I have alot of variables floating around and I am hoping that somebody in hosting could help me come to a decision.
Things to consider:
The product that we are going to be offering is a hosted solution that will need alot of performance out of the server. Currently we host the software on a VPS with 128MB RAM, 5GB Disk space, Equal Share CPU, 100GB Bandwidth. This VPS performs reasonably well for a testing environment, but definitely not for production use.
Our "hosting server" (the server that customers will be hosted on) is also a VPS with 256MB RAM, 10GB Disk space, Equal Share CPU, 150GB Bandwidth, DirectAdmin control panel. This is also a testing environment, and has only one user on it, but performs nicely.
Our software is designed to scale to multiple web servers, utilizing round-robin DNS, with central session management and caching servers. Initially, we will launch with one dedicated (or higher-end VPS) that will serve as a MySQL Database Server, Memcached Server, and Apache + PHP5 Web Server.
Since this venture will begin with very little capital and no clientele, my first question is if we should launch the operation on VPS's rather than dedicated servers and scale when needed?
When considering dedicated server (or VPS) providers, there are obviously a few things to consider - support, bandwidth, control panel, speed, reliability. My next question is if we should go for a self-managed dedicated (or VPS) and outsource complex administrative tasks, or choose a managed host with real support that could handle things like hardening, complex software troubleshooting, damage-control, etc? We have enough administrative experience to handle standard customer delimas, but would require assistance in major cases. Which option and with whom would you recommend?
The next question I have is about bandwidth. Understandably, nobody likes to be limited on much - this is why Dialup Access with usage constraints didn't last very long . Would you recommend to go with a Unmetered solution, or simply a high-bandwidth (1000GB+) plan. Obviously pricing and port speed will be a factor in choosing this. Do most reseller web hosts go with unmetered plans?
Another deciding factor will be the software/platform that the host includes are part of the dedicated (or VPS) offering. Currently our software is hosted on Fedora Core 2, but should work on any redhat distribution for that matter. One of our major requirements for the "hosting servers" is that they will need DirectAdmin in order to communicate with our software. Is it wiser to go for a host that is offering DirectAdmin lifetime licenses included with the server, or to just spend the $300 per server and install it ourselves?
The next point is that with growth, we will need to add to our network. We will prefer a provider that could group our servers together, and eventually scale to a private rack with a private and public network. Eventually our network will consist of multiple application web servers, mysql database servers, memcached caching servers, and a number of DirectAdmin (hosting) servers. Our application web servers will communicate to the mysql database servers, memcached caching servers, and hosting servers via the private network. But again, this is the future, and we cannot afford such set up initially, but would like a host that can provide this when we're able to grow in that way. Who would you recommend?
If we do decide to go with a managed provider, we will need honest dedicated people, and with this comes increase costs understandably, who will be able to develop a personal relationship with us, learn our systems, and provide real support in such situations. Likewise, we need a provider that is willing to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement to host our product. The security of our product from internal and external attacks if of the utmost importance.
The perfect company for us would sign a NDA, provide back-end support for things that we cannot handle, scale our hosting environment when needed, provide DirectAdmin lifetime licenses for our hosting servers, and have reasonable pricing.
Which company would you recommend for us to start small, with the lowest expenses possible, but have the option to grow within the same company to multiple racks and a private network?
We want to develop a tight relationship with our hosting provider as they will become a part of our company. We are expected to do very well in the niche market that we are entering, and there is alot of opportunity for whoever runs our back-end hosting.
I appologize for the lengthy post, these are just the many things that are floating around while we make our decision.