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  1. #1

    How Do You Part Timers Do It?

    I'm looking at starting a hosting business (I am still months away from even seriously looking at it).

    Obviously I am not going to jump in with both feet, and I have seen some of you run hosting part time and work full time at other jobs. How do you do it?

    I am curious about support, with some hosts offering 24/7 support, how do you answer 911 emergency calls while you are working your other job? Do you outsource to a company like the server support guys?

    Also, new account signups? Because of fraud I wouldn't use a automatic signup system, which means I would create new accounts by hand. It seems a lot of hosts offer 30 minute account creations. Is that possible as a part time host?

    I imagine that you don't inform your customers that you are part time hosts, but hosting is an extremely demanding business and I am curious how you find balancing full time work with part time hosting (as well as a family life if you still have time)?

    I tried searching, but all I found was information on if part timers make money. I'm not too concerned about that right off the bat, though breaking even and compensation for time would be nice. I'm more concerned about building a good brand name based on reliable, supportive hosting.

    Thanks for the tips!

  2. #2
    Lost of hosts have a ticket support system that they can handle themselves or assign other people they trust to be support administrators to assist them. Thos administrators can work remotely by logging into the system and taking tickets. I would suggest having a automated process for your hosting account setup. If you are worried about fraud, there are several fraud modules that you can integrate into your order process to block fraudulent signups, such as; VariLogix FraudCall & MaxMind. Working part-time could mean that you have to login several times a day to check messages and answer tickets to satisfy your customers service. I hope this helps you a little!
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Richmond, VA
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    3,102
    We use an outsourced/reseller-type setup. I am in college, so I just can't be with the company at all times. (I have a part-time job to help pay personal bills as well. ) A part-timer can definitely start a hosting company; everything except for my company's sales and marketing department is outsourced. Other folks do the following things for us:
    -- Account setup
    -- Payment verification
    -- Support

    It's not a permanent solution for us (once I graduate, I'll be with the company fulltime), but it's definitely working now, and could still work into the foreseeable future.

    Don't let your concerns over this hold you back. If you're interested in starting a hosting company, and you're also committed to being a better host than everyone else out there (it sounds like you are), there are ways around issues like this.
    Daniel B., CEO - Bezoka.com and Ungigs.com
    Hosting Solutions Optimized for: WordPress ē Joomla ē OpenCart ē Moodle
    Data Centers in: Chicago (US), London (UK), Sydney (AU), Sofia (BG), Pori (FI)
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Mount Vernon Ohio
    Posts
    35
    Pumaman in no order,

    Start small, or at least fully managed. If youíre looking at getting your feet wet, start of with a nice reseller account. This way if there is a server problem the company your lease from is on it, plus they monitor the box(s), deal with updates, hacks, and so forth. If a reseller is not something you want, at least go fully managed or get you some good books.

    * Fully Managed doesnít always mean that they monitor, but are more of a reactive service.

    Get you a good support ticket system. Free is nice however spend some money, we use Support Trio, and many use Kayako and other, Google and WHT would be a great place for those. With this support ticket, advertise that you respond within 24 hours, honestly make is something that is reachable. Ticket Response Guaranteed in Two Hours! this is silly and just not reasonable for a one man show. However 24 hours is and many customers are happy with this, because you advertise it, they understand it, and will wait however do you best to answer tickets in a few hours. IE Lunch breaks, after you clock out but before heading home, with your morning coffee. Also a big key here, with the support tickets use the KBís, and every time a ticket comes in, rewrite it along with the answer and put it in the KB, this way it will hopefully stop the next ticket with the same question.

    Automated Signups: Personally we donít, and the reason we donít is for that human set of eyeballs. Yes there are many fraud systems in place; however a good old human eye can and does work pretty well as well. Just make sure that your ordering system tracks IPís. This information plus say DNSStuff.com is a great way to help stop the fraud orders at least making it to the final account creation, remember it only takes a few minutes to upload a spamming script and start it running. However again advertise 24 hour setups, but deliver them in a few hours, read breaks, lunch, coffeeÖ

    Donít try to wear all the hats, at nothing else pay an accountant or at least have someone else deal with the books. This alone can be a headache in its self.

    As far as working part/full time, if the company you work for has a website, offer to host it for them, in exchange for the means to if something happens, again depending on your current job, you would be allowed to clock out and deal with the problems. Donít lie or hide your intentions from your current employers you donít have to go in to all the details and show them your business plans but you get the idea.

    *** Have a solid business plan, if you need help http://www.paloalto.com/ps/bp/ Business Plan Pro, is your friend. ***

    Gets a good third party monitoring system, Hyperspin, and others are great for this service. Buy text messaging for your cell phone. Never have it send ďServers DownĒ to your email on that server.

    Backups, Backups, Backups, and even more Backups. You can never have enough backups I donít care what anyone says. Tigerdirect sells 500GB HDís for $189, while yes having the ONLY backup server in your house is a little frowned upon, you should still have one as a secondary at least.

    Donít try to be everything for everybody, you donít need to get your feet wet selling hosting, resellers, dedicated servers, SSLís, domain names, email hosting, design, development, seo and more. Start small; your customers will let you know if and when it is time to grow, Example ďDo you sell SSLís?Ē

    Also request with signups that you have an offsite email address, use this in an event there is a server problem. It is hard to email customers when there email is offline. Use this to be in constant contact with your customers when there is a problem. While nobody likes downtime, people are more understanding if your communicating with them and updating them on the problems every few hours, it shows then your working and doing your best to get there sites back up and online.


    Don't let anyone tell you that it is to hard, and can't be done. If you want to become a host then by all means do it.


    I am sure that others will add to this, again this is in no order.



    Hope it helps,


    Anthony
    CRI Hosting - There's Now Another Choice.
    Shared Hosting :: Reseller Hosting :: Managed Dedicated
    cPanel/WHM :: Fantastico :: Private Name Servers
    http://www.crihosting.com

  5. #5
    Wow, thanks Anthony and GlobalWebDan and Ashton4.

    Some great info in there, and that is one heck of a writeup Anthony. (Hope you didn't spend too long writing it for little old me )

    Thank you for the kind words. I am already a host to a few websites through a large hosting package I have now (I just run the domains as if they were my own). And one of my clients has paid for one year in advance (which runs out in April, so I might start up then).

    I'd certainly go with a reseller plan to start. Probably hostgator as we have had excellent service and support through them in the past.

    I've been playing around with some open source software for ticket systems and CRM. Currently I am examining Help Center Live and vTiger CRM. I do however understand that in order to make money you have to spend money. I've always been a fan of good, open source software.

    I'm trying to decide now if I can supply the right type of support. Working full time in computer repair means I am in front of a computer all the time and it would allow me to check tickets and server status, so that helps. However it also means I am in front of a computer all... the... time... .

    Thank you all so far, and if you have any more tips please keep them coming!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Mount Vernon Ohio
    Posts
    35
    No problems, wish I had a list like this when I started.

    Something else, NEVER NEVER NEVER give out your personal phone number, get a business line, or don't offer phone support, if customers get your personal number they will skip the ticket system and call you for everything.

    Anthony
    CRI Hosting - There's Now Another Choice.
    Shared Hosting :: Reseller Hosting :: Managed Dedicated
    cPanel/WHM :: Fantastico :: Private Name Servers
    http://www.crihosting.com

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    1,078
    how do they do it thats simple:

    Get multiple staff about 5-10, if you have mates that are knowledgable and will work for free even better

    Get a buisness number, Most go through to a skype account but none the less its much more proffesional

    Finally a support ticket system

    A good buisness plan written on paper and away you go

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Posts
    3,854
    Quote Originally Posted by Pumaman
    I'm looking at starting a hosting business (I am still months away from even seriously looking at it).

    Obviously I am not going to jump in with both feet, and I have seen some of you run hosting part time and work full time at other jobs. How do you do it?

    ....

    Thanks for the tips!

    May I ask, why do you want to enter this industry?
    InnoHosting, Performance Web Hosting || US: 1-888-522-INNO UK: 0800 612 8075
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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
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    77
    Why wouldn't he want to enter the business? 100 million websites on the Internet right now and thousands switching hosts every day.
    Mike Johnson - thehostinglist.com
    Reviews of the world's top web hosting providers
    Check our reviews at thehostinglist.com before you buy your web hosting package!

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by stealthdevil
    May I ask, why do you want to enter this industry?
    thehostinglist is right. The internet isn't going away, and I realize that I am late to the game. Also, in my own town there are very few hosts that provide quality service.

    Sure, I would like to go global but for the current time there are plenty of opportunities for a web host to provide face to face service. I am looking to actually show up to a clients business and sit down and talk with them. Personally I think the internet is too anonymous, and some people are actually wanting to talk to a person.

    I'm not looking to take over the world at this point, but to start a small business to give me some feeling of satisfaction, reward me for my time, and to help improve the overall perception of the web hosting business in general.

    Again, it's all a work in progress and I am thankful for any advice that can be offered.

    And again, thank you for those who have already dedicated time to answering my questions!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Posts
    77
    Well you have the right attitude (In my opinion). The days web hosts taking over the world ended in about 2001. In those days the demand was insanely high and the supply was not nearly as high. Now with the supply exceeding demand you need to build your hosting business like any other real business, and acquire your customers based on hard work and smart decisions.
    Mike Johnson - thehostinglist.com
    Reviews of the world's top web hosting providers
    Check our reviews at thehostinglist.com before you buy your web hosting package!

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Location
    Internet / Colorado
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    1,652
    Wow great post Anthony!

    I highly recommend as part of your business planning deciding on a niche or smaller segment of the hosting market to focus on, this makes everything a lot easier. Focus on say Plesk hosting, or Plesk reseller hosting, or so on. If you do something like that its easier to get clients, keep them, and build a name for yourself in one smaller area.

    Make sense?
    Like passive recurring revenue you can retire on?
    You focus on building your brand, we handle all support, billing, and more.
    Pressed.net - Start your own Managed WordPress Hosting Company

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Posts
    593
    Quote Originally Posted by Pumaman
    I imagine that you don't inform your customers that you are part time hosts, but hosting is an extremely demanding business and I am curious how you find balancing full time work with part time hosting (as well as a family life if you still have time)?
    The key is balancing. If you work fulltime, then do webhosting on the side, you can lose track of what's most important, family.
    Check out my new Chrome Extension - Server Admin Tool
    frustratedtech.com - Helpful Server Tech Advice

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Mount Vernon Ohio
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    35
    A few more things I was thinking of.

    Post business hours, and make sure to include the time zone, example 9-6EST, I personally have had several customers call me at 6-7 there time which is 9-10 my time, and vice versa.

    Have an exit plan made out too, the reason for this is know and understand that you will NOT be the next SM, EV1, LT, 1&1 by next year. I am sorry to say this but you won't, however you might be in 5 - 10 years who knows. Keep the exit plan around you will have times when you want to quit, it is very depressing when the customers do not order or even look. Remember this is the internet, just because you build it they will NOT come. Bluntly understand this, you will not be rich in year, but don't give up.

    Never ever lie, if a customers asks you do you support such and such or asks for a pear mod to be installed. Weight the need for it, then if its a go install it first then tell the customer yes we have that or it was installed. Also with these kind of questions especially when it calls for installing, think about it for 24 hours, never never install anything on your server "just because it was asked for."

    Something else, make sure you can fully 100% pay for your server for 1 year, never every rely on the fact that you expect your customers to pay for this. Along with that don't forget some of the following costs.

    1. Server/Reseller
    2. SSL
    3. Domain name(s)
    4. Support Ticket System/Help Desk
    5. Payment Gateway, Paypal, 2CO, Authorize.net
    6. Backup
    7. Uptime monitoring
    8. Management company? <-- Depending on your skill level.

    I am sure there are more but that is what I can think of so far.

    Also remember, you will need spare cash in your account, when a customer orders a domain name, they expect it right away, not three days later when there money clears your gateway and is in your bank account. Yes it is only $9 but hey trust me when I say a single customer can order 4-10 domains at once. "Voice of experience on that one."


    These are just a few more things I was thinking of. Hope this helps.

    Best of luck,


    Anthony
    CRI Hosting - There's Now Another Choice.
    Shared Hosting :: Reseller Hosting :: Managed Dedicated
    cPanel/WHM :: Fantastico :: Private Name Servers
    http://www.crihosting.com

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Boise, ID
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    2,449
    In any business you have to base off the fact that you need to "PLAN" for a loss for the first year.

    It takes time to establish a business and if you can't support it for the first year then you are going to run into problems.

    Basically when I built Xanadu and we figured up our costs everything is setup that we could run at a loss for 2 years with no clients.

    That is planning for the worst.

    But then you can hope for the best with a profit in a few months. But if you can't support the business if you have problems, welll......

    Lets say you primarily take paypal and your account gets froze for 30 days, how do you pay the bills?

    Things like that are what you must worry about.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    31
    It was mentioned in some other posts, but I'd just like to point it out again: When you're starting out, you aren't going to get a lot of customers. I've seen so many posts about getting 4 customers in a month -- sometimes no customers at all.

    It takes a while to build up a company and costs money to market it. This is good and bad because:
    + There is not a lot of support required when you're starting out.
    + You don't need to be too worried about being overwhelmed by problems at first.
    - Spending most of your day at one job, then working towards another is probably depressing when you're not seeing results.
    - A lot of money you could spend on something else will be put toward hosting.

    Here are some questions you should answer for yourself (and some of us wouldn't mind seeing the answers also ):
    - Have you thought about how you plan on advertising and getting customers?
    - What sort of expectations do you have and how are you justifying them?
    - Have you thought about the timelines such as when you'll have everything ready, when you'll start, how many customers you'll have, ...?

    I personally think these questions are as important as being prepared for actual customers. It's a good idea to make sure your advertising costs line up with your expectations. You should probably set goals such as X customers or $X/mo in certain time frames so you can judge for yourself whether your long-term goals are going to be met.

    Good luck!

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Boise, ID
    Posts
    2,449
    MrDubya brought something to mind I didn't see mentioned here, create a business plan.

    It doesn't have to be a complete business plan, but at least have a business plan.

    Starting part time you may not be able to spend the funds or resources to put together a true market analysis and marketing plan, but you don't need it at first.

    Put together a basic business plan explaining how you are starting, how you are going to handle growth, where you are going to market, etc..

    Setup budgets and make sure you can cover those budgets with no external help.

    As you grow and gain clients it will let you start seeing a trend in the marketing and help you create a better marketing plan.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    31
    I agree. It is a good idea to have a business plan. For most people who are working and hosting, I think it's expected that they'll pay whichever fees are necessary until the business catches up. Even so, a plan to decide whether it is working out as you expected, better, or worse, is necessary.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Posts
    1,612
    until the business catches up.
    Thats hitting the nail on its head. You need to know if you have the funds in place to wait *while* your business catches up to so called BS *organic growth*. In the current time as far as my 5 year experience is concerned, you need to write down the plan and the budget on what exactly you are going to do to spread the name and remember not all the techniques work out for everyone. You cannot expect to get zillion sign ups just because you place your banners on an x hosting directory though it is important if you want brand name to spread around.

    Also it takes years to build the name especially if you competing with one million other web hosts. Most of the people posting here including myself are web hosts and I do not think anyone would be willing to tell you the *concrete* steps behind their operations other than the preset words of wisdom like work hard and die smart.

    Read about the sector as much as you can not only on WHT but other forums and websites too. Assemble your budget. You would not be posting here incase you had a million dollars to spend. You need know what you limits are. What people are offering in the market. What can you offer?

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