited with regard to the amount and size of attacks, so we have to improve our solution.

Did Covid-19 affect Contabo’s business?

For sure, Covid 19 affected our business in different regards. For example our employees: Today, most of them are working from home and this was not the case before Covid 19. As you all know we are a German company very centralized in Munich and Nuremberg, so our business before Covid was very office-oriented. But now, most of our employees are working from home and with regard to our future internationalization we see that this is working pretty well. The way how we interact and collaborate with our staff changed. At the same time, we saw the demand for our services was also increasing, maybe even faster than in the past. The digitalization of different economies and companies resulted in a higher demand for hosting overall, not only at Contabo. We see an impact on our business and from my perspective we are dealing well with the situation. I hope we will get out of this situation pretty soon though.

Do you have plans regarding the implementation of the support ticket system in the Control Panel or to introduce a live chat?

It’s a little bit too early to announce the details but this is on our radar as we know the demand regarding live chat and such functions. We are thinking about implementing these things but it’s a little bit too early to announce.

Do you have personal projects that are hosted on Contabo and do you code yourself?

Both, yes! I have personal projects on Contabo and I am really coding things. I started my career in software development, so I am pretty sticky to writing code. Nowadays it is more a hobby than a business but I am still writing code.

How does Contabo actually deal with incidents and informing the public via contabo-status.com?

We have two different strategies and it depends on the scale of the incident. If for example a host system has issues and a couple of customers are affected, then our strategy is to inform them directly via e-mail. But we also have some incidents which for example hit all the customers in a Data Center or in a rack. For things like such bigger incidents, we have our status page where we announce things and where we try to keep our customers updated.

Does Contabo plan to offer GPU-enabled instances?

This is a topic that is very interesting for us. I personally think that part of the hosting industry will move to GPU-compute services, because this will be the next step for some use cases. For us at Contabo this is interesting as well, and during our session today I already announced many things we are working on right now and we as a whole company have to pick our battles, so we can’t do everything at the same time. In general, this is very interesting though for us and we have our eye on this but it is not on our short-term list.

Does Contabo have plans to support more Operating Systems?

I think the number of operating systems we are already offering is huge compared to other players in the market. Still we are continuously working on adding new OSs but this is not something we focus on to be quite open. Regarding the paid distributions of Linux, we offer the community version there and from our perspective this is enough to meet the demand of our customers.

What is the next big thing at Contabo?

The question is what is the one big thing, I think there are a lot of things coming over the next weeks and months but a point we didn’t touch today and we will launch next week is a new currency. So we want to offer our products also in U.S. dollars, which is heavily requested by our customers. Right now you can only order our services by paying in euros and next week we will launch our product offering in U.S. dollars, so this is the next big thing.  [note from the author: We did introduce U.S. dollar payments on March 2nd, 2021.]

Who designed this new logo for Contabo?

This was an employee of us. We have a very tiny marketing department but we do have a marketing department. We do not spend a lot of money in marketing, we are more focused on our product quality in general than on spending too much money on marketing. But we have some people who work in our marketing department and one of our colleagues created the logo, a lot of logos actually and the logo you see right now was the best one.

This covers our first ever AMA session. We hope you enjoyed following it live or reading the transcript here on our blog. Should you have more questions you can always reach out to us using social media.