Over the past few months I’ve come across a slight trickle of people that have started up their own “web hosting company.” I’m all for trying out new things to help people, bring in money, or to just have a project. But I’ve noticed that most of these people have been under the age of twenty.
I’d be a hypocrite if I said that people under twenty should not start up their own “business” considering when I started Holdfire Network I was 19 years old, and pretty soon I’m going to be 21. The age is just a mere statistic from the smaller web hosts that have popped up. But if you’re going to school full-time and working as well, how do you expect to manage your clientÃ¨le? Who is going to be there to answer their ticket at 3am? Or 4pm? Or 10pm?
However the age group from most of the web hosts weren’t even something I took into consideration. Almost all of them were missing main elements that make up a web host company. The following are based off of 7 web hosts that I have come across through people’s websites, and various message boards. They are not linked within this entry, however if someone requests them in a comment, I’ll be more than willing to reply with them.
A proper billing system:
6 of the 7 hosts I visited had no billing system implemented into their website. This is the wrong way to run a company. 6 hosts required a user to submit in a form through their website, and then to click on their “buy now” button (or alternatively were sent an invoice through paypal.) Though there was one host that listed no “rule” of how to go about ordering their plan and only has a “buy now” button attached to their plans available. How is this a proper way to track your customers, and to provide a proper billing solution to them? As a customer, don’t you want to be able to log into a system to track you invoices, to see how much you’ve paid, when you’ve paid, as well as being able to access a profiling system where you can change your information?
A proper support/ticket system:
100% of these hosts had absolutely no support system at all. This is perplexing because support is something that will be required, no matter what you think. Their support page has links to e-mail addresses, an AIM screen name and some had YIM, ICQ, MSN and Google Talk. So you decide that you want to have support for your customers, but one of them didn’t even bother creating a separate account dedicated to the web host. The contact information they listed for the YIM, AIM, ICQ and MSN were all personal accounts. Do you really want to get support from 2Sexy4u_2 (*changed); Actually, the question is will you be able to get proper support from someone with the screen name 2Sexy4u_2? Having no support system will lead to chaos, confusion as well as showing your potential clients that you don’t care about having a centralized system.
Presentation of your content:
One major flaw most hosts (whether they’re LLC, Inc, or run through your bedroom) is their design and presentation of their content. One of the worst ways to take when running a web host is by using flash. Flash websites are a thing of the past, and should be used sparingly. I’ve noticed that a few major hosts use flash as their header, navigation and some even for the entire site. However of the 7 DIY hosts none of them are using flash. But none of them even having designs that would lead you to believe you’re viewing a hosting company website. Granted, my own site is very minimalistic and to the point; I do have a single imagine to depict the general idea of the company.
The sites here range from using a template from an Open Source website to using an i-frame to display their content. If you’re going to use a template (and not the kind of template you’d find from Templatemonster, think opensourcetemplates.org or even a WordPress-esque one) you should tweak it to look more original, unique, and relate it to a hosting company. Flowers of any kind, Clouds, and dots are not images are not going to help the viewer associate your website to that of a hosting company. Even something as simple as a server rack, or a Cisco router can help with the site.
One of them also featured Google Ads on the bottom of every page. Exactly what is the need for a hosting company to have contextual ads display on their site? This is something that should NEVER be added to a hosting company website. Not only are you displaying ads that will lure away potential viewers, but this is clearly a monetization ploy. It’s even tempting for other hosts to purchase the ad space on your site to display their company (and trust me, I’ve been considering doing this.)
Overall I think it’s great the the people decided to create their own web host. But this is something that requires dedication, money, and your time. It’s not something you can easily just start out of nowhere and expect to start making money on it. You need to spend money to make money. You can easily find free alternatives to paid services (eg: support, and billing centers) on various websites like hotscripts.com or even just by googling it. Especially if you can spend money on a message board script (IPBoard, et al) and yet you have NO billing center, and NO support center. Get your priorities straight.
One thing I’ve noticed with two of them is that they have a public listing of all of their “clients.” I suppose this can all be personal preference, but I do not see this as professional. Yes, it’s nice to exclaim how many clients you have, but there is no need to have a completely directory of all of the websites you’re housing. If you have a testimonials section, you can ask permission to include a link with the testimonial, otherwise I see it as a no-go for listing ALL of their websites.
Before you even considering running a company, just ask yourself if you have the knowledge, money, time, and patience to run one. If you do, then you need to research and “study” the topic before you even consider starting it.
I know most of you readers have your website hosted, but let’s say you don’t. What do you look for in a host? List everything and anything, because I’m all ears to see what you all look for, and what you don’t like for. List your do’s and don’ts. I’m looking for as much feedback as you guys are willing to dish out.