Our Visit to Rackspace

March 20, 2007

The week before last on our way to Austin, Texas for SXSW (checkout Mike’s panel), Michael and I had the pleasure of driving down to San Antonio to visit our managed hosting provider Rackspace. To say they were gracious hosts (excuse the pun), would be a gross understatement. We were literally treated like royalty, and from what I gather, we weren’t given any special treatment at all. I think they treat all of their customers who come for a visit as well as they treated us.

Both Michael and I had high expectations before the visit since we are long time Rackspace customers and have always been impressed with the professionalism and great service that they provide. We also had read a little bit about them in a recent Fortune Small Business article that made us think their office atmosphere would be a little unconventional. Actually it was more the pictures of the office than what was in the article that caught our eye. It’s too bad I don’t have a picture, but it showed two Rackspace employees playing a racquet game back and forth in their desks. This picture didn’t really put me at ease considering this is the company that our business is dependant on to provide our customers with premium server security and uptime. However, after our day long tour of the office and a data centre, I am now 100% confident that our servers are being hosted by a true leader in the industry.

I’d like to take you through our whole day, because there is a lot to tell, but instead I’ll give you some highlights through a top ten list. Top ten reasons Mike and I loved our tour of Rackspace:

1. The People
Everyone we met…and I mean everyone…bent over backwards to make us feel welcome and special. Relatively speaking, we are a very small Rackspace customer, but the Racker’s sure made us feel like we were their most important customer.
2. The Attitude
Okay, this is really a subset of number one (the People), but Mike and I couldn’t get over the certain “je ne sais quois” that every “Racker” had. Walking around their massive office, everyone was “jazzed” and seemed super happy to be working at Rackspace. We saw a little goofing off, a lot of smiling faces and at the same time we knew they were all working hard.

3. The Datacenter
We had a tour of one of their smaller data centers near head office in San Antonio and we were thoroughly impressed with the level of redundancy and security. Rusty, the long time Racker that gave us the tour, was another example of a Rackspace employee who truly loves his job and shows it with his enthusiasm and knowledge.

4. The Management
We had the pleasure of meeting the head of support, the CEO, and the head of business development. Each one of these manager’s had a jump in their step (actually the CEO was literally kicking up his heels as he ran by us in the hallways) and its obvious how Rackspace has managed to grow so quickly and retain their mojo across the entire company.

5. Harris
Our BDC account rep literally blocked off his whole day to spend it with us. Mike and I certainly weren’t expecting this, but it was much appreciated.
6. Our Support Team
We spent about an hour getting to know our daytime support team. Although we have bounced around between teams a little bit over the last year, the manager of support mentioned they are working to reduce that in the future. I was particularly impressed that one of our team used to be a small business Rackspace customer, when he shut down his business he decided he liked Rackspace so much he went to work there. He was also a Fresh Thinking blog reader…nice!

7. The Training
Although we didn’t have enough time to sit down with the people in charge of Rackspace University, we caught the end of one training session. Apparently they had small groups that did a skit at the end of their three weeks of training. I didn’t catch the whole skit, but I did see an Elvis outfit and a cape…need I say more. Rackspace has been adding around 90 people every month, so to maintain their level of support, they are heavily reliant on good training.

8. The Tex Mex
Pretty much goes without saying that the Tex Mex is phenomenal everywhere in Texas, San Antonio is no exception. Toronto has some great restaurants, but when it comes to Tex Mex, there is no comparison.

9. The Inspiration
FreshBooks has no plans or intentions of growing as large as Rackspace as our business is much more capital efficient, but we were certainly inspired by how they have handled their growth and maintained their level of support and quality of their service. Any small business looking to scale upwards can learn from Rackspace.

10. The People
Did I mention the people already? The “Rackers” as they like to call themselves are a pretty cool bunch. I must say that I am truly inspired.

about the author

Co-Founder & VP of Operations, FreshBooks Levi is a professional engineer with a BEng from the University of Victoria. Before co-founding FreshBooks as the VP of Operations, Levi managed projects at Apex Systems Integrators Inc., where his clients included Canadian Tire, Nestlé and Parmalat. Levi’s long term goals include: never losing the contest to wear shorts to the office for as long as humanly possible, some day growing back his mullet he had in the eighties and getting on the jumbotron at the Raptors game at least once a year.