I have a reseller account, and currently do web development as a freelancer, apart from my day job.
Anyway, my first intention was to offer to my webdesign clients hosting services, with site maintenance included.
Now I am thinking to open-up the hosting part to others. I already have ideas and 2 niches to deal with, which I think is worth it. Since I already have the reseller for my clients and it is profitable, I think it will not cost really much to open this services to other customers.
The problem I face today is because I access mails during the day, and have my development work at night.
1) I am wondering how many hours it would consume from my day time to run the hosting??
2) I am planning to have the following resources:
- documentation on how to use the CPanel (which is one of the most issues being questioned as I see from other posts)
- How to section: email creation, deletion, change password, etc..
- Client section, where he/she can look into her status with the company, payment details, personnal data (address, phone, etc..)
- explanation on how to measure the web site (understand the AWStats, etc..)
now, the help would be done via ticket system. And to answer/receive the mails I would use my Tungsten E PDA with my mobile phone, so I would be connected to the business and not use my daywork connection.
what you guys, more experience, think?
If I see a significant grow on the customer base, then I'll hire an attendent, but not now...
I always like to preface posts to topics like this with: I am not being mean by any means, just giving my personal thoughts and experiences so take them as that
The hours it will take to run the hosting business depends on a lot of things, most importantly the type of support you are looking to offer your clients. I have a reverse sleep schedule for the most part (speaking aobut me personally) so if I was a client of yours you would get support e-mails at 3 or 4 am EST from me. Even though you may only get enough tickets to fill up 20 minutes of time in a day, they could be spread all around the clock which is what makes it difficult to cover support. Asking how much time it would take is not really an accurate question, as your support will most likely be a very small load until you build up a decent client base. If you want to offer support just during certain hours, that would be one solution, or if you aren't worried about 6 hour response times then that is another path that you can take. It's all about what you are offering.
As far as Docs go, you will find quite a few customers just refuse to use them and would rather message you. On top of that many many people ignore the fact that you have them, even after being told.
A prime example is a free hosting service I offer to clans. This service is based out of IRC, but everything is on the website (including a full helpdesk). In the trip a customer would take from seeing the ad to entering the channel, they are told 3 times that all the information is on the website, don't just contact an admin asking if you can be sponsored, we will sponsor you no matter what, etc... but I still recieve many PMs a day from all different people. Once the people are signed up I give them a decent list of resources and information on using the control panel, basic HTML, where to get free templates, etc... yet I still see a ton of private messages each day asking these very questions. On top of all that there is a full helpdesk for the clients to use, and they still enjoy just sending messages instead of submitting a ticket (which will be seen by the whole staff, not just me).
Now this is not to say that you shouldn't have a nice docs area for your clients, in this world it really is a must, and it will help cut down on support tickets, but it definatley won't get rid of them all. The ones you listed are a great start, I would also look into flash tutorials as well for your clients though.
For the billing and support solution, I would suggest something like Modernbill and Cerberus for what you are looking for.
The main question I have to ask is what are you going to plan to do about support? Just not offer 24/7 support? There is nothing wrong with this, I am just curious.
I understand your points, and I made some notes on my research here. They are very valuable to me. Thanks again!
Beeing also a developer, I dealt with some hostings already, and have an idea on the good/bad points of their service (which I of course use as input).
One of the things I learnt is that you should be transparent regarding the support you will provide. My idea is to make clear which type of support I offer, and I am not planning to offer a 24/7, since I don't have the resources to do that. However, I do plan for an emergency support (like, the server/site went down), for the hours after the business hours. I think this can be done by using these monitor software which also send you a mail went your site is off.
Since I have a reseller account, what I can do in these cases is notify them about the problem...
So, this is my first plan. Again, all comments are welcome.
Would this support approach work?? Or do you see that I need to provide something else??
I personally don't recommend getting into hosting this way.
Been there, done that, and I can tell you that providing hosting to your design clients is a very different thing to taking on hosting-only clients. The expectations are very different.
There is a lot more to hosting than just providing space. Many clients will expect hand-holding and you can expect to be deluged with loads of questions. If you intend to provide only limited support you will find yourself in a spot where potential customers will expect much lower prices because of this - and when prices are low you will find it difficult to make the hosting component of your services profitable.
If you are used to managing the sites you host, as part of your design contract, you will quickly get frustrated by the hands-off nature of hosting, especially when dealing with idiots that want to do all sorts of stupid things in your server space then expect you to help them fix whatever problems arise. I don't know any hosts that haven't had more than their share of idiot customers over the years.
In terms of total time that you will need when starting out. Not much. However, it will require your involvement for short times at many different times of the day. Expect your other work to have a lot of interruptions. I don't think it is feasible to allocate a set time each day to deal with hosting issues. When a client needs assistance they want it fast, and in some cases their own businesses depend on the timeliness of your response.
I don't intend to sound so negative but I have known quite a few designers who decided to start hosting. A number of them ended up losing all their business, not just hosting. My opinion is, if you are just one person, then decide what business you are in - hosting, or design, and do that one well. Trying to do too much can negatively impact on both.
There are a few reseller providers, HostingZOOM, for one that offer free end-user support. Therefore, they can do most of the work for you and all you have to do is worry about getting clients =). Even if your reseller doesn't have end-user support you can still get away with a few hours each day at maximum or you can outsource to someone such as www.touchsupport.com.
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nothing special, I deal with all those letters and support tickets in 20-40 minutes, sometimes there are days when I don't get anything at all... the key thing here is the number of customers, 8 is nothing, but when 8 becomes 80 than you need more time and devotion... So far for first few month, I think you won't have any serious trouble... after you get larger, you can always hire someone to deal with support