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  #1  
Old 08-26-2000, 12:15 AM
Annette Annette is offline
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Wow! Now that's a list of questions.

I'll attempt to answer what I can, and others will chime in, too.

Parking domains: this has nothing to do with BulkRegister (or any other registrar you happen to use). There is a template that can be edited to reflect a custom under construction page for new domain (or parked domains, if you have a domain set aside for that).

You can customize the control panel icons, functions, and add your own. Looking around at most Alabanza-based hosts gives me the impression that most don't, simply because the tools that are offered are just about everything somebody would need to administer their account. We chose to do some customization, both in terms of graphics and functionality. Not necessary, but not hurting anything either. Don't know about the account info on the left. I presume that it could be redesigned, but we like it, so haven't bothered to look into it. Someone else who comes along might have some ideas about that.

Alabanza do not offer a helpdesk system - and I wouldn't expect them to, since everyone has their own ideas about how they want their help system set up. That's the responsibility of the host. We use WonderDesk (just switched), and have used ticketsmith and regular old email filtering.

Your sales rep may have been right, maybe not. Figures vary from host to host. More important to keep in mind is to budget yourself according to the growth you realistically expect - and budget for the fact that you might not be able to cover the cost of the server on clients alone for awhile.

Merchant account pricing varies from provider to provider. Ours, from a bank in CA, cost a small setup fee and then a lease fee per month for a specified period of time. Others charge extremely high upfront costs, and then smaller transaction fees. Secure certificates are $125 from Thawte and much less than that from Equifax (don't know if Alabanza support Equifax or not). Other upfront costs include whatever it takes to open a business banking account and buy supplies (checks) and (if you'll be incoporating) appropriate filing fees for paperwork.

Their shipping cart is integrated, but doesn't have to be used. Others, such as agoracgi and commerce.cgi are just scripts that can be installed like any other script. There is no problem with installing those at all.

Not sure what you mean about the third year with Alabanza. They don't do upgrades to existing machines, to my knowledge, no. But then again, I think I'd rather get another server set up than to overload a single one.

The bandwidth issue is really a non-issue. IMO, people place a ton of emphasis on possible overselling of bandwidth. The averages say that most clients will never approach the ammount of traffic they are allotted. Our experience has shown this to be true. The single highest bandwidth user out of all of our clients is us. One way to get into real trouble bandwidth-wise is to specifically target those clients who would really require the type of traffic that others (wishfully) think they would need: software downloads, heavy graphic sites such as popular anime sites, etc. Since warez and porn are out, that eliminates two of the heaviest hitters.

The economics of bandwidth usage and pricing is something that most people simply do not get. They thinnk that is you charge say, $5/G overage and your provider charges $10/G that you will rapidly go out of business if clients start using all they are allotted. This is not the case: what really are the odds that every client will suddenly start using every byte of transfer? They won't - and the fees that they pay offset the difference in pricing. In addition, the server itself has an allowance. The fact that one client uses 6G in a month instead of the 5G allotted to them is not that big a deal, and is unlikely to push the host over the cap.

You control how the control panel looks. The modifications we've done havn't affected any upgrade paths for clients, nor have they broken anything. Others' mileage may vary, and I'd imagine that Alabanza would not recommend too many custom functionality items in the cp.

Alabanza is great at migrations, according to people who have done those types of moves.

As far as co-op support: I wouldn't allow anyone else to support our clients but us and people that we specifically hired. It's not that I think that others couldn't provide the support, just that I have very specific ideas about how I want things handled, both in technical application and in tone.

------------------
Annette
Hosting Matters, Inc.
http://www.hostmatters.com



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  #2  
Old 08-26-2000, 12:34 AM
Chestnut Chestnut is offline
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Very good questions. You have asked them for me. I am also shopping around for a dedicated server.

I wonder whether Alabanza hosts have planned their position after the first year. No doubt the first year's promotion price is very attractive. But the second year's price is high. You can get similar package at 2/3 of its price elsewhere (ignoring , of course, its proprietary system). Can you make a profit after the first year?

BTW, Hostshopping, why did you say third year in your question 9 quoted below:-

"With Alabanza, the trick seems to be that the pricing is actually not that bad considering what you get (until the third year)."

Isn't it that Alabanza charges its normal price after the first year?

On another note, once you and your customers get used to Alabanza's system, can you move to another data centre with minimal pain? I think you will have difficulties to make a move, and have to pay the high price imposed by Alabanza. This is the catch in offering a promotion price for the first year. Get you hooked and grill you.

Other people certainly have different opinions. I will be glad to hear from them.



[This message has been edited by Chestnut (edited 08-27-2000).]

  #3  
Old 08-26-2000, 12:35 AM
hostshopping hostshopping is offline
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Thanks Annette! That was so helpful.

>>We use WonderDesk (just switched)<<

Happy so far? I'll have to look into these...

>and budget for the fact that you might not be able to cover the cost of the server on clients alone for awhile.<<

Absolutely! Since I wanted the dedicated server for my own domains, anything on top is cream.

>Not sure what you mean about the third year with Alabanza.<<

Actually, I kind of referred to this in another thread but was too vague here.

If you look at this as a 2 year deal, $400 for year 1, $800 for year 2, the average is $600 per month. If you include backups which Alabanza does and the type of hardware offered, it's just a little more for Alabanza than another host with the added benefit of their system and hardware...Very good deal. But as a longer term deal, you're paying $800 per month which is a lot for the software....what if next year some software is released that replicates all the functionality of Alabanza, plus more. Since you want the best, you will want to switch but the migration is a bear to do, but to be stuck at $800 per month may not feel so nice in 2 years....

>They don't do upgrades to existing machines, to my knowledge, no. But then again, I think I'd rather get another server set up than to overload a single one.<

I read an interesting discussion about this somewhere. Someone suggested that it's better to have one overpowered machine to admister for software and support reasons than many. Different approach but there are pros and cons for both...if I have only 2 or 3 servers, rather have one overpowered machine do the same job...easier to administer, less points of failure, and when something bad happens I can focus on IT only. (Though this is kind of the opposite of what I'm saying, this reminds me of something I learned from an old friend of mine used to run an airline with not too many planes. He explained to me the philosophy. If you have a resource problem and have to choose between screwing two sets of passengers (say 600 people) for 2 hours or only one set of passengers (300 people) for 24 hours and keep the other group (300) happy, you are better off keeping 300 people happy, and putting up the P/Oed 300 people in the nicest hotel with some great meals! Still not sure if he's right, but it just depends on your approach)

>The bandwidth issue is really a non-issue. IMO, people place a ton of emphasis on possible overselling of bandwidth.<

I agree. But it is something you should think about ahead of time. My current domain on a virtual server is approaching 10 gig this month. So one customer can mess you up if you don't think of the limits ahead of time...

>>You control how the control panel looks. The modifications we've done havn't affected any upgrade paths for clients, nor have they broken anything. Others' mileage may vary, and I'd imagine that Alabanza would not recommend too many custom functionality items in the cp.<<

Yup, that's what I figured and is a bit of a worry...

>>Alabanza is great at migrations, according to people who have done those types of moves.<<

That's good to know!

>>As far as co-op support: I wouldn't allow anyone else to support our clients but us and people that we specifically hired. It's not that I think that others couldn't provide the support, just that I have very specific ideas about how I want things handled, both in technical application and in tone.<<

Yes, the more I thought it out while writing it, the less nice it seemed to me...


Thanks again for the great info! This place is a wonderful resource.


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  #4  
Old 08-26-2000, 12:42 AM
hostshopping hostshopping is offline
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Hi Chestnut,

You answered while I was writing

>>Can you make a profit after the first year?<<

I would think that depends how good you are at creating a site and promoting yourself. But you really need to ask yourself these questions first...

>>BTW, Hostshopping, why did you say third year in your question 9 quoted below:-<<

Hope I answered that ok in my last post.

>>your customers get used to Alabanza's system..move to another data centre with minimal pain? ..difficulties to make a move..This is the catch in offering a promotion price for the first year. Get you hooked and grill you.<<

Yeah, that's the very biggest worry. Some customers actually use their IP addresses and won't like a forced change. And changing the interface! Yup, you really HAVE to be sure, because just like marriage, it may look different before and after and divorces are ugly

  #5  
Old 08-26-2000, 11:21 AM
hostshopping hostshopping is offline
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Whew. Started out searching for a dedicated server and wound up learning too much, finding more questions to ask, and being intrigued by this alabanza idea. And keep having more questions. Would appreciate some advice from you helpful folks:

1. Parking domains. From what I understand, Alabanza works with bulkregister.com (a company that alabanza spun off). If you offer free parked domains, can you set up your own Under construction type page for your customer? (I hope I made the question clear!)

2. Can you add extra icons to the control panel and have them point to your own custom programs?

3. Can you redesign all elements of the CP? Like the section on the left ("Account Glance", that whole table?)

4. Do they offer some helpdesk type system? It's all well and good to have your customer's email you, but my mailbox system already has 35 different folders that are filtered, and about 20-30 emails received per hour or two...the addition of alabanza is scary if it would go to straight email! and tracking what tickets are open and what closed!!

5. The sales rep told me that on average, most hosts sign up 30 customer per month at an average of $15 per month. Would most of the alabanza resellers here agree with that rate? More, less?

6. What are all the upfront costs? I have a merchant account, so it's $500 to add cybercash. Probably need a security certificate, so what's that? $400 or so? Anything else?

7. Is it easy to replace their shopping cart with another? Can you have the icon point to a different shopping cart?

8. What language is the CP written in? Perl? (I noticed that it seems to go to an html page, is it using SSI?) Open source?

9. After looking at various different dedicated servers, you can see that each one makes their money differently. Tera-Byte is cheap if you use up a lot of bandwidth. OLM is VERY expensive if you use a lot of bandwidth, but not a bad deal if there isn't much BW. With Alabanza, the trick seems to be that the pricing is actually not that bad considering what you get (until the third year). You are basically paying for relatively sophisticated software (and perhaps support structure?). Although the design of the software could be much improved, I think that what they offer seems easy to underestimate. A good programmer could do much of it but to integrate it well and make it run smoothly for a large # of customers is difficult.

It seems with Alabanza, there are 2 big gotchas. One is, if you are too liberal with the bandwidth you offer in your packages, the extra bandwidth will be expensive. Second is, once you have a lot of customer, if all you need to keep working with one server is additional hard drive, or additional ram, you can't get it. Alabanza will expect you to get another server. And the second server isn't $400 first year (or is it?).

10. If you do customize the cp, what happens with upgrades? Will it break your custom icons etc? Will Alabanza work with you? Or let you do the upgrade? That part seems real tricky.

11. How hard is it to set up your own programs which would automatically get installed when a customer signs up? How easily can you integrate that into a package?

12. Let's say you are wildly successful, and want to upgrade your system to the big RAID package they offer, can you migrate your customers over?
===============
Lot of questions, huh <g>.
Here's another topic about Alabanza. Seems one trick about Alabanza is that mom and pops can handle support for a lot of customers. But then they can't go on vacation. Ever. Since there seem to be a lot of people here operating that way, I have a suggestion. Why not help each other out? Why not create one large FAQ of things that come up? Create a shared support system. Its hard to be 24/7. If you rig up a system where support questions go to a onelist.com type of deal, and you agree to share the duties with a few other trusted alabanza webmasters, when a ticket comes in, whoever gets there first answers it (assuming that it's a pretty generic question). This is not an easy things to set up, but if the load is shared among trusted people, it could work. Would greatly increase the speed of response to tech support. And it would let some of you go on vacation...downside is you may not like what someone else tells your customer, especially since in a way it's your competitor speaking
Well, it was just an idea...

  #6  
Old 08-26-2000, 01:50 PM
JohnWilson
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You said... "we chose to do customization" Sorry, but I can't see
your customization... your control pannel is still identical to
Alabanza's default CP, same icons (and sorry for the comment, but
I hate those icons because I have seen them too many times)

The CP screenshot or CP real online demo is a very very important
thing because customers go there in order to know if things are easy
enough, features, etc. And if they have been looking for the right
company and they ALWAYS get the same control pannel... bad thing,
they will inmediately get annoyed with that control pannel and reject
all Alabanza-based sites.

I work with a small company, nobody knows about it, but they have a
tremendous speed because their backbone provider (for UUNET) is next
door (that company and the backbone provider are located in the same
building), plus they have very good support, and pricing is very
reasonable with lots of features (RealAudio/RealVideo, MySQL, PHP4,
Secure Server, etc) and the best thing is: total customization
of CP, I think it's the first Macromedia FLASH-based/Perl-based
Control Pannel ever, with relaxing background music (no kidding -
you can turn it off) and awesome graphics... and of course, don't
say "Flash is not always supported"... because EVERYBODY (read some
statistics about IE5 usage out there) is using Explorer 5.0 and
Flash 4.0 is supported by default (default installation).

Just my opinions and comments.

John.

Quote:
You can customize the control panel icons, functions, and add your own. Looking around at most Alabanza-based hosts gives me the impression that most don't, simply because the tools that are offered are just about everything somebody would need to administer their account. We chose to do some customization, both in terms of graphics and functionality. Not necessary, but not hurting anything either.

  #7  
Old 08-26-2000, 02:13 PM
Annette Annette is offline
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Pardon? We have indeed chosen to customize many of the icons and the functions underlying some of them (a work that is continually in progress). Jumpline, Web Authorities, us - you can look around and see the types of changes that have been made. Have we changed all of ours outright? No (at least not yet - why bother when there are other things that demand more immediate attention?). Does it matter? No, it doesn't. Cosmetic changes regarding icons is a red herring. What really matters is the service you offer and the support you give. People couldn't care less about the way the cp looks as long as everything works - and hosts (or potential hosts) would do well to remember that.

------------------
Annette
Hosting Matters, Inc.
http://www.hostmatters.com

[This message has been edited by Annette (edited 08-26-2000).]

  #8  
Old 08-26-2000, 04:10 PM
Chicken Chicken is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by JohnWilson:
...because EVERYBODY (read some
statistics about IE5 usage out there) is using Explorer 5.0
I am prettttty sure that whatever statistics you were looking at did NOT say that *everybody* is using IE5. Why would you even make that statement? Does your employer offer "unlimited" hosting? Just a hunch.

I find it bizarre that someone would even make a statement like that. Otherwise, continue on, continue on...

  #9  
Old 08-26-2000, 04:22 PM
scwood scwood is offline
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I agree with Annette...the Control Panel cosmetics really are not that important. In fact, I'd have to say it is an advantage in many cases. Not that the icons are nice looking, but it is easily recognizable. Alabanza servers have a great reputation for quality (reliability and speed) and many people search specifically for a host that uses Alabanza. The Control Panel is probably the best indication of a Host using Alabanza.

As for the consolidated support idea (I know it was pretty much retracted, but a point nonetheless), support is THE main distinction between Alabanza hosts, so consolidating it in any way would remove that distinction.

On another note, but related I guess...I've decided that I'm going to celebrate my association with Alabanza, rather than try to conceal it. I've just added a new FAQ section at Red Hot Hosting and it includes an explanation of why the Alabanza association is good for the client (under Data Center in FAQ). I'd be interested in other Alabanza host's opinions on that strategy.
http://www.redhothosting.com/faq.shtml



------------------
Steve Wood
Wood Interactive <A HREF="http://www.woodinteractive.com" TARGET=_blank>www.woodinteractive.com
</A>
Red Hot Hosting www.redhothosting.com

  #10  
Old 08-26-2000, 06:24 PM
Martie Martie is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by scwood:
On another note, but related I guess...I've decided that I'm going to celebrate my association with Alabanza, rather than try to conceal it. I've just added a new FAQ section at Red Hot Hosting and it includes an explanation of why the Alabanza association is good for the client (under Data Center in FAQ). I'd be interested in other Alabanza host's opinions on that strategy.
http://www.redhothosting.com/faq.shtml

I agree totally, in fact I mention Alabanza quite often! On our about page http://www.hostcaters.com/about.htm
and as well as our network page.Im quite proud to be associated with them and certainly will never try to hide them. I guess its all a matter of choice though.




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  #11  
Old 08-26-2000, 11:29 PM
hostshopping hostshopping is offline
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I have another question...I just noticed that none of the Alabanza resellers seem to offer virtual (non ip, non domain) third level domain offers (eg http://www.reseller.com/virtcustomer). Is that because it isn't an option with Alabanza, or it just isn't a popular feature?

Once the 500 IPs are used up, what does Alabanza charge for new ips?
Thank you.

  #12  
Old 08-27-2000, 12:02 AM
Brian Farkas Brian Farkas is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by hostshopping:
I have another question...I just noticed that none of the Alabanza resellers seem to offer virtual (non ip, non domain) third level domain offers (eg http://www.reseller.com/virtcustomer). Is that because it isn't an option with Alabanza, or it just isn't a popular feature?

Once the 500 IPs are used up, what does Alabanza charge for new ips?
Thank you.
Alabanza charges $1/month/IP. It is possible to do "virtual hosting", but Alabanza doesn't support it, and it is much more difficult than the automatic setup in the DSM (admin control panel).

In other words, you can do it, but it would require lots of manual labor and Alabanza would not support it- so I wouldn't recommend it.

Brian


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Web Hosting: http://www.intersurge.com
Web Design: http://www.infostardesign.com

  #13  
Old 08-27-2000, 12:25 AM
hostshopping hostshopping is offline
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Thanks Annette.

Maybe I should have asked it differently. I'd like to offer virtual ie:
http://www.mydomain.com/customer1

for free for my existing customers in another business (with banner ads like hypermart would be cool but not necessary).
Since I have a lot of customers, I can't give them a domain, nor individual ip addresses.

But to make it worth my while, I'd like to have a control panel for them (therefore an account) and give them the ability to upgrade to a higher level account seemlessly if they want to...

Sounds complicated...so sorry if I introduce confusion.

RE: the comments on not hiding Alabanza association, yes, great idea. No need to hide it at all. It seems to be a great company. The founder seems to have some great vision and carry-through. I really respect that. Even with great visions, it can be really hard to carry them out successfully. Just ask Joan of Arc!

  #14  
Old 08-27-2000, 12:47 AM
FlashTechnics FlashTechnics is offline
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Smile

Get a linux redhat server from catalog.com .


Quote:
Originally posted by hostshopping:
Thanks Annette.

Maybe I should have asked it differently. I'd like to offer virtual ie:
http://www.mydomain.com/customer1

for free for my existing customers in another business (with banner ads like hypermart would be cool but not necessary).
Since I have a lot of customers, I can't give them a domain, nor individual ip addresses.

But to make it worth my while, I'd like to have a control panel for them (therefore an account) and give them the ability to upgrade to a higher level account seemlessly if they want to...

Sounds complicated...so sorry if I introduce confusion.

RE: the comments on not hiding Alabanza association, yes, great idea. No need to hide it at all. It seems to be a great company. The founder seems to have some great vision and carry-through. I really respect that. Even with great visions, it can be really hard to carry them out successfully. Just ask Joan of Arc!

  #15  
Old 08-27-2000, 10:41 AM
hostshopping hostshopping is offline
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Thanks Brian.

Does the Alabanza system require an ip address for every account? (I don't *think* that's the same as virtual account)...Or can many domains exist on one ip?

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