Originally Published: Sunday, 26 March 2000 Author: Kristina Pfaff-Harris
Published to: interact_articles_jobs_profiles/Job Profiles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Telecommuting, Web Stuff, and Linux: What could be better?

..."She gets up, stays up for about 30 hours, sleeps for about 12 hours, stays up for about 30 hours, and so on. She rarely leaves her house, buying a month's worth of food at a time."...

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Riddle of the day: what has over 45,000 domains, a warped sense of humor, and employs robots for almost half their workforce? The answer: Colossus.Net. While not a household word, Colossus represents customers on every continent (yes, Antarctica too!), and advertises hosting discounts for the first customer in Earth's orbit.

Since the company's inception in May of 1995, Colossus has always used Linux-based web servers, and continues to grow steadily. When asked why they use Linux over other O/S's, company president Eric Klien explains, "We use Linux because it is the wave of the future and so has the best support of any of the free operating systems. Besides being free we find it to be much more stable than Windows NT and so we have made a decision to stay 100% Linux on our servers. When people ask if we support some Windows specific product, we always say 'We don't do windows!'."

A typical day for Klien can start at random hours, and tends to be more night work than day. He explains that since most of their customers are outside the U.S., this actually serves to make them more available. As the "head guy," he grabs sleep when he can, in between pages about system glitches, customer problems, or employee issues. Colossus' human employees are based around the country, so he occasionally uses an actual voice telephone (rather than just email) to keep in touch.

Colossus techies have a somewhat less complicated schedule. Klien, discussing one employee, says, "She gets up, stays up for about 30 hours, sleeps for about 12 hours, stays up for about 30 hours, and so on. She rarely leaves her house, buying a month's worth of food at a time." One begins to see why the employment announcement on linux.com/jobs begins with "Are you completely insane? Are you raving mad?"

There are, however, benefits to working for Colossus which anyone who's done phone technical support can appreciate. Currently, almost all of their employees telecommute from various locations. There's not really a single main office where the suits hang out -- and precious few, if any, suits. Colossus techs seldom if ever take direct phone calls from customers. Even more important, the company has been known to "fire" customers who are abusive to their employees. Klien maintains that there is no excuse for this kind of behavior, period, and that being in a service industry does not imply the need to take abuse.

Besides being a very successful web hosting provider, Colossus has many other goals for the company. Says Klien, "We want to become an enormous conglomerate. We have a comic book project that is over a year in development that we will launch in a year or so. We have a matchmaking singles service that is partially developed. And I have a little new country project that I would like to restart... There are a lot of projects that I want to do as soon as the time and money to launch them is available."

Knowing him, he's not joking about the new country. Since starting the company with only a few thousand dollars and a few servers, Colossus has grown to the extent that building their infrastructure to handle another 2,000 computers is an easily achievable task, and one which is in process now.

If Colossus has left something important out of their job announcements, it could be "(twisted) sense of humor a plus." At Colossus, having fun with the company is always a goal. Their last newsletter said it was dated 1900 due to a Y2K bug and their next newsletter will be dated 2000 B.C. due to more Y2K bugs. Another recent newsletter contained a teleplay explaining that their insane robot president had broken out of an insane asylum, cracked their computers and changed all the prices. (Did I mention that this teleplay was translated into about 7 languages along with the newsletter?)

They've even done more insane things such as creating a 20 minute RealPlayer animation explaining how Colossus was founded by the robot Poindexter who was an escaped toy created in a joint venture of IBM and Toys "R" Us. It's all part of the attitude -- fun, creativity, Linux, cool stuff, telecommuting, and irregular sleeping hours. What more could you want in a work environment?

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