Interview: Q&A with Mike Larvik, Director of Business Development for Interserver

In this post we continue our interview series with a Q&A from Mike Larvik, Director of Business Development for Interserver.  They’re a provider who offers services in many spaces – web hosting, ASP hosting, cloud, storage, dedicated, and colocation.  They’ve been in the industry for over 22 years with datacenters in New Jersey and Los Angeles.  They also have an adorable dog.  They are a classic hosting “rags to riches” story, originally starting in 1999 with a single domain name and reseller account!  They’ve come a long way and in this interview, Mike tells us about the journey.

InterServer has been around for a long time. Tell me about your history and how you got started with the company? 

I started InterServer over 20 years ago with my partner John we were both in high school and saw an opportunity within the hosting industry. Back in the late 90’s there wasn’t a ton of hosting companies and we started small and gradually worked our way up.

What were some of your early challenges you needed to overcome to help enable InterServer's
modern success? 

It took time to build our business, first off we were young and still in school but ultimately we had the same vision and we remained dedicated to building our business one step at a time. We didn’t have investors nor did we have capital so each phase of growth was achieved slowly and steadily through reinvesting most profits back into the business over the course of several years.

Where do you think the future takes the hosting industry? Where will you direct InterServer?

During the time of this interview we are going through a global pandemic. We saw a large shift of people working from home, shopping online, and virtual schooling. Activities that we thought needed to be done face to face are now being done online. I do not think that it will be strictly online going forward but balance between in person and online. That will continue to grow the cloud hosting
industry. I also think improvements in technologies from companies like spaceX will connect many developing countries to the internet. This will also increase the demand along with need for products and services online.

Managing a big team of people can be a challenge. How do you enable a happy internal culture? 

A majority of the team has been with us for a very long time, and as we have grown over the years the team has grown along with us and as new team members join the cycle continues on. Everyone’s role has evolved however, part of any organizations growth is ensuring that the people within grow as well. We have a few different teams we have a team that works directly at InterServer HQ and then we have
a remote team of admins. I think the key to keeping your team engaged especially after many years, is to ensure that people know that they are valued and that leadership is dialed into the day to day operation. Even as the company has grown mine and John’s presence remains consistent.

Tell me about your top two successes at InterServer?

Building a datacenter presented tons of challenges many years ago, however fast-forward 16 years later and it has been an instrumental part of our growth as a company. Running a datacenter is definitely a full time job aside from managing the hosting side of our business. We have maintenance/service on all vital equipment which includes cooling units, UPS’s, along with our generator. These measures are taken in order to ensure the facility remains a well-oiled machine, in addition we are consistently upgrading equipment/infrastructure in order to remain current within the datacenter landscape.

InterServer runs its own facility, which is a great differentiator. What makes your facility special?

What makes us a bit different is that while we do collocate servers in other datacenters throughout the United States having our own makes us a one stop shop. From start to finish we fully control each element of the deployment. We build our own servers, we rack them, and we fully manage them. The ability to resolve issues on the behalf of our customers is extremely efficient because we run our own
operation.

What steps does InterServer take to ensuring that your facility and network are operational 24/7/365?

Both aspects of infrastructure are a key component to keeping us up and running. Over the years I have worked alongside our network admins and designed and built our network from the bottom up. Running your own network is a nonstop job because we are constantly upgrading equipment, adding providers, and making adjustments as needed. Even when I am not physically at work I’m still always
working. Although the datacenter is staffed 24/7, having a business that is around the clock doesn’t really permit for a 9-5 schedule, therefore I am pretty much always on call.

What do you enjoy most about your role? What do you find most difficult?

I’m genuinely very passionate about what I do and I find myself to be a student of this industry. I am constantly reading or researching new emerging trends, studying the competition and working with John to develop new services and product offerings. I continue to challenge myself to find new ways to continue to move the company forward. It’s easy to grow complacent especially after many years within
the same vertical. However, I realize that in order to keep a business on track new ideas, products, and or promotions are the only way to keep things fresh.

Both personally and professionally, what guiding principles ground you?

Nothing in life that is worth it comes easy, if you want something bad enough be prepared to work hard
for it.

Give us some details on new and exciting things you are working on?

We are currently working on adding new features to our current lineup. We are adding products that focus on large amounts of storage. We have also been working on a mailing system called mail.baby which I personally find to be very exciting.

Who is your ideal customer at InterServer?

Our customer range is extremely broad we offer services to bloggers, e-commerce sites, small businesses, webmasters, media organizations, and the list goes on. I guess the easiest way to put it is that depending upon the type of business and resources the customer is seeking they can opt for either a variety of web-hosting packages, VPS, & or a Dedicated Server. Hence why the scope of our customer base is so vast.

Final thoughts and anything you would like to add?

It takes time to build a business nothing was over night, we are 20+ years into this and we continue to learn and grow. Part of building a business is making mistakes learning from them and moving forward.

If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to check out the rest of our interview series!

raindog308

I’m Andrew, techno polymath and long-time LowEndTalk community Moderator. My technical interests include all things Unix, perl, python, shell scripting, and relational database systems. I enjoy writing technical articles here on LowEndBox to help people get more out of their VPSes.