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Software Matters: Get Platform-iliar

Posted on 5.31.2013

There will come a time as an Internet professional when you are ready to spread your digital wings and expand your Web business to leverage all those mad skills you’ve developed over the years. One of the best opportunities to do that, particularly if you’re a Web designer/developer, is to become a reseller of Web hosting services.

So what are those mad skills? What should you know about, and be exceedingly good at, right now to ensure that your digital efforts as a Web hosting reseller aren’t in vain? Above all else, you’ll need to become an expert in platforms (or at least platform-iliar), understanding what they are, how they work, their best features and biggest flaws and how they can be used within individual scenarios for your clients and to your benefit.

Make no mistake, there’s much to master when it comes to being a successful hosting reseller, and it does not stop at platforms alone. To attract clients, you’ll need to be able to explain hosting in practical terms (and market your services efficiently). You’ll also need to know how to evaluate different providers (on technology, cost, functionality and support), understand how to use the myriad essential tools and services available (DNS, email, FTP, databases), manage security and access and a whole lot more. Read Website Magazine’s “So You Wanna Be a Hosting Reseller” at wsm.co/resellerhandbook to learn more about the practice in greater detail.

It’s also valuable, however, to think about the specific platform that you’ll be hosting — the software packages and server-based scripts that your clients will use as the actual foundation of their website. It’s what the buyers of hosting services are actually looking for in the first place, whether they know it or not, at the outset of your experience with them.

Web hosts on the whole do a rather poor job of expressing what it is they actually offer and the genuine value they can provide to users. If you, as a hosting reseller, can manage to capture a particular niche (or least gain some traction within it), your enterprise will be much better off for it. Consider the suggestions below for the next, or first, big marketing campaign of your reseller hosting business, and you’ll be on your way to greater profits in no time.

Select a Hosting Niche

The problem with many hosting providers is that they are generalists, not specialists. They essentially just provide the infrastructure, the disk space and bandwidth, and fail to market features that users really want, differentiating their offerings from that of the competition in the process.

The Internet is full of hosting providers that cater to bloggers and information publishers (those using content management systems) and WordPress, Joomla and Drupal are leading the way in those categories, at least in the open source market. Each of those solutions is wellliked and heavily utilized by the broader Web population. As a hosting reseller, however, it’s a crowded market niche and one that you might be wise to avoid. So, what other options are available?

How about hosting image galleries exclusively? At the right price point, artists and designers could flock to a userfriendly offering which enabled them to set up and store their creative assets. Or perhaps host wikis, where your reseller hosting clients could develop collaborative, topic-focused Web destinations with your support. Another option would be to host forums (Vanilla, bPress or phpBB), microblogs (Status.net or PageCookery), social networks (Dolphin or Elgg) or even learning management systems (Moodle, .LRN, eFront, Dokeos, Sakai and others).

Offer the Right Packages

One of the benefits of reseller hosting is that you can control the hosting packages. Often Web hosts offer packages that just aren’t ideal for your needs. But when you resell hosting, you’re allotted a certain amount of bandwidth and disk space to do with as you wish. Say you’re given 50 GB of bandwidth and 50 GB of disk space to resell as you see fit. In this instance, you could set up 50 hosting packages with 1GB of bandwidth and 1GB of disk space, or two accounts with 25GB of bandwidth and 25GB of disk space. The advantage of having control over how hosting packages are set up is that you’re in control and can customize individual accounts to suit your personal revenue needs. If you know your hosting specialty (be it microblog hosting or learning management system hosting), you’ll be better able to plan for success, minimizing the amount of support and maximizing your marketing opportunities.

Grow Slowly & Intentionally

Reselling Web-hosting services has been challenging in the past. Rethinking your approach, becoming more of a hosting specialist than generalist and pricing your hosting product accordingly will ensure that you can take your mad digital skills to the bank.

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