Web hosting providers in Europe plan a complete makeover of infrastructure and services. A recent report by Forrester Research B.V. (Nasdaq: FORR) discusses how partnering with hosters now offers firms an essential first step toward delivering distributed eBusiness activity by 2002. But firms need to distribute content and services across a spread of hosters and emerging service providers.

“Companies recognize their need for more sophisticated support and services from hosters, but many firms running sites in-house remain entrenched in that approach,” explained Andrew Parker, senior analyst for Forrester Research B.V. “This current allegiance to local players or in-house operation will be blown apart by Europe’s complex Web challenge. As hosting companies build out quality infrastructure across Europe, Web outsourcing makes sense for everyone.”

Forrester believes that in the future, hosters will help firms to automate business-to-business activity, deploy multiplatform services including WAP and interactive TV for consumers, and aid firms to master new online business models. Emerging collaborative software and online trading mechanisms mean companies will vie to reinvent their operations, seeking efficiencies in new eMarketplaces, driving out excess cost, and delivering speed to market with new products.

“Today’s hosting standards won’t meet future client needs,” stressed Parker. “In the coming 18 months, hosters will spend huge amounts of money on European infrastructure development — building more locations, increasing bandwidth, and beefing up support services. But they realise clients want more than this, so hosters will look to build out more sophisticated management, support, and application services.”

Forrester believes that hosters in Europe will have to partner to succeed with diversified offerings — producing a landscape of distributed Web content and services. They aim to master not just hosting, but online intermediary roles as well. They lay plans to create and own eMarketplaces, ASP offerings, online payment processing services, and more.

“Few companies can afford to wait out hosting developments. In the short term, firms must turn to hosters to secure Web-based services against rapidly scaling user demand and operational complexity. When choosing a hosting partner, companies must first assess their own Web priorities,” stated Parker.

For the Report “Europe’s Web Hosting Shift,” Forrester spoke with 33 firms that host externally — 84% of which hand off 100% of their efforts to outsourcers. For the inside story on hosting developments, Forrester also conducted interviews with 25 hosters and related businesses. Ninety percent of the hosting clients interviewed run with local providers, not household names — just four host their sites with widely known, Pan-European players. Although these execs give hosters better marks than Forrester had expected, all recognise the need to push hosters harder as their own strategies mature.