Have you ever dreamed about owning your own web hosting company? It won’t be an easy journey but it is definitely an achievable goal.
The market is extremely competitive, so it is not easy for new players to start and grow. However, the IT landscape is constantly changing and the big names in the industry don’t always react quickly to the latest trends.
A new company can be a lot more flexible and rapidly adapt to market demands. In order to succeed, you will need a well-structured plan; here are the five most important steps.
Identify a niche
It’s pointless to start a generic web hosting company, because you can’t compete with the big names in the industry. No matter what you do, they will have cheaper prices, better services and massive advertising budgets.
You must find a niche use case ignored by these big companies, or bet on an innovative technology that’s not in widespread use yet.
There are several angles to consider here: your niche can be new hardware, new software or unique services.
We’ll give you an example from each category, keep in mind that things change very fast in IT, so what’s new today will be old tomorrow.
As new hosting hardware, you could look for example at ARM architecture. Few companies offer ARM-based hosting at the moment and it would allow you to sell very cheap plans.
If you’d rather go with innovative software, a good example is Clear Linux. This Linux distribution developed by Intel is much faster than any alternative in tests, but nobody uses it in production yet. If you could set up some stable configurations on it, there would certainly be people interested to try it out.
Many Linux applications are notoriously difficult to install and poorly documented, so offering services for them is a promising niche. You could for example sell hosting packages for big data solutions, with fully managed deployment, installation and maintenance of the cluster.
Define your technological stack
The OS choice is clear: you should go with a flavor of Linux because it is free, offers high performance and can run on very limited resources.
Any hosting plan should include at least the basic security mechanisms: an active firewall (CSF is a great choice), SSH hardening, a secure password policy, etc. It is also nice if the customers can have access to a real-time monitoring solution.
Since you’re going for a niche and not general hosting, offering a control panel like cPanel or Plesk should not be necessary. However, be prepared to install one, if the customers demand it.
Define your billing system
Even if your company is small, you need a solid billing and administration system. The best dedicated web hosting management platforms available at the moment are WHMCS and Blesta, so go with one of them.
The monthly cost and functionality of these platforms are quite similar, so select one based on personal preferences.
You can test both for free: WHMCS has a 30-day money back guarantee for any license type, while Blesta has a trial version as well as a live demo.
Define your offers and your unique selling point
This depends directly on your choice in the first step: it’s time to turn it into a unique selling proposition.
Focus on the strengths of the solution: for example hosting on ARM servers is very cost effective so you can create ridiculously cheap plans that undercut any competition.
Make sure that your offers work out of the box, in the Clear Linux example it is not enough to sell a revolutionary OS. It has to be usable too, so configure services like web or email servers on top of it.
Whatever you choose, insist on the specific advantages of your plans.
Start by using the free promotion channels at your disposal: activate your network of friends to help spread the word and post on the major IT forums.
Since you operate on a niche, you have to reach a specific target. Contact the developers of your hardware or software and try to get them to officially endorse your services, since your success also helps their product.
Identify the bloggers or news websites that have an influence over your target niche, you can either sign an affiliate deal or buy advertising on their sites.
Managing a company of any kind is a very difficult task, regardless of its size. Be prepared to handle a wide range of issues, from minor details to critical problems.
At the same time, it can be extremely rewarding, from both a personal and professional point of view, so you should not be discouraged.
While we can’t present a detailed business plan in the limited space of this article, following the five steps above will give your company a solid base to start from. Good luck, we can’t wait to test your hosting plans!