With summer coming up at the time of writing this article I am noticing on communities such as Lowendbox that a lot of web hosts are appearing out of nowhere and it reminded me of my experiences, successes and failures in running my own web hosting and I figured my experience would be an interesting read for those that may be thinking of doing the same.
Dating back many years ago I used to run web hosting originally known as Phoenix Hosting and the idea was very simple. I looked at two different options with the first being using a reseller such as ResellerPanel who would do most of the work outside of marketing or getting my own server and starting from there.
Looking into ResellerPanel it looked odd to me back in the day. There was a company that was willing to do everything and provide you with a part of the profit which nowadays makes sense as really all you are doing is marketing their services and getting a slice of profit for your time. Back then however it felt really like a multi-layered marketing company and it is a route I decided to avoid although it is one I would likely use again should I re-go into the freelance programming area yet again as it would be extra profit for no real work.
So I decided to get my own server and it is around this time I met a person called Craigory (good friend and he still runs his own hosting firm although I no longer do). I went down to the route and got a server from Saidhost (or Saidcom if you want to Google the company). This worked out at about $30 a month for okay specs which would host about forty to fifty websites and the idea was simple behind all this – all I had to do was sell an account for $1 each and sell it 50 times and I made $20 profit each month. Do the same again and I would make $40 profit, then $60 and $80 and so on and it would be easy money for nothing.
Surprisingly it did work out quite well although I ended up selling mostly reseller accounts and while it did bring in some money it was tiring for the amount of effort that went into it. You always had a support ticket to deal with, someone demanding help installing the latest CMS or forum of the day (these were the days where phpBB, SMF and all those were new and people switched between them like hotcakes selling at a stall) and honestly it isn’t something you could do by yourself.
Some time passed and Saidhost had a massive problem that they went offline for at least three months and I remember trying everything possible to try and get backups and if it wasn’t for wanting to get a copy of a personal website or two I might have not wanted to put in the effort to do so for the amount being paid. Nonetheless, I still had interest from people that wanted hosting and it was around this time BurstNET got into the scene with the budget providers and I did the same again.
I could go into the problems I had with BurstNET, the amazing times I had with them but ultimately after changing the brand names a few times and merging directly with Craig’s web hosting we had a fatal issue that after I got my client’s backups to them I decided to leave the business and carry on with other projects.
As you can see from above I have had quite a few up and downs regarding being a hosting provided but there is still a few questions – did I make money? Did I have fun? Did I learn anything?
I did make money from being a hosting provider but I can tell you right now it isn’t a lot and the only good money made from it was from selling reseller accounts or reselling servers which honestly brings me to my main point of this article that unless you have your own hardware the whole business feels likes a multi-layered marketing scheme just without a company or brand behind it.
I did, however, have a lot of fun with it when it was going well. Had a lot of people asking questions that I had to research, others made me think of new others and I learnt a lot about applied Linux administration and it is something I still benefit massively to this day.
Would I recommend it? No. You are very unlikely to make any money and if you have clients you could provide hosting for such as if you were a web designer you would be better just referring them to another company and get a bit of monthly income.
If you are going to start a web hosting business there is only one tip I can give you that will help you so much and it is this – make backups. Make backups of those backups, back that up again and then mail yourself that backup. I’m being serious here as nothing will kill that business faster than you not having backups when shit hits the fans.