Everyone in Hosting is Reselling

Recently one of our customers asked us if we are just reselling hosting services or if we are a standalone hosting provider. I thought to myself, “There’s not much to think about, of course we are a standalone hosting provider!”  I am pretty sure that is what every support member at GlowHost would answer as well. And then I got to thinking…

It took some time to rethink the core idea of the question. As a result, the small thought that should have been forgotten by this time, grew into this article. Let’s try to understand what hosting services include and what “the reselling part” actually means.

For sure, if you are a hosting provider, you need some datacenter to keep your servers at. You can either build your own or put your hardware in a specific datacenter that you like.  A ‘carrier neutral’ datacenter, which almost all hosts use, is essentially a building that more than one major backbone Internet carrier (like AT&T) has connections to. It typically also has many different hosting companies within it’s walls. The benefit of having more than one carrier is redundancy. If one carrier goes down, there are others that can be used to re-direct traffic to. The owner of the datacenter is reselling carrier traffic, and electricity, but they do not own the Internet or the electric grid. This means even a carrier neutral datacenter itself can be considered a reseller.

GlowHost buys these products and services from a datacenter, then we add many additional layers of service to what the datacenter offers. A few examples are security services, software installation, configuration and updates, and fully managed services for the end-customer.

When we turn on a new server, our friends at the datacenter will put in an operating system and change the default password.  From there we install any software required for hosting, then we tweak out over 500 different settings on the OS and control panels, install firewalls, uptime monitors, custom kernels, anti-virus, anti-spam, and harden the OS and everything else against known exploits. Once all that stuff is on board, we adjust more settings and optimize things to make sure they are working without error. We then stress test the machines to make sure they are production worthy, and if it passes the test, our customer will receive their server.

It is important to understand that datacenter technicians go to school to learn things like switches, routers, network connectivity, and hardware. They know how to do things like build a private network, and build a machine, or to troubleshoot and replace faulty components. They usually know very little about an Operating System, like Linux outside of how to insert the CD/DVD and install it. Those are the hardware guys. I’ve seen a lot of DIY customers think they can just go buy from a datacenter directly and cut out the hosting company. That is usually a big mistake because running even a single server is a 24/7/365 job, and no one person can effectively handle that on their own in a mission critical environment. It also takes a team of sysadmins to make a successful server environment because no one person can know everything there is to know about a server, and, the technology changes daily. That means what was true yesterday might not be so today!

Hosting companies (well, not all – but the goods ones like GlowHost) are the guys that have a deep understanding of operating systems and other server software like the web server, mail server, FTP server and even have knowledge of web applications like WordPress, Joomla or any of the rest of the most common web aps, along with some programming knowledge in PHP, MySQL and other languages.  They generally know everything the datacenter guys know, but are often not working within the datacenter walls or floor so they do not have physical access to the hardware, and rely on the datacenter team to handle certain issues for them. This is cost effective for hosting companies because several hosting companies can use the same datacenter techs to do their ‘remote hands’ work for them. The trick is finding a good datacenter, with good hands and good reliability of service.

Datacenters and hosting companies have different responsibilities and if both have qualified professionals in their teams, then the final end-customer ends up with a great service.  At it’s most basic, the overall hosting product is usually a result of symbiosis of a datacenter and a hosting provider. However, there are many more layers which a host handles for the end users.

Some examples include working with software vendors to obtain a working or customized control panel for the end-customer or negotiation of bulk purchases so the end-customer is getting a better price than if buying direct. A host is good to have around for asking simple IT advice since they see so many different setups, they can help eliminate the guesswork, hours of googling, or trial and error which a single user might experience when trying a DIY model of hosting. A good host can offer opinions and suggestions about packages or tools to use before building out a simple web site or even complicated hardware cluster. Consulting with a host means you will experience a time savings when launching a new product, and that part alone can be priceless.

To recap, the described scheme above looks like this:

Major Telco <> Datacenter < > Hosting Company  < > Customer

Now back to the question that this article is about…reselling!  GlowHost, does offer white-label reseller hosting. Those plans are aimed for small hosting providers or web design firms that can’t afford to have their own qualified technicians in house 24/7/365 nor want to deal with the technical aspects of making a dedicated server operate efficiently. In this case the supply chain will look like:

GlowHost < > Your Hosting Company < > Your Customer

Is GlowHost reselling? Partially yes – electricity, network services, some network hardware. On the other hand we add our own services and proprietary software and hardware configurations that are a huge part of the final product that is delivered to the customer. GlowHost both leases and owns hardware in over 18 different datacenters across the world.

Fun Fact: GlowHost started as a reseller almost two decades ago. Now we manage hundreds of servers and host hundreds of thousands of domains across the globe.

If you made it this far, congratulations! Feel free to ask me anything in the comments below.