hosting for helpspot

HelpSpot finally has a formal hosting solution. I quickly linked to the new HelpSpot hosting provider the other day, but I wanted to do a more in depth post on the subject.

Over the last several months I’ve talked to several hosting companies and most either seemed like they wouldn’t give my customers the level of service I require or they simply weren’t interested in working with a software vendor in depth. Meaning they wouldn’t install and maintain the application, which is really the type of offering I wanted to present to my customers.

In truth I was beginning to feel a bit down about the process and had really started to consider offering hosting myself, which I truly wanted to avoid if possible. Luckily, Giorgio of ValiantHost has stepped in and saved the day!

Giorgio has been great to work with over the past few weeks while we worked out the details and got things setup. ValiantHost is a small hosting company, which is exactly the type of shop I wanted to work with. I can already tell that his customer service is top notch. In addition, he’s been providing this type of solution for FogBugz for some time now so he’s got experience hosting and updating customer applications and working with product vendors.

ValiantHost has put together a great page about their HelpSpot hosting options which you can check out here:

The prices are very reasonable, especially considering the service they’re providing. I think this is really going to open up some great new markets for HelpSpot. Potential customers without a hosting solution now have any easy option to deploy HelpSpot. Another large market is groups that just don’t want to deal with their internal IT organizations. They now have a simple option for using HelpSpot without jumping through a bunch of IT hoops.

So begins another small step forward in the evolution of HelpSpot. Thanks ValiantHost!

Update: Giorgio dropped me a note to let me know that they’ve already got their first HelpSpot customer. That’s a great way to start things off!

ajax forum

A fellow I met at BarCamp (Gil, lead technology dude at Squidoo) has started a community forum site for Ajax related questions. It’s a cool idea, I know I’ve had some specific questions which I’d like to ask to a dedicated audience. Check it out.

hawkins on meetings

Great stuff from Christopher Hawkins on meetings. Far and away the best idea IMHO is #3, no chairs. I’ve had some of my best meetings walking back from getting coffee or in a hallway. I love this idea.

my favorite helpspot 11 feature

Of all the new features in the upcoming HelpSpot 1.1 release (mobile interface, better UI in requests page, keyboard shortcuts, and more) my favorite is a small tweak to an existing feature. See when you upload an image to HelpSpot or when one is included as an email attachment, it’s imported to the HelpSpot database and when the request is shown the image is automatically embedded into the request history.

This is cool because you can see exactly what the image is without clicking anything, however I quickly realized that there was a huge downside to this. Most people send full size screenshots of their issues. This results in the interface being stretched and becoming much less usable:

1.1 fixes this by automatically resizing the image to an appropriate size. This makes it much easier to see and doesn’t stretch the interface. Of course you can still see the full size image by clicking on it. This was remarkably easy to do! PHP’s GD library makes quick work of resizing the images. Since the image data is stored in the DB I use the handy imagecreatefromstring() function to build an image object then do a few size checks, create a new thumb image and bing bang boom in a few lines of code I have a nice resized image to send down. Another benefit of actually resizing the image is that the page loads quicker since it’s not waiting for a big 1000px wide image to come down.


knowledge management systems growth

I subscribe to Support World (a support rag) just to stay in touch with what the formal support community is up to. Mostly the mag is a bunch of ads for help desk software, but occasionally there’s something interesting in there. Today it was some stats about knowledge management systems, or customer self service if you prefer. Apparently a Gartner study found that in 2001 only 1% of service desk contacts were via the web and in 2003 only 2%. Email contact grew from 6% to 17% over that same time period. Most interesting to me however, is that Gartner predicts 65% growth in the knowledge management systems area by 2010 to 58% of all interactions (up from 35% in 2005).

Great news for HelpSpot!

During development I almost dropped the knowledge management features in order to get HelpSpot out faster, but I’m really glad I didn’t. It makes so much sense to have your request tracking and self service in the same product and well integrated.

I will note that Gartner’s report is hardly ground breaking and is mostly obvious, but it’s always nice to have the endorsement of the “pro’s” 🙂

looks like another new isv blog and a few of my rules

I like the first post of this new one:

So long as you’re trying to not disappointment me though, there’s a few more of my rules you might want to follow:

  1. Use your name, if you can’t use your full name then at least use your first name. It makes life much easier, like in the text above I could have said your name which would make more sense.

  2. Provide a link to your email address. If you do your blog well then people will want to contact you and right now they can’t.

  3. Don’t be scared that others are going to steal your idea. Get out some details of what you’ll be working on. It makes following your blog much more interesting than trying to follow along when the posts are very cloak and dagger.

OK, that’s it.

customer service

“I think part of the reason i’m such a strong believer in customer support is that my first job ever was at Sears. There you are taught that the customer is ALWAYS right. If the customer tells you he/she saw a $40 pair of jeans under a $19.99 sign, they are right. If a customer brings back a pair of obviously worn clothes for a return, they are right. If a customer wants you to check the stockroom even though there is nothing back there, they are right. “

Phil’s Development Journal

I think the same thing Phil. My first “real job” was at Office Depot where they have a similar policy. I think retail is a great training ground for future entrepreneurs because they almost always teach customer service skills.

why we blog

Our friend Gavin Bowman has a nice post over on CodeSnipers today about why MicroISV’s blog.

He does a nice job of laying out the benefits of blogging for your small business. I’d add one more. Basically a good blog can lead to great connections within your industry. Not necessarily sales (though it has for me), but connections with other companies which can reap rewards not envisioned when you started your blog. Just by being “out there” you’re giving yourself a big boost over the competition because if some other business is looking to work with a business like yours then you’ll be much easier to find then the competition. In addition, they’ll be an easy and effective way for the interested parties to find out more about you. Making that process easier lowers the barriers to them approaching you with ideas and that can only be a good thing.

Update: This doesn’t really belong in this post and I’ve linked to it before, but I really love what Gavin does with the MicroISV digest. Great stuff Gavin!

barcamp day 2

Tomorrows outfit is a light blue sweater. Catch me if you can.

A surprising number of “Ian Landsman’s Weblog” readers are here! Pretty cool.