10X-ing everything: the SSD Nodes 2018 in review
2018 has been a whirlwind for SSD Nodes.
As the founder of a bootstrapped cloud hosting provider, I don’t get to say a lot of things with certainty, but that’s one of them.
The good news is that as far as whirlwinds go, it’s been a pretty positive year for SSD Nodes. We’ve launched new products, built new tools to help you get more done on your servers, and made everything we do a little bit better.
So, as 2018 wraps up and 2019 looms large on our collective horizon, I thought this was a good time to look back on some of the most whirlwind-ish things that happened this year. If nothing else, I get to plant some goalposts for the year to come.
What changed throughout the year
Some things are impossible to pin down to a specific day or event. We made a lot of changes that took the entire year, or don’t really have a start/end date.
New members of the team
I wanted big things for SSD Nodes in 2018, and I quickly realized I need to bring on new talent to help in these efforts.
Content marketing has always been a significant component of our growth. I wanted to scale it this year and give the team more freedom to try out some more bombastic types of content.
We brought on two new writers, DD and Ranvir, to help write new tutorials and give Joel more flexibility to try out some “10X content” that might elevate our efforts to the next level. Ranvir has since gone on to become a part of our engineering team, helping us deploy our new 10X servers and find new technologies to bring onto our platform.
Later in the year, we brought on Rob, who is now our inbound marketing guru and the man behind those Black Friday emails you most likely saw. He’s helping us ramp up our PPC efforts and, basically, get more people on the SSD Nodes platform, whether that’s on our original SSD servers or the new 10X Cloud.
Charter, who I worked with in the past, has come onboard to make us 10X more data-aware. He’s building brilliant ways for us to get better insight into who our users are and what they want and get us organized as he does it. Killer.
53 new blog posts
While it might not have been our biggest blog year in terms of volume, 2018’s 53 new blog posts (54 including this post) were our most ambitious, expansive, and useful. We tried out massive multi-part tutorials, experimented with content no other cloud provider has even thought about, and got in touch with our developer side.
Here’s a few of my favorites:
- NVMe is here! A view from the “engine room” (for obvious reasons)
- Roadmap: Evergreen skills for working with servers (because it’ll still be relevant 10 years from now)
- Do learn Colemak (because I’m deep in Colemak myself now… more on that soon)
- I kill every VPS I touch (been there, done that [long ago])
- Self-hosting with Docker: The definitive handbook (comprehensive and high-value)
- 5 simple ways to get a return on your VPS investment (puts into perspective the value we offer)
Lots of overall improvements to make our services more reliable
We worked—quite a lot—with some of our software providers to help improve stability across the board. Basically, we’ve single-handedly improved their codebase by leaps and bounds.
We’re still waiting for them to cut us a check, or throw a discount our way, but that’s another post entirely.
To you, the users, that means much greater stability on an everyday level and far fewer bugs when trying to manage your server through our dashboard.
A few of our favorite events
2018 was dotted with quite a few pretty important events and anniversaries for us, too.
Updated referral program
Early in the year, we decided to move away from our percentage-based referral program and make things simple: $20 in SSD Nodes credit for every person you refer. The initial response has been strong, but we’re working on even better ways to make the referral program more useful for both you and anyone else you might bring onboard SSD Nodes.
Our first prime number anniversary!
In celebration of our 7-year anniversary, we launched a (yes, longwinded) promotion and I got interviewed about surviving this long as a bootstrapped business.
Taking SSD Nodes to YCombinator’s Startup School
In August I got the news that we’d be joining YCombinator’s 2018 Startup School at the top-tier advisor track. For 10 weeks I met with my advisor and other startup founders, talking about growth strategies and all those fun acronyms you might have heard on Shark Tank or wherever VCs start yapping.
It was a phenomenal experience—the things I learned are still helping to guide our growth strategies for next year.
Our first tool: One-line wise
For more than a year we kicked around the idea that we should deploy some tool/resource our users would find useful. After a smorgasbord of bad ideas we finally settled on a simple website that aggregated one-line commands you could copy-paste onto your server’s terminal. They range from useful to ridiculous, but they’re all ours.
Black. Freaking. Friday.
It should come as no surprise that Black Friday is a big day for us. We threw everything we had at it and doubled sales over Black Friday 2017.
No, it’s not 10X content.
It’s the 10X VPS.
When we launched our NVMe-based 10X server on Black Friday, it immediately outpaced our original SSD-based servers in sales. I’m not particularly surprised, given just how powerful these servers are, but it’s always nice to see people immediately adopt something that’s been kicking around in my head for more than a year, now. We’re continuing to promote these NVMe-powered servers heavily on our homepage and are constantly deploying improvements to our OS templates to further the performance boost over SSD servers.
Basically, over all our competition.
2019 at a glance
So I’ve talked about what we accomplished in 2018, but haven’t yet touched on what’s coming next. I wasted a bunch of time writing a long list of all the specifics—and trust me, there’s a lot of them—but decided to narrow it down into two categories: more services and better communication.
We want to make your life easier, and we want to do that while offering the same great prices we already have. To do that, we’ll need to be creative, but I know we already have that in spades—how else could we have built 10X servers at ⅕ the price of our big competitors?
We’re hitting this one hard from every angle, from hardware to software to content for you to learn from. Our about us page is perhaps in need of a refresh, but our one-line “manifesto” still applies to everything we do:
We believe people should be able to easily deploy virtual servers that are both low-cost and incredibly fast.
We’ll be moving on some of these efforts pretty soon, so stay tuned.
I realized late this year that we hadn’t been talking to users as much as we should. When our team spends so much time working hard on helping customers, engineering new things, or creating content, we can lose our perspective on what our users think about what we’re doing. We sent out some surveys, but that’s just part of the equation.
Next year we’ll be rolling out better ways to just… talk. That’s it. For a lot of you, we’re the infrastructure behind your business website, your side project’s web app interface, or your development blog. We’re behind things that are really important to you. And it feels strange that we don’t know each other all that well, given the trust you put in us.
I’m not talking about fireside chats with a tumbler of scotch in hand, but I am talking about much better ways for you to say “hi,” and for us to point you in the right direction, well before you feel like you need to hit that “Submit a new ticket” button.