Hi all,

Please excuse this rather discursive post but I am hoping to explain some background to aid anyone able to reply to make a useful one and to demonstrate the sincerity of my (somewhat naive I'm sure) current position and desire to make the right decisions at this critical juncture.

I have been building a web based services business for many years now in parallel with my full time "real job", family and all that happens in life that leaves you wondering what happened to it

It has been based initially on a small number of niche community forums some of which have grown from phpBBs to vBs due to the time that modding them admining them, selling advertising for them and so on. Basically I love building the infrastructure and am happy when I am at the command line on my gentoo boxes doing the hands on management of the server and its services. I have run gentoo on lots of things for many years now and am moving to Debian stable at this point in time for the same reason I went from phpBB to vB - I need more time to build the business on a stable less "hands on" system. Gentoo has never failed me (and nor did phpBB but with the modifications I had on my boards as security upgrades and so forth came out I was spending too much time hacking the source; similarly with Gentoo).

The process has been a familiar one:
1) a $99/yr shared hosting for two years back at the beginning of the decade...
2) move to a dedicated server unmanaged server (Debian Stable) with Layered Tech for three-four years
3) moved to an onshore co-lo with my own HP ProLiant last three years
4) bought a new ProLiant to put into another data centre as next step in building the business on personalised service, word of mouth, competitive but not cheap solutions that I want to run in a more efficient way.

Thats for the background;

My backups are automated shell scripts and cron jobs that do hourly and daily consolidations using rsync to a virtual centos system and when I have my second physical server online at a different site from the existing one I believe I will have the kind of distributed infrastructure that will help me to the next level.

While building my new HP ProLiant with Debian Lenny I have been searching and researching the software infrastructure I will need to efficiently run the business to the next level.

Basically I will continue to run my forums on the existing server and put the new one in to do so shared hosting.

As part of this process I will have a second name server to backup the existing one and a fall back in the case that (DDOS) I go offline for my existing sites.

The trick now seems to be to choose the right platform to support my business so I can allow clients to manage as much themselves as possible while I handle the marketing and management of the existing server and communities (and real job, family etc)


I have been getting my head around the options for what loosely seem to be called control panels - or hosting control panels etc...

and their ilk
and the commercial counterparts which seem in many ways more attractive from a business platform POV - I always side on GPL/FOSS etc when it is practical but as in the vB decision I think it makes sense to invest in the infrastructure knowing its going to be around and so on...

I am looking at it now needing to understand really what the core offerings actually "offer" because it seems that one really needs to combine two main platforms for an effective whole system offering:

1) Support Tickets/Knowledgebase/downloads + Billing/ClientManagement
2) Server/Services backend management + reseller and enduser control of deliverables

So I am left wondering if I have the right mix in mind with

WHMCS + cPanel

- I don't want to get into a brand war about cPanel vs Plesk etc but would like to hear any thoughts about the kind of scenario I have tried to paint. I need something integrated that will give someone with time pressures but also a need to be hands on in the technical management of the systems the scope to efficiently service customer needs:

Ftp, MySQL, PHP/XHTML sites probably moving more and more to carts and https/ssl focused solutions.

Hope this makes sense - I have sort of bashed it out in a rush (gotta Thomas the Tank engine story needing to be read) but I hope it stimulates some interesting discussion that informs my current research.

I always check the community forums of the softwares I am testing and see that most of the non-comm offerings are pretty stale/low on activity (compared to other FOSS projects like communities, CMS etc)

Looking forward to this rather intimidating but exciting next step for my business and hoping to get some good direction and encouragement from the "Sensei's" here!