Web hosting’s green future

An interview with Simon Blackler, CEO of Krystal Hosting Ltd Krystal Hosting was founded in 2002 by CEO Simon Blackler with a vision to provide a greener, fairer web hosting service – one where the customer and the environment come first. Krystal is growing all the...

An interview with Simon Blackler, CEO of Krystal Hosting Ltd

Krystal Hosting was founded in 2002 by CEO Simon Blackler with a vision to provide a greener, fairer web hosting service – one where the customer and the environment come first. Krystal is growing all the time, and is on a mission to prove that rapid progress in tech sustainability can be achieved without sacrificing performance, reliability, or the bottom line. The firm currently has 67 dedicated members of staff across London, Amsterdam, Phoenix (Arizona) and Edison (New Jersey), and works with large organisations, startups, developers or agencies. In a nutshell, if you want to succeed online, Krystal Hosting should be your first port of call. Navigating Change caught up with CEO Simon Blackler to find out more about what makes this innovative company tick. 

Simon Blackler, CEO of Krystal Hosting

What’s the inspiration behind Krystal, how did it all begin? 

Simon Blackler: Founded on a trampoline and a shoestring budget, Krystal exists for more than profit. Here’s how our story began.

Over the summer of 2002, two teenagers developed a fansite for an upcoming computer game. Off the back of that experience, they went out into the world to build and host websites for clients. What they found was awful! Web hosting was unreliable and offered poor value. There was rarely a phone number or way to contact the provider. To make matters worse, hosting companies routinely changed hands, and shortly thereafter service levels would drop as the new owners cut costs. The pair knew they could do better so resolved to provide a viable alternative.

With a commitment to be “Honest, Reliable & Personal” – a slogan you’ll still find on the Krystal website today, they set about to change the way business was done. They promised never to sell the company to their competitors – instead they set out to challenge them, and committed to using their profits to benefit the planet along the way. Their original purpose and mission has not changed in over two decades.

Today, Krystal is still family-owned, employs 67 staff (and is hiring!) and is now the UK’s largest independent web host. It’s also the world’s first – and as far as we know only – B Corp-certified web hosting and public cloud provider. 

Your website says “web hosting that’s fair to you and the planet”. Please expand on this aspect and explain what sets Krystal apart. 

SB: Many people have never thought about digital emissions. And it’s easy to understand why: when anything that appears online – whether it’s text, photos, videos – is all happening on a screen, it’s difficult to associate it with the impact it has in the “real” world. Unfortunately, the reality is that any sort of digital activity generates carbon emissions, and sometimes in huge quantities.

Behind the scenes, the data centres that store and transmit online content require a serious amount of energy to power and keep cool. What’s more, the majority of web and cloud hosting providers still operate through traditional facilities that are heavily reliant on fossil fuels. In fact, studies estimate the information and communication technology (ICT) sector’s share of global electricity usage is now around 3%, resulting in a carbon footprint comparable to that of the entire aviation sector.

However, there is hope. Switching to a web host powered by renewable energy can make a significant positive impact. In 2017, Krystal became one of the first web hosts to be powered by 100% renewable electricity from the sun, wind and sea. As we’ve expanded into additional data centres around the world we made sure they’re all powered entirely by renewable energy too.

We aim to be a regenerative business, one that gives back more to the planet and society than it takes. So, we also work with tree-planting organisations around the world to help reforest coastlines, build up local communities, return land back to wildlife, and sequester carbon. We have already planted six million carbon-cancelling, habitat-restoring trees, and we plan on planting and protecting hundreds of millions.

In early 2023 we became the world’s first B Corp web host and public cloud provider, and signed up to “1% for the Planet”, making a commitment to donate at least 1% of our revenue to environmental causes around the world. 

Krystal is on a mission to prove that rapid progress in tech sustainability is not only possible, but can be achieved without sacrificing performance, reliability, or the bottom line. By choosing Krystal, you’re not only reducing your digital emissions and helping to fund restoration initiatives around the world, you’re also enhancing the speed and reliability of your online presence. Win/win!

What else does Krystal offer that you wouldn’t find elsewhere? 

SB: The clue is in our name, chosen to represent “value, quality and transparency”. We operate in a way the large, faceless hosting corporations cannot hope to match. We’re passionate about web hosting and doing the right thing by our clients, our staff and society. We’ve never paid a shareholder dividend and reinvest our profits into improving our service and protecting the planet. 

We build and run our own infrastructure, and we never compromise on quality or ethics. As a team of technologists who love solving problems, we obsess over using the very best tech and care deeply about getting our service just right. For you, this means world-class solutions with a planet-first focus. Being a “honest, reliable and personal” alternative to hosting corporations that run solely for profit also means that you’ll never have to put up with misleading prices, hidden extras or sneaky clauses. 

Our customer support is the envy of the industry; always superb and easy to obtain. We’re 3x winners of the Internet Service Providers’ Association “Best Hosted Service” award and we’ve garnered over 1,700 5-star reviews for our world-class, planet-first service. Speak to our support staff and you’ll get the collective wisdom of dedicated, passionate technologists who take pride in keeping your business online.

What other providers call “extras”, we include as standard. All our hosting plans include award-winning UK support, an industry-best 99.99% guaranteed uptime, flexibility to upgrade or downgrade, and our 60-day money-back guarantee.

As a purpose-driven business we think in decades not quarters and plan to be here for the long term, so we’ll never sell our clients to another provider. With no change of ownership Krystal customers enjoy consistent service, ethics & quality.

You have your own in-house cloud solution, Katapult. Please unpack this service and what makes it unique. 

SB: Katapult is our master-crafted ultra-fast cloud. It’s designed and developed in the UK by our elite Krystal Labs team using only the very best components, including cutting-edge processors, 100% NVMe all-flash storage, triple-copy redundancy and redundant 100G network.

Katapult servers use redundant components throughout; CPU, RAM, power supplies, network cards and disks, over which Katapult’s storage technology, Storpool, keeps three copies of data spread across hundreds of NVMe disks. This offers superb performance and reliability compared to current industry norms.

Katapult has been meticulously crafted to be not only highly performant but as sustainable as possible too. As a result of our no-expense-spared engineering, we’re able to run our hardware for up to twice as long as alternative providers, crucially without sacrificing performance or availability. This is better for the planet because we’re using resource-intensive hardware for longer.

No other hosting company we know of owns anything like Katapult. If your business is looking for a world-class cloud experience for hosting your websites and applications, then Katapult’s scalable compute platform is for you.

Also, please outline some of the business partnerships that feed into Katapult and the value they bring. 

SB: Just as we’ve cherry-picked the very best components for Katapult, we’ve also opted for world-class partnerships to support what we believe is the world’s best public cloud platform.

We’ve partnered with AMD & Nvidia to offer leading-edge processor technology. AMD’s EPYC processors offer the optimum balance between cores per chip and overall frequency with efficient power draw. For rendering, machine learning or AI workloads, these are paired with Nvidia GPUs for powerful and efficient parallel processing with full CUDA support. 

Katapult also uses cutting-edge flash technology. Combined with key partners’ VAST and Storpool’s efficient, reliable and scalable storage software, it delivers one of the highest performing distributed storage offerings in the world.

We have also integrated revolutionary and agnostic software from Cumulus and combined it with enterprise-grade hardware from Mellanox and Juniper to deliver a reliable, robust and readily scalable network architecture perfectly suited to the evolving demands of the Katapult platform. Basically, you won’t find better.

Cybersecurity must be top of every CTOs agenda right now. Outline the main threats as you see them, and the security advantages that Krystal can offer. 

SB: The main threats we face as hosting providers are DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks, outdated and vulnerable software, weak security configurations, phishing and social engineering. If not properly addressed and mitigated, these threats can cause anything from server downtime and slow performance to unauthorised access, data breaches and financial loss.

This is why, when it comes to security, we spare no expense. We run virus and malware scans automatically and for free across all services. We regularly patch and update our servers to ensure they’re running the latest secure software. We also protect them with both firewalls and the industry-leading CloudLinux operating system, which is used to fully isolate user accounts for maximum security and to ensure assigned resources are always available. Our hybrid DDoS protection combines local Corero scrubbing appliances with up-stream in-line filtering to offer real-time and fully automated attack mitigation. We provide 2 Tbps of DDoS protection as standard for free. 

In short, you get the very best security that hosting can provide, at no extra cost.

What is Krystal’s stance on AI?

SB: As a business we’re evaluating where we can use AI to augment humans. At the same time, our slogan is “Honest, Reliable, Personal” so we’ll always make sure that you can speak to a human in your country who understands you and speaks your language.

Our support team always try to solve issues at the point of contact wherever possible, without needing to escalate. To help us accomplish this, we have an AI assistant that we incorporate into Live Chat that gives our support team information based on the customer’s previous message. This allows them to have shortcuts to hand, aiding their response, whilst still having the full decision-making on the side of the human. This increases the chance of a 1st time resolution. 

Our software development team uses GitHub Co-Pilot AI to help them build quality software quicker. We also help our clients unlock the full potential of AI with Katapult’s cloud-based GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) solutions.

AI has huge potential for improving processes and productivity and will yield the best results when used alongside human experience, empathy and judgement.

Further information – krystal.io