If your business provides web-related services such as web design and development, you should consider selling web hosting services to customers to generate an additional revenue stream. With control panel softwares such as cPanel and Plesk, setting up a web hosting environment has become much simpler than it used to be.
This series of tutorials will explain, in detail, how to setup a simple web hosting service, from installing a web server to billing your customers.
To get you started with your hosting business, there are basically five (5) things that you will need:
1. Web Hosting
Obviously, you will need a web hosting platform from which you will resell hosting space to your customers. There are generally three (3) options from which to choose: reseller hosting, VPS hosting and dedicated hosting.
Reseller hosting may be the most affordable option, although it is not my favorite one. When using a reseller hosting plan, your customers are hosted on a web server that is shared with thousands of users from either the parent host or other reseller hosting businesses. This can lead to poor performance and security issues that are caused by the other hosting accounts hosted on the same server. You can find a list of reseller hosting providers here.
In my opinion, the best option is either VPS or dedicated hosting. A Virtual Private Server (VPS) provides you with the same level of flexibility as a dedicated server, but at a fraction of the cost. Of course, a cheap VPS hosting plan will never yield higher performance results that can be achieved by a dedicated server, but you will be able to add more resources (like RAM and disk space) to your VPS as your business grows. You can browse the list of VPS hosting providers here.
Selecting a Web Hosting Company
When choosing a web host, I strongly suggest you consider these three options:
- Managed Hosting: You will sleep better at night knowing that a highly-skilled team of experts is monitoring and taking care of your web server 24 hours a day. If you have a managed hosting plan, the support team will also take care of performing maintenance and security updates to your server.
- DDoS Protection: Chances are likely that every network or web server will be attacked one way or another someday. While DDoS attacks will not compromise the security of your server nor the integrity of its data, it will bring it to its knees by generating a high volume of queries.
- Backup Service: Lots of web hosting customers assume that their data is backed up regularly; however, that is rarely the case. Getting a good backup service is essential. If you are going to use a VPS service, some hosting companies can provide you with a backup service that will allow you keep images of your entire server and restore your VPS to a previous state if an upgrade or a configuration change goes wrong.
You should try to keep your customers happy by providing them with a robust and reliable hosting environment. Don’t assume you’ll never run into any major problems with your server.
If you are looking for a highly reliable VPS or dedicated server, I recommend you take a look at Future Hosting. I have been using them for over four years now and I can’t recall having any major problems at all. I have four VPS systems and one dedicated server with Future Hosting and the performance is awesome. The dedicated server is the home of this very website. Make sure to get the latest VPS coupon code here.
2. Control Panel
In order to manage your web server, you will need a control panel. There is a wide variety of free and paid control panels available, but the the main ones are cPanel and Plesk, with cPanel being the industry’s leading control panel.
cPanel is definitely my favorite control panel because it can perform most of the server updates for you, minimizing the need for technical knowledge of the Linux operating system.
Your users will easily get around cPanel because it comes with video tutorials for every available feature, with the potential for greatly reducing the amount of support requests you will receive.
3. Billing Software
Billing software can handle online orders and perform various maintenance tasks, such as suspending hosting accounts upon non-payment for instance. The billing software needs to use an API to connect to your web server so that it can manage hosting accounts.
One of the most popular billing software for hosting businesses if WHMCS. It is basically a fully-featured shopping cart for web hosts, providing features such as ordering, billing, domain management, reporting, and affiliate marketing. An interface for mobile devices allows you to remotely manage your customer’s hosting accounts.
WHMCS can easily be integrated with cPanel. You can either lease a license on a monthly basis from $15.95 per month or buy a one-time license from $249.95.
4. SSL Certificate
To protect the privacy of your customers and handle sensitive data such as credit card numbers, you will need an SSL certificate. In fact, I strongly advise you to host your entire billing software on a secured connexion (HTTPS). GoDaddy is one of the most popular SSL certificate providers with Standard SSL certificates starting at $64.99 per year.
5. Payment Gateway
While you can probably handle most payments made through Paypal, it is highly advisable to use a third-party payment gateway to handle credit card transactions. This will protect you from most frauds and will free you from the responsibility of securing the payment process.
Most payment gateway services will charge you with a setup fee and a percentage on each transaction. This percentage is usually determined on the volume of transactions you have.
WHMCS supports several payment gateway services that include the following:
- Amazon Simple Pay
- Google CheckOut
Stay tuned for the next reseller hosting tutorial in which we will begin to put all of this together.
Complete Reseller Hosting Guide Series
- Complete Guide to Reseller Hosting – Part 1: Technical Requirements
- Complete Guide to Reseller Hosting – Part 2: Configuring Apache, PHP & MySQL
- Complete Guide to Reseller Hosting – Part 3: Securing Your cPanel Server
- Complete Guide to Reseller Hosting – Part 4: Configuring Vanity Nameservers
- Complete Guide to Reseller Hosting – Part 5: Packages and Features
- Complete Guide to Reseller Hosting – Part 6: Installing WHMCS