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I've come across several people who have done this and just thought it would be an interesting venture. So does anyone have any reading suggestions on the topic or suggestions about getting the right Internet connection for the job? Setting up affiliation with a registrar, cPanel stuff, etc.?

I have lots of experience with my own personal Linux servers and what not, but I haven't had to think about serving a larger user base.

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migrated from unix.stackexchange.com Apr 15 '11 at 16:46

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Are you planning on self-hosting the customers on your own network or do you intend to rent rack space with a professional datacentre? –  dannymcc Apr 15 '11 at 16:21
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4 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

My advice is to not bother. I tried doing this and found it nearly impossible to get enough customers to make it econnomic. The trouble is that there are so many companies with "spare cappacity" on a server they are using for something else it is hard to sell for anything more than cost price.

If you go it allone you will need:

  • $1000s to spend on advertising
  • a web site of your own to sell the service
  • a control panel to allow users to manage their servers/sites
  • a site to manage customer billing (WHCMS) for example.
  • a domain registration service
  • a web mail server
  • a stats server
  • PHP 4, 5.2 and 5.3 (with all the strange modules people want) in all it's different versions
  • MySQL
  • An up/down monitoring service
  • Someone that is prepared to get up in the middle of the night if it stops working
  • Someone to cover them when they are on holiday
  • A credit card processing system (probably a merchant account)
  • A good legal team for when a Paedophile or Terrorist ring set up their web site with you
  • If you decide to support windows as well you will need an SPLA licence
  • A professor in advanced complicatedness to understand how SPLA works ;)

And be prepared to do all that for as little as $5 per site per month.

If you really do want to do this the best way to start is by reselling one of the big boys services. That way you don't have to invest anything until you have enough customers to make it practical. Here are some suggestions:

http://www.godaddy.com/reseller/domain-reseller.aspx

http://www.fasthosts.co.uk/resellers/

http://www.opensrs.com/

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+1 don't bother unless you can add value :) –  Antoine Benkemoun Apr 15 '11 at 17:47
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"The right internet connection" for even a semi-professional webhosting company is going to be at least a 100Mbit line. You may want to look into a professional server hosting company for this.

Likewise, you're going to want a fairly beefy machine - lots of CPU power, lots of RAM, large and fast hard drives, preferably in RAID1.

In terms of software, I'm going to assume you're going to go with Apache. In that case, you absolutely need to set up FCGId and SuExec; here is a page that explains how to set both of them up in tandem. This will make the job of securing your system so much easier I can't even begin to describe it, and using fcgid instead of mod_php will let you take advantage of apache's faster and lightweight worker threads.

Your customers will likely want to be able to upload their sites via FTP; while I'm personally partial to vsftpd the choice of FTP servers really doesn't matter so much as long as you make sure to chroot each user to their own home directory.

A much more secure option would be to allow only sftp in chroot mode; this page explains how to set this up.

Most of your customers will ask for PHP and MySQL; make sure they're installed with all the bells and whistles.

Write some scripts to automate the creation of new webhosting space; this really isn't a job you'd want anyone who only ever uses cpanel to be responsible for.

... That's my generic advice for starters; I have to get to band practice or I'd add more.

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Don't support FTP. Support SCP. Much better. –  ultrasawblade Apr 15 '11 at 17:20
    
I did mention SFTP, yes. –  Shadur Apr 15 '11 at 20:55
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Most major web hosting company will offer partnership program and/or reseller program. http://iweb.com/web-hosting/resellers/

You may want to start like that, if you get enough customer then you can get your own equipment and bandwidth.

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What others have suggested about starting out as a reseller makes good sense. Chose a hosting provider that fits with the niche of your targeted customer base. For example, if your targeted customer base will be heavy into ColdFusion, try a hosting provider such as http://hostek.com

If you expect to have a lot of church and/or non-profit organizations as customers, try something like http://hppchristianhosting.com

That way, you have a partner that understands the customer base you are trying to serve.

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