We are a small web design and consulting firm, and in pursuit of additional ways to bring value to clients and a small stream of revenue for us - we are wanting to offer reliable, fast hosting.
Since site speed is becoming more and more important for organic ranking we are researching the best way for us to accomplish that. A few of our clients are on VPS (from a major hosting and domain reseller company) and we have constant issues, no support is included and we feel it is very slow (despite fancy specs).
The solution we are hoping to offer would include allowing each client their dedicated IP, ability to have SSL, and possibly a control panel / basic site builder.
Here are the questions we could use community’s help with:
-What is the best possible setup? (is it ok to start with one server for all - database, WHMCS, and a few customer accounts on it?)
-If we get a dedicated server, can the above be satisfied (including dedicated ip’s)?
-If so - what minimum server specs would you recommend (ram, processing, storage, etc)?
-Hard drives. Would you recommend Raid 1 to mirror the image, or would you have one hard drive run sites, and another hosting the database?
-What is the best, automated ‘off-site’ back up solution we can setup?
-We are not server pros. Should we consider fully managed OR a server management company such as SeeksAdmin or PlatinumServerManagement?
-Should each account be resource managed? If so - what software do we need to get that setup? (Do we then technically start re-selling VPS?)
-Should we consider re-selling VPS? If so - which companies offer great setup/tools for that?
-Should we consider a hosting company where a software (such as WHMCS is already included) OR should we buy our own license? Advantage and disadvantage to that?
Based on the above..
1) which solution
3) ...and most importantly provider would you recommend?
4) Is there something else I need to be thinking about?
It is hard to say what is best for you, without knowing the number of websites you are talking about. But I will give the following info from what I am reading here.
First, it sounds like you may be trying to over think what to do. Making it more complicated than it needs to be...
Second, if you have customers on VPS servers that are bogging down, and running slow, the first thing you need to do, is find a better solution for those clients before they go elsewhere.
VPS may or may not be the better solution. It depends on the site and it's needs.
Most sites are fine on a shared server. Some sites use more resources and need that extra step towards a dedicated. However, with a VPS, you have the same issues as a shared server. You never know what the other sites are doing on that machine that could cause issues for your site(s). Sometimes it is best to get a small dedicated (managed sounds like what you need to look for) and move those few sites to it. That way you know what is going on in the machine, and can keep it stable for them.
Now, for the new sites you plan to host. The server it sounds like your looking for, may be better served by being a reseller of a larger host. This way, it allows you to make a profit on your customers, and for all major support issues, you have people that you contact to take care of the server issues for you.
Doing this will allow you to build your customer base. As your customer base and income increases, you can base when to look for your own dedicated server as your revenue will handle it.
As for the resource management.. until your on a dedicated server, no need to worry about it. However, it sounds like your asking about cloud linux to manage all resources of a site. it can be good and bad, depending on what type of clients you host. if they are more major clients, then you may need a more "real" cloud solution.
Each site having it's own IP... this is becoming a thing of the past. There are too many dedicated IPs out there now days, and it is getting harder to get them. If they have their own SSL, it is no problem. Some hosts still offer dedicated IPs but they are being pushed to stop, by ARIN, the IP headquarters.
It is hard to find a managed server that is managed as well as having a server management company. SeeksAdmin did good work for us in the past. I have never used the other company.
As far as WHMCS is concerned, I would go with getting your license directly from them. Their support for their customers is top notch. Every time I have had an issue, and there have only been a few in the last many years of using it... they have responded and had the issue fixed real fast.
Again, I do not want to get into server specs or raid configs, as without knowing what your actual needs are, there is no real way to tell you what is best for you. Contact a server company, like liquidweb, or another, and talk to one of their sales men on the phone, and they can help figure out what your exact needs are, and base your server needs on your true needs.
Generally, yes, it is good to start with one server/drive for database and sites. However, you will want an extra drive to run internal backups on, and if you want raid for more protection, that requires at least one more drive.
You should simplify your approach. While it's good to have all your bases covered, starting out with an over complex set up which far exceeds your requirements will put undue strain on your time.
Look at what your clients core requirements are, is it just web hosting? Will it be better to use an affiliate program for the hosting or perhaps a reseller hosting account to start and test the waters?
A dedicated server, while giving you full control, also gives the illusion that it's an easy "fix-all" solution to having things exactly your way, but having such control also comes with a good degree of responsibility that takes an awful lot of time to learn. A server management company, although it will help a lot, still won't replace having your own experience with some basic server management tasks.
So start small and find a suitable solution to match, then slowly build on it and scale gradually at a pace which is manageable.
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I have to agree with IH rameen,
If possible, you will be able to learn as you grow on a reseller plan, instead of a dedicated server.
I also understand your speed wishes.
If that is priority, and from the speeds you listed it must be at the top.. perhaps considering a managed dedicated server, so you have that back end support as you learn the ropes of running the server.
With a few good paying clients, you can pay for the server, then the rest is working towards perhaps an admin until you learn that end of things, then profit.
There are plenty of good places to get servers. I lean towards liquidweb, because after being in several other data centers, I have found nobody that supports their server clients as well.
One thing to remember, is that those CMS sites are database driven, and if they get busy, they can bog a server. 10,000 visitors a month is not bad at all though, and page loads should be much faster. You may want to look at the size of the pages being loaded too, as that will affect page load times, and if they are extremely large, or have very large images, that will slow things down.
It sounds like you are really leaning towards a dedicated server. If that is the case, then make sure to get one that will give you a lot of room to grow both in disk space as well as CPU and Ram.
From what you are saying it sounds like you will be growing fast so maybe starting with a small dedicated server and you can always upgrade if needed. If you aren't to familiar with support I suggest getting a management company like platinumservermanagement. While yes you should learn/know things around the server but a server management company would be able to assist you with the things you are not to familiar with, and help you to keep your server running properly. I've tried in the past getting managed servers, never worked out for me that's why then I decided to switch to psm for support, and that has been working very well for me.
It does sound like you are analying a lot of things, however it is best to know what you are getting yourself into, with no surprises.
I think once you get more familiar with the type of business you do decide to run I think you can then think about reselling vps servers if you want.
More often than not the bottleneck is RAM, without enough memory a server starst swapping, causing a lot of IO and thus delays for other tasks. The load will go up and the server effectively becomes unresponsive.
That being said, usually when servers are slow, it may simply be because there are too many websites running on one server. However a modern server (or VPS, as long as it is fully virtualized with Xen or VMware) can easily handle both the database and the websites. It is mostly a matter of configuring it properly. I would keep DNS and Mail on seperate servers though. RAM should be 2 GB at the minimum. As for your hard disk, fast IO makes a difference, definitely in a RAID setup, we use mostly RAID 5, 6 and 10. RAID however does not substitute for a backup. Good backup solutions include an rsync or rdiff-backup to an off-site server or if you have the bugdet a block-level backup solution from for example R1Soft!
As for the server, i would definitely get a Xen or Vmware based server. The simple reason being that administration is much easier and you can easily scale. Add memory, CPUs or storage as needed.
If speed is an issue, minimize the hops and try to find a host with as few upstream providers as possible.
As for IP adresses, try to get your own IP range, this has several benefits. First of all you can configure reverse DNS records (PTR) yourself, which is neccessary to make sure your email isnt being flagged as spam by spam filters and second of all, it allows you to be listed as the abuse contact in case a website from your client is compromised. If this happens, your hosting provider will normally receive the complaint and many providers will shut you down without escalating the issue further. Either get listed as the IP range abuse contact or reach an agreement with your provider on how to escalate the issues. One server can listen to any number of IP addresses.
If tech-support or sysadmin tasks are not your speciality, outsource it for example, in some cases we let our resellers outsource all their support back to us and all they do is marketing. There are more companies that offer it like this.
Also keep in mind that cPanel / WHCMS is not your only option. There are other solutions available, some are cheaper, some are more expensive and some are proprietory. Each have their own advantages and disadvantages, some allow extensive private branding.
Wow - thank you each and everyone for your answers so far. What a great WHT community! Each of you have brought up points I didn't even think about!
It does seem that a $250 - $300 dedicated with full support or outsourcing server management might be the way to go.
I think we ONLY want to re-sell to our own clients, for whom we setup and manage sites. What that means is that we know what's on their sites, their usage, and we are the ones to do optimization on it. As for mail, very few use it much - and we recommend and nearly setup each of them with Google Apps.
I like the idea of re-selling VPS so we can scale easily without moving to a new server down the road - however it appears 'pound for pound' VPS is more expensive and may not offer the same flexibility.