I am trying to get into reseller hosting business, with the base of around 45,000 existing free hosting members. Even though I have lot of existing free hosting members, I have absolutely no previous experience in reseller business.
Here is some background: Two years back, I decided to start a free hosting service with support for ASP.NET 2.0 and SQL Server 2005 Express. I hired a single server and allowed members to create websites with subdomains under our primary domain.
I was completely unaware of the "Control Panels" available in the market. So I wrote everything myself including the admin panels to manage user accounts, member websites, databases and security. I spent several weeks to develop those features and still continue to develop features and fix issues!
With the support of our other websites, we currently have around 45,000 registered members inour free hosting service. Due to the limitations of the server, we were pretty agressive to delete member accounts who violates any of our rules. We currently have only 5000 or less active sites, while others are very interested to resume their hosting account.
Our hosting service is currently free with no Ads on member sites. We make money from Google AdSense on our own site (user's control panel).
We have reached the limits of our current server. We cannot scale beyond this since my custom control panel does not support multiple servers and I am tired of managing member accounts through this.
I like to expand our business and hire several servers to allow our 45,000 members and future members to host free websites. But I do not want to invest huge money to begin with. I like to hire 1 server with professional control panels and other standard hosting features. I will move my high profile members first and then the rest step by step. The new service will offer Ad supported hosting and continue to support ASP.NET, SQL Server Express, custom domain names etc.
Until 1-2 months back, I was completely un aware of the terms "Control Panel" and "Reseller hosting". Now I started reading about them and have lot of questions. I am here looking for some guidance from you all !
With my current server, I spent most of my time securing the member sites from other members. I wrote my custom tools to configure security for each member so that he does not have access to critical system files and other member's resources. Windows was tired of my custom rules and configuration!!
1. Does the control panels provide any built in mechanism for configuring the security? If I create a new user account through the contrl panel (Helm, CPanel, Plesk etc), is the user automatically configured with appropriate security levels?
2. Does the control panels have features to process billing (I am considering future plans of paid hosting)
3. Do you have any suggestions which control panel I have to buy?
4. Do I need SSL to use control panels? I saw a demo of Helm which asks for SSL based URLs.
5. Do I need firewalls? Is shared firewall a compromise on security ?
6. Which is the best data center I can go for ?
7. How many (small) sites I can host on a server? 100 ? 1000 ? 10000 ?
8. Is there any products available in the market to offer 'Ad supported hosting' ?
Any help and guidance would be greatly appreciated.