January 24th, 2014
Do Web Designers Make Good Web Hosts?
Reference | in billing,dedicated server,paypal,promise,Security,spam | by Paul Hirsch
I can’t think of single Web designer/developer who has not at least flirted with the idea of profiting from the hosting industry, either as an affiliate or reseller of a larger host, or through ownership or lease of dedicated servers.
In much the same way, I suspect a healthy portion of Web hosts entertain the notion of designing and developing sites as a secondary service offering.
The majority of the time, both discover the other industry is a whole lot more complicated than they imagined, and they either drop the idea, form a business partnership with a vendor or offer the related service anyway, even though they’re bad at it.
Having gone down this road, allow me to offer a few pieces of casual advice to the designer looking to offer hosting services.
1. Your actual costs will be lot more than the plan you’re reselling or the server price you’re paying. In addition to the cost for minimal technology requirements – $ 10 -> $ 1,000 (cheap reseller -> higher end dedicated), you need to price out server management (either time lost doing this yourself or payments to a management company), merchant account costs (you didn’t think you could get by on PayPal alone, did you?), billing software (or your time spent writing ledgers and invoicing customers), outsourced support or employee costs (you weren’t going to try to support your services 24/7 on your own, were you?), possible license costs for support mechanisms (forum software, help desk software, live chat), your phone service and/or toll-free service (yes, you need this, don’t tell me sms marketing software you don’t) and the time and monetary costs associated with basic service marketing. There are more costs involved, but as far as I’m concerned, those are the bare essentials if you want to have a decent hosting operation.
2. You will never go on vacation again. That’s it. You’re supporting customers who expect a service to be provided at all times. Even with server management and 1+2 level support handled, responsibility for uptime, speed and customer satisfaction rests squarely on your shoulders, and you’re going to sweat about it, a lot. If you’re involved in a business partnership, multiple owners, etc., you’re a little better off, because you can do some schedule tap-dancing to give yourself a break. But you’ll still worry yourself to death at all times. It’s all part of the game. Enjoy!
3. Designers support scripted applications. Hosts support the servers on which those applications reside. Guess what? You get to support both (yay)! Nothing wreaks havok on a server like an application with security holes, and when you have a few hundred accounts sitting on a server, one critical bug patch release can make for a very restless night. Hey, you’re not responsible for hosting customer for whom you’re not the designer, right? Well, one customer compromises your server or reseller account, and all your other accounts could easily be affected (for example, one non-secured email script could get everyone blacklisted as spammers). By the time you’re done prodding your customers to do upgrades, upgrading your own design customers and suspending accounts causing problems, you’ve lost sleep, perhaps some business, and you’ll probably end up sms marketing software calling in server management to help you clean up the mess anyway. Such is life.
I suppose I could keep on listing all the things that can go wrong when you split your attention between two industries, but I think the point is made. This isn’t to say don’t do it; indeed my partners and I have been subjecting ourselves to this torture for about 18 months now.
But I want to impress this upon you: entering into the hosting business is not a decision to be made whimsically or to be taken lightly. I’ll spend some time in future posts talking about what hosts should expect entering into the design field, and I’ll cover how to go about planning your new endeavor to ensure the best chances at a successful outcome.
Have any tips or horror stories? Why not share them here!
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About Paul HirschPaul Hirsch is a moderator on WebHostingTalk.com, the largest Web hosting community on the Internet, and he is a founder and Core Team member of the International Web Developers Network (IWDN). He is co-owner of Studio1337, a Web design and development company located in Akron/Canton, Ohio, West. Hartford, Conn. and Teesside, U.K. Paul received his bachelors degree from Kent State University in Electronic Media Production, with minors in Computer Information Systems and Sociology. He earned a masters degree in Media Management from Kent as well. Through his theWHIR blog, he will offer perspectives on developments in design technology for the people who create what Web hosts host.
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Originally posted 2013-09-03 18:37:56.