Getting into the business of web hosting would seem very lucrative to an outsider. And why not? A keyword as simple as “apples” yields 4,50,00,000 results on Google, and all of these websites are hosted somewhere. And the number quoted is just for apples. There are millions and zillions of websites out there, and millions that are being newly created. This means that the digital world is in dire need of web hosts to fulfill the growing demand. So doesn't that mean that your web hosting business could become a money-minting machine?
Don’t get us wrong. Web hosting can make you rich, but it’s not as easy to get there. While it’s true that there are millions of websites being created for the world wide web, what’s also true is that there are millions of companies offering hosting services to these websites. Just do a simple search on Google, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
So does that mean that web hosting is a saturated industry with no place for new players? Not quite…
No matter how many web hosting companies are there online, there’s always some place for a new web host that offers great (and unique) services. It all depends on how you approach the business, and how you make your company stand out from the rest. And in this article, we’ll help you do just that.
Interested? Read on…
In this article, we’ve outlined 12 major steps to help you start your very own hosting company, one that is successful and gets you “the buns”:
STEP 1: Research
You must have heard this from everyone around - research the market before starting your business. And the case is no different in hosting too. If you want to be the best (or at least, one of the best), you need to conduct an extensive research of the industry. Pick out the top 5 hosting companies and see what they offer, and the add-on features that come with their plans. Visit common forums and see what customers have to say about them. Do they have some common grievances? Knowing what they want out of the hosting company can give you an edge over the others.
Research is something that will take up a lot of your time and energy. But the investment you make now will bring you good returns in the future. It’s a proven fact, proper research empowers you to take fail-proof decisions for your business.
STEP 2: Choose an Operating System For Your Hosting
As a customer, you can choose to host your site on two operating systems - Linux and Windows. The decision you take here would affect the overall performance of your website. Now, as an entrepreneur, it’s time to take the same decision. Each operating system comes with its own set of benefits and limitations. For instance, Linux is open source and has a lot of applications in it’s kitty. Windows on the other hand is best suited for specific applications like MySQL and Plesk.
Just one thing to keep in mind here: the OS you have on your system shouldn’t influence your decision. In other words, if you’re using Linux, you can still go for Windows OS for hosting (if that’s what you need).
STEP 3: Get Your Servers Ready
Servers are the most important components of a hosting business, and it’s now time for you to decide how you want to go about acquiring them. You have three options here:
- You can purchase your very own server. Though having your own server will cost you a lot (financially), the upside is that you will have full control over it, and can make any changes in its configurations/settings as and when required. And just in case you don’t have space, you can get in touch with a colocation center who will house your server and take care of its physical maintenance (power supply, cooling, etc.).
- If you don’t have enough resources to purchase, you can lease a dedicated server and host all your websites there. That is, you are given control of the servers for a specified time period in exchange for a fixed payment. There are many companies (like LeaseWeb) that offer dedicated servers on lease. You are not the actual owners of the server, but you can make use of its facilities for a specified period of time.
- Your third options are to rent servers. You make monthly payments, and in exchange you get to use the servers. Renting is a more flexible option than leasing, as you have the ability to terminate the contract and move to another company at any time.
- And last, you can go for reseller hosting. You contact a web hosting company, sign up for a reseller shared (or dedicated) hosting plan, and then rent out the space allotted to you to your customers. It’s different from renting since the technical support and maintenance is still the headache of the parent company, and you have no control over the servers.
STEP 4: Know What Plans You Want To Offer
There are various types of hosting plans: shared, VPS, dedicated, Cloud, etc. Have a clear idea as to what plans you want to offer to your customers. Offering all (especially during the start-up phase) may not be a feasible option as you’ll need a lot of resources and manpower to be able to manage them all. Choose one or two to start with, and offer the best service in those few plans.
While deciding which ones to offer, it helps if you’re in touch with your prospective customers (through social media, forums, etc.) and know which plan they’re looking for the most. It may be that the cloud hosting plan offered by the companies in your area are not up to the mark. Find an easy point of entry, and come up with exceptional service to ‘Wow!’ the customers.
STEP 5: Make Your Plans Flexible and Scalable
People are no longer happy with what they get, rather they would be more satisfied if they could tweak the existing plans to add/change some features/applications that would make their website look/function better. A company that has room for such flexibility will do wonders in attracting customers. Identify and state your plans, but give customers the freedom to flex it as per their requirements.
The other important tip is make sure that your customers can scale up without much hassle. So if they have been using shared hosting all this while, but now their website has grown to such an extent that shared hosting is no longer sufficient, they should be able to upgrade their plans to VPS or dedicated hosting without much hassle. Smooth up-scaling will ensure that your customers stay with you, and not go on the lookout for some other company.
STEP 6: Have Your Customer Support In Place
Nothing irritates the customers more than an unreachable customer support, and nothing pleases them more than a proactive and knowledgeable customer support. Even if it means hiring a few people to answer queries (which may be through phone, chat or emails), it’s worth the effort and investment.
An effective customer support is not one that knows all the answers to the customers’ queries, but one that acknowledges errors/lack of knowledge and gets back to the customer with the right solution/answer.
STEP 7: Fix Pricing
If you check online, you’ll find all kinds of hosts: some offer hosting for free (yes, you heard me: FREE!), while others charge exorbitant amounts. And both have a customer base. So you need to be sure where you want to feature in this price-war.
The best way to go about it is to look at these companies more closely and check what services/plans/features they offer to their customers. Compare them with the services you can offer, and decide price accordingly. When it comes to pricing, you have to nail it - charge too high and customers thinks it’s a waste for money, charge too low and they’ll think that your services aren’t that good.
STEP 8: Set Up A Secure Payment System
As a web hosting company, your website needs high security as you’ll be dealing with sensitive data (credit card details) every day. So while choosing a payment system, select one that’s secure as well as easy to navigate through.
We suggest using WHMCS as it allows the customers to set up automated payments, and is also a secure mode of payment.
STEP 9: Make Your Website Look (And Function) Awesome
With thousands and thousands of web hosting companies competing for attention, having a website design that looks awesome will help you stand out from the rest. Here are a few suggestions:
- Avoid over-cluttering your pages. Have a lot of white space so that your visitors get the message you want to convey loud and clear.
- Make your website responsive. This will help visitors have a great user experience when they view your website on their smart phones and tabs.
- Avoid using too many colors and fonts. Stick to 2-3 variations at the most.
- Keep your navigation tabs simple and easy to locate.
In addition to web design, the other thing that will help your business is to make sure your site is up and running at all times, and that it loads super-fast. Remember, how your site performs is an indication of how good your hosting service is. So make that first impression great!
STEP 10: Bring Out Your Calculator
Once you’re done with building your website, it’s now time to find out how much money you would require to sustain your business till the time you break even. Make balance sheets, write a list of where you’ll need to invest in (and what you can do do without), make long term forecasts and goals, find an estimated time till break-even from your forecasts.
The reason why this is important is because it doesn’t make sense to start a business and then shut it down abruptly due to a money-crunch. So find what you need, and if you don’t have the resources, find someone who’s willing to invest in your business. And that’s where having a website helps - you’ll have something to show your investor while convincing he/she should invest. Get your money ready before you move to the next step.
STEP 11: Hire People
You may think that you know all that there is to know about web hosting, and you can easily run the business single-handed. And that’s where you’ll falter. Web hosting has many facets - from server maintenance to hosting plans to customer support to advertising - and it’s nearly impossible to be a one-man army and transform your startup to a roaring business.
Focus on what you’re best at, and leave the rest to the rest. I’m not saying you need to have a full-fledged office, but it will help if you have a few people sharing your workload. And in case you don’t have the resources to set up office space, hire remote workers. There are many who would be more than happy to work remotely.
STEP 12: Advertise:
In today’s day and age of cut-throat competition, no business has survived without advertising, and neither will you. How you go about it is totally upto you. We’ve listed a few options here:
- Social Media: Social media is the new hub and hangout place, and that makes it the best place to advertise for your company. This can be done either through ads (like Facebook ads) or by simply connecting with the people through the company page/account.
- Google Ads: Google is one of the most used search engines online, and it would do wonders to your company to be able to put up ads in its search results. And the process is pretty simple. Click here to get started.
- Word Of Mouth: This is the oldest and the most effective form of advertising. Let your friends and acquaintances know about your new business, host a few sites for them, and then ask them to refer your services to others. Most of the traffic that you get through this method will be sure-shot conversions!
- Email Marketing: Email marketing is also a very effective way of marketing your services, and one that has been used by marketers for quite sometime now. You can collect email IDs from either your social media outlets or by coaxing visitors to sign up for your newsletter. Content plays an important role here - the more interesting the content is, the more people will click on the link and reach your website.
Did we scare you with all these steps? We apologize, that was not our intention. Though it may feel that there is a lot to read and absorb, they are not very difficult steps. Take one step at a time, and you’ll have customers flocking to your website in no time!
Last word? The web hosting business is a full-time business. It’s not one of those businesses that once they kick start, you can sit back, relax and see the dollars rolling in. With the competition so hectic, one miss in answering a visitor’s query could lead to loss of a prospective customer. One delay in responding to a comment on Facebook could lead to the prospect signing up with a rival company.
So keep your eyes and ears open, or have a mechanism in place that will do that for you. Happy hosting !