This is my first post but I love the forum it has given me some good insight and ideas and I'm wondering if I could grab some opinions on something.
I am wanting to start a shared hosting company, targeting the budget end of the market, I have a server that I will be putting into Colo soon are these specs reasonable enough to start small hosting plans with?
Dell Poweredge 850
Pentium D dualcore (2.8Ghz)
2x 1TB SATA HDD's 7200RPM
Not decided if I am going with Hardware or software RAID and I'm not totally sure what CP I wish to use, I have chosen Webmin because it is cheap and it offer the client based interface, I would like to go completely open source, apart from clientexec, but I'm aware that some CP's have security issues that I really don't what to risk, a backup solution will be done with a shared bacula server.
Any help or experiences would be really appreciated, I'm a Linux engineer but I don't particularly pay attention to panels other than CPanel.
#1: Use a professional hosting panel. You're not going to get too far with a shared hosting company and webmin.
#2: Find a new target. That's been done about a bazillion times over now. You're not going anywhere with that one, sorry
#3: CE might be good, but wait until they get 5 rolled out . You'll have to upgrade anyways, might as well just do it right from the start
Hardware looks alright, but keep in mind with colo, you're responsible for your hardware costs, and the savings aren't exactly all they're cracked up to be (at least from personal experience). If that's how you want to go though, by all means , go for it
Make absolutely, 100% sure that you have a business plan, and a solid plan for success. Keep in mind that your first 6 months (probably longer) are going to be losses, so make sure you've got the financial support to last 6 months at the very minimum, both for yourself , and your business.
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I echo the advice regarding the control panel - its got to be a solid popular one. Id be mindful of coloing a server of that spec - you normally only start to save money vs renting when you have a high end box, I can't see there being much saving if any with a lowend one - plus your liable for any hardware replacements.
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I hear you guys, thanks for the advice its much appreciated , I am trying to find a niche, I think managed hosting is the way to go but maybe targeting a particular sector specifically may be beneficial, as you say budget hosting is vastly over populated...
I'll take a look and see what I can come up with, I also understand about the Colo, it is expensive and may not be worth it on my current hardware so I may decide to go with a re-seller hosting plan to start, and play it out until I'm in the black and can start to reinvest, my specialism is server migration so moving about won't be too problematic.
What re-seller plans would you guys recommend for the UK?
I think it's great that you soliciting peer feedback to ensure you have a solid plan in place for running your business and I'd love to offer you feedback.
1. The CPU (Pentium D 2.8gz) is something I would consider not using. The reason being, based on my experience is that there is a great deal of software out there such as Drupal, Wordpress, etc that all consume decent amount of CPU, if you plan to target the low end segment of the market (from a price aspect) you are going to have to cram a great deal of accounts onto a single server. It would be a wise investment to spend money on a more powerful CPU to ensure that all of these accounts run smoothly and that you have room to grow on. Many people will mention that this really depends on what kinds of sites are running on your server, and that is true as well, but you have no way of knowing the kinds of resources that might be required.
2. The Control Panel. I've used Webmin and it's a great tool for System Administrators, but one aspect of running your business will be the fact that you have chosen to not go with a panel widely used in the hosting industry. The majority of providers will either be using cPanel/WHM or DirectAdmin and these control panels are tailored towards the hosting industry. Some customers may find Webmin confusing. Another aspect is to consider how you will be gaining customers, will they be people with no site currently or will they already have another provider and are looking at switching? The majority will be using cPanel/WHM or DirectAdmin already, because of this, they will want a hosting provider who is using the same panel so that there is no learning curve associated with the migration.
If you do get a sizable number of customers switching, how hard will it be to assist with the transfer from cPanel/WHM -> Webmin? You might need to look into seeing if there are any automated tools to help with the changing of configuration files, importing of databases, migrating email, etc. I work at another hosting provider and at times have had to migrate resellers with hundreds of accounts at a time, if it were not for the automated transfer tool with cPanel/WHM, I would have had to give up since there would have been no way I could seemly migrate databases, email accounts, and other associated things such as configuration files to change site paths to the correct location, which are problems you are going to face migrating customers from one control panel to totally different one.
You might save $20/m by going with a free control panel, but in the end you are going to pay with your time, and it it will cost you a lot of time. Webmin is great for administration, but from my perspective, not hosting to the mass market.
3. Billing Platform. I don't have many suggestions to make regarding billing platforms, especially since I'm biased in those regards. It's been a long time since I've used ClientExec but from what I remember it worked and got the job done. I can only suggest that you take a close look at the demos of various billing platforms to really ensure that the gateways that you plan to use are in place and that all aspects of automation are there.
4. The Hosting Industry. To someone considering entering the hosting market is, you really need to be able to answer the question: What makes you different from everyone else? This is something I discuss with a friend of mine all the time, that there are already so many hosts out there that have nothing to offer to the market so they compete on price and you see this with all the hosting deals that are $1/m or less, or the entire LowEndTalk market in general. When you open your business, you will be competing with people using the exact same scripts as you, the same control panel (perhaps?), and you might have a hard time gaining any kind of customer base if you do not have something unique to offer. There are hosting companies out there for RoR, Wordpress, Web Designers, so I think at this point, you need to find a niche and target that.
5. Reselling. I know that when many hosts start they want their own servers but you might find its better, at least in the short term to purchase a cheap reseller account and start to build your business on that. Another option is finding a decent VPS, giving you full control over things, and for the price you pay for colocation you should be able to pickup a decent VPS. Once you get enough customers, you can migrate to your own dedicated servers or even begin colocation at that point.
I can't offer any help on the reseller plans in the UK, but hopefully some of my advice here is valuable and will help you.
My company is not a dedicated hosting company, however we make webapplications and host most of our customers as well. The hosting part we rented at a dedicated hosting company. About 3 years ago the rented hosting system broke down with data loss for some customers. We decided to setup our own hosting and backup system. We were then a poor company and decided to use all freeware to the extend possible. We ended up using Ubuntu for OS, ISPConfig for CP and Bacula for backup. I did it all myself and coming from a windows background, I used a LOT of time to get it all working, much more time than could be justified for the savings from using freeware. However, the system have run very well for 3 years. We have been attacked multiple times also dedicated attacks and once had a server taken over, but Bacula each time saved us fast and reliable. I also wrote some tutorials, especially :
1) an ISPConfig tutorial : webmodelling.com/webbits/ubuntu/ubuntu-ispconfig3-multi-server-setup.aspx
2) a Bacula tutorial : webmodelling.com/webbits/miscellaneous/bacula.aspx
Anyway, I am not very experienced and cannot compare different solutions, but the above solution is working well and is cheap (but expensive in time), it now hosts more than 100 websites (I have not systematically collected any traffic statistics) both php and dotnet on windows (windows cannot be handled through ISPConfig), linux, sqlserver (also cannot be handled through ISPConfig), mysql, postfix and bind.
Last edited by rasmusrummel; 10-28-2013 at 12:07 AM.
if you just starting up, then save up and go for a VPS. specially if it does use for helpdesk.
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