A reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) wrote in asking me about web hosting. They had a bunch of requirements:

  1. Wishes to resell hosting to clients and charge them monthly (currently charges $50/year).
  2. Clients need access to their own hosting, e.g. add email addresses or FTP users.
  3. He isn't good at server stuff. Needs a GUI for admining whole server and clients need their own GUI admin tools also.
  4. Wants to spend less than $100/month.
  5. Wants to be able to scale up to more powerful hosting easily.

I use Media Temple (dv) for my own hosting and I like it. So based on my own experience, I'd probably get one of those (which scale up well) and just manually invoice clients when I add their sites to that hosting. The weakness there is that you can't give sandboxed access to them for adding emails and stuff like that. But honestly, I'd rather just get them set up on Google Apps anyway, which they can control themselves.

Or, if giving them true hosting admin access is imperative, buy an inexpensive shared hosting plan (e.g. BlueHost, HostGator or Digitalfyre) just for them, and then invoice them for that cost + markup. That might be a little tacky since they could easily see how much that service costs with trivial investigation. And I'm not sure how well scaling on those services works either.

Another consideration: do you even want to deal with this? Now if their website goes down (which of course you know about right away) it's your problem. If they have their own hosting which they purchased, they might be more likely to deal with the host directly.

Unfortunately, I don't have a perfect answer for him. Hence the post. If you have a great solution in mind, leave it in the comments below and I'm sure he'll appreciate it.