Twenty Years: The Story of One of the Internet’s Longest-Running Hosting Companies

Superb Logo

Every well-run company keeps itself squarely focused on solutions that alleviate common pain-points. Superb Internet was created in 1996 to treat a problem encountered by its founder when developing a game with a collaborative global team. It’s grown exponentially over the years and is now one of the longest-running web hosting companies in existence – celebrating a full 20 years in operation on July 23, 2016.

  • 1994: Origins in treating pain points
  • 1996: Formation
  • 1999: Industry front-runner
  • 2001: First data center
  • 2002: Expansion
  • 2005: To the West
  • 2009: And then there were four
  • 2011: Security focus
  • 2013: Cloud embrace
  • 2014: Enterprise-grade compliance
  • 2015: First fully government-authorized cloud provider
  • Today: Starting a third decade of hosting service

1994: Origins in treating pain points

As is often the case in business, Superb Internet arose from a pain-point experienced by its founder. Like any online entrepreneur, Haralds Jass wanted to see his project come to fruition without any performance problems. What was a little atypical about Jass’s experience is that he was only fourteen years old!

Superb Entertainment was composed of Jass and a group of talented developers, graphic artists, story-tellers and other creators from all corners of the world. The team set out to create a game that was revolutionary, going far above and beyond the current offerings. Called Woodlands, it was fully immersive, highly realistic, and included an original musical score packaged using newly minted MP3 technology.

The game attracted the attention of an established publisher who could potentially fund its further development and handle the global distribution.

Almost as quickly as the dream seemed headed toward realization, though, everything began to fizzle. Commercial web hosting was just getting started, and the shared hosting service the developers were using subjected them to crashes, power outages, and frequently slow data transfer. Superb Entertainment tried numerous hosting providers, and there was no respite from these problems. Poor reliability was clearly an industry-wide problem.

Fast Company indicated in 2012 that “customer pain is your most important resource” because it drives you toward meeting genuine user needs. The same is often true with business leaders as they seek to solve their own problems, and in turn, those of others. Jass started looking at the hosting industry closely and determined that a company was needed to provide service that was “more responsive, more reliable, and more customer-centric; a service that customers could always depend and rely upon.”

1996: Formation

During the summer of 1996, Haralds was ready to move forward and solve the problems he’d personally experienced with web hosting by becoming a provider himself. In so doing, he intended to provide what no one else in the market could: reliable, dependable service. Jass studied O’Reilly’s Essential Systems Administration for several weeks, lined up an initial group of customers, and incorporated Superb Internet Corporation (July 23, 1996). Through these initial steps, he had created an Internet Presence Provider – the original term for a web hosting company. To get Superb underway, Jass purchased a Sun SPARCstation 2 dedicated server for $600 per month via a loan from his family dentist; the initial investment was paid back only ten days after launch. To this date, that remains the only loan or financing that Superb has ever had.

By end of the year, Superb Internet was already using seven dedicated SunSPARC servers to host over a thousand websites. The growth was nothing short of phenomenal.

1999: Industry front-runner

By summer 1999, just three years later, Jass had become a college student with a company that owned 400 servers and hosted over 10,000 unique sites. Superb Internet was regularly rated as the best hosting provider by various industry analysts, especially in terms of service quality and reseller programs. Plus, Superb was the first provider to offer name-based virtual hosting (reducing client costs) and customer-controlled virtual hosting with unlimited third level domains. These innovations carved out a solid place for the firm as a hosting industry bellwether.

2000: First data center

By 1999, it was becoming more obvious that the company would greatly benefit from Harald’s full-time management. He left school and took on a huge immediate project: transitioning Superb from colocation to supporting and maintaining its own datacenter. After conducting a thorough search of the United States, Jass decided on a datacenter in the highly networked hub of Washington, DC. DCA1 in Georgetown, Washington, DC, was opened in early 2000.

In 2000, Superb was also the very first provider worldwide to offer commercial VPS (Virtual Private Server) service, the predecessor of today’s cloud; Superb called it the Superb Power Server (SPS). The VPS (SPS) service was designed as a step in-between shared hosting and a full-fledged dedicated server. In this way, it filled a gap in customers’ service demand and made owning a fully customizable operating system and set-up environment more affordable than ever. Superb was, as always, true to its motto of “Ahead of the Rest”® – leading the industry, while others followed years later.

2002: Expansion

The next year, Superb Internet added another data center – DCA2 in McLean, Virginia. Also in 2002, the IP backbone of HopOne Internet Corporation, the datacenter and network operator that Jass founded in 1999, reached the west coast. Since Superb Internet was then its largest customer, HopOne effectively became the first ever web-hosting coast-to-coast IP network. To this day, it remains one of the world’s best connected networks, reaching the majority of Internet routes directly (free of intermediary transit networks). These two changes more than quadruples the company’s server capacity and improved network speed and reliability. Dedicated servers and colocation, for the last several years is an ever-rising part of the business, became the primary business in 2002, further broadening the client base and better positioning the brand as a major player in reseller hosting.

2005: To the West

Wanting to better meet the needs of companies with West Coast demographics, Superb opened a third datacenter in 2005: SEA2, located in Seattle, Washington. This location, which offered multiple diverse-path fiber-transport circuits for premium connectivity, also allowed high-demand customers and those with mission-critical needs to perform geo-load-balancing and replication on both of the coasts.

2009: And then there were four

Just a few years later, a fourth datacenter was added – DCA3. This one was located in Springfield, Virginia, and was upgraded to meet the strict redundancy expectations at Superb. Like the other datacenters, this one was staffed with certified engineers working around the clock to make sure all systems and data were kept uncompromised.

2011: Security focus

Superb Internet became increasingly recognized as one of the most secure web hosting companies globally, winning awards from several respected security and pro-Internet institutions.

2013: Cloud embrace

This year the Superb Cloud platform was introduced, that actually resulted from a full six years of design and development. The Superb Cloud was the culmination of tens of thousands of hours spent researching, testing, and developing; resulting in a next-generation system with 100% high-availability and impeccable performance.

Distinguishing characteristics of the Superb Cloud included a modern distributed storage system and an underlying 40 Gb/s InfiniBand network. The former offered the absence of any single point of failure, with performance equivalent to local storage. The latter had previously only been used in super-computing applications, this being one of the first commercial hosting implementations of this revolutionary technology. Using InfiniBand in the cloud architecture resulted in real-world performance that was lightning-fast – many times better than even the theoretical maximums of the lower-cost and much more rudimentary 10 Gigabit Ethernet protocol favored by others. Plus, it is completely free of packet loss and jitter and has a completely decentralized high-availability architecture.

Additionally, Superb Internet differentiated itself from the market by guaranteeing and always allocating resources exclusively to each customer. This decision provided for a fully predictive performance, a first in the cloud hosting field.

Through these customer-centric technological approaches, the Superb Cloud delivered on what Superb set out to do back in 2007 when the R&D process started: deliver a cloud that was in every way better than a physical dedicated server. In other words, the Superb Cloud offered the same or greater performance than dedicated systems: comprehensively guaranteed resources; a fully distributed architecture, free of single points of failure; and the predictability, reliability, high availability, and 100% uptime that only the modern cloud allows.

RELATED: So that we can avoid any single point of failure for optimal reliability, Superb Internet’s cloud infrastructure uses distributed rather than centralized storage. Along similar lines, we opted for InfiniBand over 10 Gigabit Ethernet for guaranteed always-zero packet loss. Explore our cloud.

2014: Enterprise-grade compliance

In 2014, Superb announced that it was building on its cloud offerings and centering itself on better meeting the needs of enterprises. The enterprise growth that the company started to experience was in two different areas: infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), i.e. cloud hosting, and core underlying infrastructure, i.e. network/datacenter services. Working closely with companies in the law, finance, and healthcare verticals gave Superb a better sense of the needs and expectations of enterprises with sophisticated compliance expectations.

One thing that Superb Internet knew would attract more of these types of clients was getting certified and audited as meeting various international standards. That way potential clients could know that a third-party organization had assessed and verified the company’s architecture and processes. One major form of compliance adopted in 2014 was SSAE 16 (Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements 16), a set of guidelines developed by the world’s largest accounting professional association. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) developed and continues to amend this standard, entitled “Reporting on Controls at a Service Organization.” Other standards and certifications Superb attained in 2014 include PCI-DSS, ITIL (the Information Technology Infrastructure Library), and two major, world’s toughest international standards: ISO 27001:2013 (Information Security Management) & ISO 9001:2008 (Quality Management) Certification & Registration. It should be noted that practically no other hosting provider has been able to achieve ISO 27001 and ISO 9001 Certification & Registration with the International Standards Organization.

Finally, in November, Superb started a key strategic partnership with OnApp called CloudPOD, making it a lot easier for anyone to be able to design and provision their own custom-build private cloud IaaS architecture. This out-of-the-box, turn-key solution is delivered through collaboration with OnApp and motherboard company Supermicro. It features Superb’s world-exclusive InfiniBand networking technology, put in place to outperform the 10 Gigabit Ethernet protocol used by many providers, and highly efficient distributed storage technology.

2015: First fully government-authorized cloud provider

Last year, Superb continued to pivot toward compliance standards so that it could more clearly indicate its ability to supply secure, mission-critical services to enterprises and government institutions. This shift was essentially a broadening of the firm’s approach since it was still completely dedicated to the huge and loyal SMB base that kept the company in business for 20 years.

The transition toward better meeting strict public-sector requirements was allowed by the company’s attainment of a GSA Information Technology Schedule 70 contract with the US federal government in May. This approval was granted by the US General Services Administration, the federal government’s procurement agency. With this federally approved status, Superb Internet was Ahead of the Rest® again as one of a small number of facilities-based providers of enterprise-equipped web hosting, colocation and cloud to federal, state, and local government institutions. This contract allows Superb to be offered through the federal online shopping portal, GSA Advantage.

In September, Superb Internet again made a name for itself as an industry bellwether with an award from the General Services Administration to sell pre-authorized Cloud Computing Services to government agencies at all levels. This became possible through an invitation for Superb to sell SIN 132-40, the most recent update to GSA IT Schedule 70. With this award, Superb became the very first organization to offer high-demand cloud solutions through the official preapproved federal platform that speeds up the procurement process for government IT buying.

These types of approvals, along with the various compliance mechanisms, have won the company clients such as the United Nations, World Health Organization and various agencies at all levels of government.

Today: Starting a third decade of hosting service

Now, this story has sounded like it was all about us; but keep mind, all of the above steps were taken to provide better service. Since Superb Internet Corporation’s formation in 1996, our company has been built on the satisfaction and loyalty of our customers, as directed by the leadership of Haralds Jass.

When we initially transitioned to our own datacenters and network, we had 400 servers. Today we have more than 10,000. In other words, we have quite literally expanded more than one-hundred-fold just in terms of the number of machines we own. Through our infrastructure, we host hundreds of thousands of websites.

As our upward trajectory continues, it is our commitment to provide the best possible service that keeps Superb Internet Ahead of the Rest®. In fact, “Customers First” is a core operational principle at Superb; as Jass often says internally, “Without our customers, there is no us.” On July 23, we will celebrate twenty years of treating customer pain-points just as we alleviated our own.

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