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I worked for a small / local web development company whose owner retired about 2 years ago. The previous business offered hosting services (which, set up years ago was done in a shared hosting environment) which I just carried on (I pay the host company for the shared hosting account and then I bill the clients yearly via Quickbook/invoices).

Along the way there have been several issues with this set up and I'm considering either going to a reseller account (where clients have their own cPanels and billing via WHM) OR getting out of hosting all together.

One of my issues is most of my clients are... not really computer literate. They would easily sign their domain names over to DOA or similar hinky practices. Many of them liked the 'small town, small business' approach my previous employer had (which did work 10+ years ago...but... things and times change).

Another issue along with this are website owner's who don't (for various reasons) keep their website scripts up to date and a website gets compromised (violated, hacked). It seems the consensus is that it must be 'my fault' since I am the hosting provider. Currently my / the actual hosting company doesn't feel the same way (which leaves me holding the blame).

A third issue is that when I bill a client for their domain renewal or their hosting renewal they seem to be of the mindset that they can pay ME late and I won't disrupt their service. If I do, they get very agitated. They don't seem to understand that GoDaddy and the like will cut their service for non-payment up front too.

And my fourth issue, I really don't DESIRE to learn every detail about email and web servers (my last place of employment had a dedicated ColdFusion server and it was just... a life and soul sucking experience). I want to spend my brain power being a better website developer.

So I'm trying to restructure what I do so that I can try to avoid the above mentioned drama, and more time actually doing web development work.

One of my 'shared' hosting accounts expires in January (with the ability to renew monthly while I sort this out).

In comes the reseller hosting packages. I was specifically thinking of either InMotion or HostGator (I'm already with them now).

Part of me would love to be out of the hosting game, so that things like a hack (or misuse of WordPress) or general hosting service issues comes about I can charge for my time spent inquiring about the problem (just as if you take your computer into the computer shop). Part of me wants to stay in because I am making about $3K a year on hosting, and for the most part it hasn't been bad (with the exception of a reason hack to one WP site that took down the others on the account - which I would assume would not be as easy in a reseller account where everyone has their own cPanel).

I'd love to hear some first hand experience with them. :)

  • Related if not a duplicate: freelancing.stackexchange.com/questions/2022/… -- for the record I resell for 3 clients via WHM. I refuse to do it for any other client. And if there was an elegant way to get rid of the 3 accounts I do support and retain those clients, I would. And the hosting provider I use is very, very good with next to no issues. – Scott Dec 17 '15 at 20:02
  • If the time spent in support is worth $3K or more, think of reselling your customer portfolio to someone. – Harry Cover Dec 18 '15 at 8:21
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I'm going to assume you either were a partner, or your bought the old business, correct? Is the old owner around and able to help you out with this part?

I only ask, because it seems like that is the only thing you don't want to deal with. Do I blame you? Absolutely not! I just had a meeting yesterday with an old manager of mine who wants to keep hosting their email and website off their file server, with no dedicated or on-call IT staff.

I was able to explain to him how data centers make sense, especially for non-computer savvy people, because they have the infrastructure to make it work. They have security, redundancy, speed, and reliability. He ran the numbers, and saw it was cheaper, so he agreed. I'll manage his file server remotely from my office, but he'll also have the tools to do the basics himself.

Point being, I am not a savvy mail administrator. If my customers want a mail server, I can hack together one in Linux, using only free, open source software, but I explain it would be much cheaper and more reliable to get someone (or a company) who specializes in it, to keep it up and running reliably.

If you are freelancing, you need to do what makes you happy, and what you're good at. Hopefully, those two are the same. If there is one part you don't like, you have a couple options:

  1. Hire someone good at it to deal with that part of your business. This costs money (in terms of a salary, most likely), and in parts (you need to ensure they have access to the servers, right?)
  2. Offer to help transfer their domain to a new hosting provider, and explain what your roll is (web designer). For people that do not understand how the magic of the Internet works, this may not work too well.
  3. Keep doing the reseller account, but offer a package where you go in once a week, take a full backup, and update any plugins for them. This gives you extra money every month, or extra money every year, depending how you bill them. Ensure they understand what you WILL cover, and what you WON'T cover.

I hope that helps, but you need to decide for yourself what you want to do. Web hosting is not going away (as an industry), but if you can help the customer, and have the host charge them directly, it sounds like you'd be happy.

I did 2 and 3, and 3 is what I typically do. I develop (I don't design, not my thing) the product, host it on my server temporarily so the customer can make changes as needed before it goes live. Once they are happy, the new contract is signed, I walk them through the signup process, and move the site over for them. This kept them happy, in the loop, and I ensured they understood what the extra maintenance fee was for. I also don't need to deal with paying another company constantly, and waiting for a client to send me the money. They know if they don't pay, I just stop working on their site, and the host takes the site down if they don't pay the host.

  • I don't have a reseller account yet. I'm investigating that now. Right now they are all in one 'shared' hosting account. Thank you for your reply. :) – RoxyRoo Dec 18 '15 at 13:57
  • No problem! Hope it helps – Canadian Luke Dec 18 '15 at 14:01

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