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  1. #1
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    My rant for the day - unmanaged VPS

    I've noticed a very frustrating trend regarding VPS account orders. There seems to be a huge number of people ordering these that don't fully understand the concept of a VPS (virtual private server). They expect that a VPS will be nothing more than giant reseller accounts that they will be able to demand the host setup, config and install anything they desire on them...and have root access as well.

    VPS accounts, generally, are UNMANAGED and you must have, at the very least, GENERAL KNOWLEDGE of how the Linux environment works. If you couldn't handle setting up and managing a dedicated server by yourself (including things like configuring DNS, etc.) - then a VPS is NOT FOR YOU.

    We've had so many customers ask for refunds after the first few days because they quickly find out that a VPS is way over their heads and adding VPS management package is NOT FREE. I can always tell that its going to end badly when the first question asked is "How do I add a domain to my account?". *sigh*

    Please, please, please...before you jump into a VPS, do your homework and know exactly what you're buying.

    --Tina
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  2. #2
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    Tina, how do you add a domain to an account anyways ?

    /me
    Graham Craig

    "IT'S NOT HOW GOOD YOU ARE, IT'S HOW BAD YOU WANT IT."

  3. #3
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    By paying for management!!!

    --Tina
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  4. #4
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    ohhh VPS servers don't manage themselves ?
    Graham Craig

    "IT'S NOT HOW GOOD YOU ARE, IT'S HOW BAD YOU WANT IT."

  5. #5
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    Yeah, the main problem is that a lot of webmasters are moving their high traffic websites to vpses for more bandwidth, and expecting it to be just like their shared hosting account.

    If i were to jump into the vps market, I would start a separate label, with absolutely no technical support option, and stick "UNMANAGED" all over the place. That, or really amp up technical speak you use on your website, and say a lot of things that will confuse the hell out of somebody who doesn't know what they're doing.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by ub3r View Post
    Yeah, the main problem is that a lot of webmasters are moving their high traffic websites to vpses for more bandwidth, and expecting it to be just like their shared hosting account.

    EXACTLY!!! That's exactly the trend we're seeing. Its so frustrating. I'm definitely going to change our site around and make sure potential customers understand the price and service difference between managed/unmanaged. Silly me, I thought it was obvious.

    --Tina
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ub3r View Post
    ... stick "UNMANAGED" all over the place...
    I don't think that's the problem. Most consumers know their Shared Hosting is unmanaged. So, simply telling them their VPS is unmanaged, won't be enough information for most. The problem here is they tend to think that their VPS Hosting is configured like their Shared Hosting. They can configure their unmanaged shared hosting.

    I do think you're right in that, it's up to us to educate them and make them aware of exactly what they're buying.

    Maybe make something like Tina said more prominent.

    If you couldn't handle setting up and managing a dedicated server by yourself (including things like configuring DNS, etc.) - then a VPS is NOT FOR YOU.
    There is no best host. There is only the host that's best for you.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by AH-Tina View Post
    EXACTLY!!! ...
    You do realize you just agreed with ub3r!
    There is no best host. There is only the host that's best for you.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by SoftWareRevue View Post
    You do realize you just agreed with ub3r!
    Yeah, I'm telling you - this VPS market is making me *insane*!

    --Tina
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  10. #10
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    You could go with my original idea, and start a company which provides technical support as long as you agree to take whatever insults the technical support agent wants to throw at you.

    Hell, I'll work free if you sign me onto that project.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by ub3r View Post
    You could go with my original idea, and start a company which provides technical support as long as you agree to take whatever insults the technical support agent wants to throw at you.

    Hell, I'll work free if you sign me onto that project.
    I think datapimp.com has that market cornered.

    --Tina
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  12. #12
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    I do work in the VPS industry and I have seen the very same issue. The largest issue seems to be centered around this concept that we're supposed to read minds and be proactive with software updates. People cannot seem to comprehend that you don't know that they need that PHP module or that you need MySQL 5. The idea that you proactively update something and screw up the sites on the server in the process does not seem to dawn on them, even when you explain it. However, they're just as a ready to yell either way. As already said, people expect it to be a larger version of shared hosting versus a smaller dedicated server, which is what it ultimately is used for.

    SWR hit the nail on the head when it comes down to the host having to educate the customers. The host absolutely has to provide as much documentation about what their support entails - yes the common sense approach of "unmanaged" is not enough anymore. There is a big grey area and it has to be properly documented, otherwise we'll get a request to upgrade and install everything, even in an unmanaged capacity.

  13. #13
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    Well, something you could try doing is paying them per incident or offer management plans with your VPS accounts. I would also change your money back policy to 7 days instead of 15.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt.G View Post
    Well, something you could try doing is paying them per incident or offer management plans with your VPS accounts. I would also change your money back policy to 7 days instead of 15.
    We do offer managed and unmanaged VPS accounts, but I think its not so obvious. Gonna change that.

    We have discussed our money back policy as well. Either eliminating it or dropping it down to 5 or 7 days. I think you're definitely right on that one.

    --Tina
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  15. #15
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    I really don't see the point on getting all worked up. Honestly, if you're not happy at offering something then it will be very difficult to be one of the best at it.

    Why not just charge a per-ticket/hour support fee for unmanaged VPS's? That way instead of getting frustrated over the tickets you make profit off of them. Alternatively you can raise your prices, that will help you to get more of an upper echelon customer (or at least make supporting them worth more to you).

    It seems unprofessional to go out of your way to complain about the people who pay you.
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  16. #16
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    I don't think the problem of "uneducated" consumers rushing to purchase unmanaged VPS's and then demanding tech support is that bad.

    Sure, it does happen, at least 2 out of 10 unmanaged orders try to open up tickets asking for managed support, and we just do the task and kindly explain that this time it's OK but in the future they have to upgrade to a managed account for this level of support.

    For those that understand it, they do upgrade to managed services and those that still can't comprehend the difference just usually cancel and go to the next provider on their list willing to hold their hand for $20/m. I don't see why you would get all upset about it, this is the natural flow of the industry.

    You should not complain Tina, but instead try to gently explain to those that are demanding managed support for an unmanaged account what the difference is. I'm sure you'll find that you'll make more money in the long run with this method rather than plastering UNMANAGED in bold red letters everywhere on your site.

  17. #17
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    I'm not really looking for advice on how to run a hosting business. I actually do quite well, in that regard. My point is simply that since breaking into the VPS market share, I've been absolutely floored by how many people purchase one and have zero knowledge of what they've just signed up for. In 10 years of being in the hosting business, I've never experienced anything quite like it.

    PS: I actually think its a bit unprofessional to slam a competitor in a thread started for the sole purpose of letting off a little steam and, hopefully, educating people on what a VPS is/isn't.

    --Tina
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  18. #18
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    It would be unprofessional if she started naming the names of customers left and right until each customer's information was instilled into the forum post. Did i see any names anywhere in this thread? I think not.

    Look at it this way. If somebody buys an UNMANAGED dedicated server from you, and tells you to set everything up under the sun for them, what would you do? You'd tell them do it themselves, of course. What makes a VPS any different other than the fact its virtualized? It's the same as a dedicated server, so why should they get special treatment? On top of that, would you troubleshoot things for them on their unmanaged dedicated server months down the road if it was software issues they brought on? Then why should one do the same for a VPS?

    Its a double standard, really. I mean, in all honesty, if people are going to do the stuff on unmanaged accounts, why even bother selling managed plans? They will know that they can get the same support on unmanaged just by asking, and not even bother.
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  19. #19
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    I guess the issue here is, like SWR said perfectly, is making sure that "unmanaged" is clearly defined. Let's not assume that everyone knows the difference between managed/unmanaged. I'm surprised that people shopping for a VPS truly aren't aware of what a VPS is. Personally, before I buy anything I make sure I know what I'm spending money on.

    --Tina
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  20. #20
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    I don't think it's right to blame the customers though. They give you the money But of course I sympathize with your rant.

    I think managed VPS market is a much larger one. I found recently that there are a lot of newbie webmasters with cash who simply don't know where to spend it on when it comes to outgrowing their shared plans into a VPS or a server. Unmanaged or managed, the word "manage" and "server" scare them off.

    If I provide my clients with a VPS or server, I don't give them the root access. I do everything for them and they like not having to worry about the technical side of things.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Lee View Post
    I don't think it's right to blame the customers though. They give you the money

    Nah, I have lots of people give me money who are clearly wrong in some cases. Just giving someone money doesn't mean they are always right...but that's another argument for another day. haha.

    In all seriousness, like I said, I think we have a responsibility to more clearly define the difference in managed/unmanaged. That's something that I definitely plan to address ASAP.

    --Tina
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  22. #22
    Tina , i am still interested if you are haven't changed your way to deal with your clients *Get Managed VPS with Unmanaged price!*

    I just checked your site and i suggest if you want to free your mind from your customers you really would have to teach them how to set up their unmanaged servers (By adding new section called Tutorial)
    Other wise , if someone complains that he need Apache , or what ever , Give him Ubuntu/Debian as an OS and tell him the magic "sudo apt-get install ProgramName" or "man apt-get" , or even better send them to ubuntu forum *No need to pay for any Tech Guy*

  23. #23
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    raise prices


    or


    put a little vps test on the signup page; if they miss an answer, "no VPS for YOU !"
    Sneaky Little Hobbitses

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by CD Burnt View Post
    \


    put a little vps test on the signup page; if they miss an answer, "no VPS for YOU !"
    I laughed out loud when I read that. I like the way you think!

    --Tina
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  25. #25
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    What we've done is said we'll provide full management...but not 24/7. So when I have time I help, if not, I link them up with a tutorial and send them off learning some good 'ol linux. No money back if you don't read the UNMANAGED bit though, because thats no fair on us.

    Having said that, *most* of our clients seem to manage, or just get us to install a control panel. Actually, some of the clients which ask us to install a control panel never change the root password from the default, so we have to keep checking now and doing it for them :@
    Afterburst - the best unmetered VPS - read why here!

  26. #26
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    Ah this old chestnut. This is one reason I started an unmanaged VPS brand to split out the support etc and make it obvious what is given however some users still don't seem to grasp the concept. The best way I've found after many years is to do a few things

    1) Our MBG says if you don't know how to run a server then we don't need to give you a refund (though each is on a case by case basis)
    2) We provide full support for the first 48 hours whilst someone settles in but make it very clear that after the 48 hours they are on their own
    3) If someone puts in a ticket after this period we say it will cost $lots to get support which stops people asking for support (but may not fix the problem totally)
    Russ Foster - Industry Curmudgeon

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by a2b2 View Post
    Ah this old chestnut. This is one reason I started an unmanaged VPS brand to split out the support etc and make it obvious what is given however some users still don't seem to grasp the concept. The best way I've found after many years is to do a few things

    1) Our MBG says if you don't know how to run a server then we don't need to give you a refund (though each is on a case by case basis)
    2) We provide full support for the first 48 hours whilst someone settles in but make it very clear that after the 48 hours they are on their own
    3) If someone puts in a ticket after this period we say it will cost $lots to get support which stops people asking for support (but may not fix the problem totally)

    That seems like a very smart way to go about it. I've also just updated our site to make managed/semi-managed/unmanaged perfectly clear (hope). I think I'm also going to take a few of the suggestions here and drop our 15 day money back (maybe to 5 days).

    I don't know about full support during the first 48 hours, but a little bit of extra help during the first day or two might be in order. I've not wanted to start down the slippery slope on new orders, so we've been pretty rigid about managed/unmanaged from day one. I'm thinking your way sounds reasonable.

    The thing I worry about when refusing to refund, due to customers lack of knowledge, is that they'll just say "screw it" and file a chargeback anyway. How often do you run into that?

    Again, I'm surprised at how different the VPS market is compared to shared hosting.

    --Tina
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  28. #28
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    I personally treat each refund request as an individual and depending on the attitude etc is how flexible I will be. Sometimes we will refund 50%, other times nothing.
    Russ Foster - Industry Curmudgeon

  29. #29
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    I like the idea of the 48 hour thing, just to help them settle in. Might take something similar up.
    Afterburst - the best unmetered VPS - read why here!

  30. #30
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    How about setting up a client forum on your site so the clients can help each other with problems (and will become a good knowledge base over time).

    When I first started using vps, I chose unmanaged, but knew what it meant. I also started a mailing list to help other users with their vps learning curve problems. Only have about 28 users there, and all pretty much veterans now.

    If you make your service like a community for your clients you will always have some willing to help.
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