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It seems like an easy question to answer, but the fact is your web host provider could be incognito.
Let me start off by saying I have nothing against resellers, used to be one myself when I was starting out. When I graduated from reseller to collocation I owed it to the carefully picked hosting companies (of which I was a reseller) for educating me in good reselling.
Reselling is common these days… All one needs to do anymore is sign up with your hosting provider and resell for them. After one has increased the rates for profit, and posted “Your Hosting Packages” you are good to go! It is a good way to make some money and make your business look good by providing web design services and hosting. A all in one if you will.
The huge problem is this. Deception!
I will use one of my clients who is in the worst of worse situations - which is what has inspired this post.
My client is a successful business owner and we will call him Jim owner of Company A. Jim came to me in need of a new website, fresh look and commerce solutions. Their old web developer vanished.
Starting my first day of work for Company A, I was given a password, User name and so on to gain access to their FTP. I was presented with server errors and messages that I did not have FTP access. My client stated this was all the information he had and did not know who he was hosted through. Oh how sad I thought – not having total control over something you pay monthly for. Anyway – I took matters into my own hands with the authority of my client. Simply looked first at the whois – noticed the old developers hosting company was listed as tech support. So I went to the hosting company and found the package that my customer is signed up for. I could not find any support on hosting companies site (strange) so proceeded with e-mail to get access information for the Company A website. No reply for 3 days after I have sent 2 e-mails. The reply was nice, and thanked me for contacting them. I was told that they would have to look up the account information would get right back with me. Day 5 I got my reply: “We don’t host that package anymore and it is the customers responsibility to keep that information. *DING *DING *DING!! The lights came on… I ran a trace route on their site with a nifty application I have. Did some deeper whois information and TA DA! My client was a reseller of a reseller! I could not believe what I was seeing…
I finally got access to my customers FTP from the original Hosting provider who gave my information within an hour of my contact.
My client was not happy at all to learn he had been paying $33.00 per month when his hosting account really should have cost him $16.98 per month! I was asked what he could do about this legally. I told him “though I am no lawyer, I think you may not have a case – You were blind to what exactly you were paying for and trusted your developer.” I took some time and educated him a bit…
This had to be the worst case I have run into. Fact is there should be some standards in reselling. At least be honest that you are a reseller. Hosting companies should make resellers post on their site “Authorized reseller of….” Which would save a lot of headaches. It also keeps you honest as a reseller. Resellers lack so much on their sites and open themselves to potential lawsuits. What about the simple things.. tech support, account info, etc… I believe Hosting companies have a certain level of responsibility to manage their resellers and their company services.
So you plan to find a hosting company to host your website… How will you know you are not hosting through a reseller of a reseller like my client above? Maybe simply you want to make sure you are dealing with a legit hosting company or not.
Fact is resellers are getting better at covering their tracks! But with some simple applications and easy digging you can find exactly whom you are doing business with.
Networks Solutions www.netsol.com
Click on: whois
Enter: somehostingcompany.com (the hosting company address you want to check out.) and search the whois database. Listed in the results you will see ns1. and ns2. name servers.
But if results are:
Chances are your hosting company is a reseller of abchosting.com. Check out abchosting.com in the who is and see if the ns1. or ns2. names match the domain name.
This does not always promise you will find out if your reseller is a reseller or not. Some resellers can get their own ns1. and ns2. custom name servers.
Find the servers location:
First download a application called: TraceRoute which is found at: www.visualware.com/visualroute/index.html
Demo is 30 day free trial.
If my company states for example:
Colorado Hosting company (domainname.com)
How do I know that company is really in Colorado like they say. They have their own ns.1 and ns2.domainname.com – but I want to make sure.
Type in the web address of the hosting company and it will show exactly where their servers are. If they are located in Germany or Florida you may ask the company why their servers are there.
Some hosting companies need to store their servers in better data center then what may be offered in their own state. So they may have them in another state. The purpose here is to just help you in shopping for a good solid web hosting company. Simple tools to make sure you don’t end up in a trap like my client or pay more then you should for something you want.
Now – I may be flamed seriously for posting this, but I hope this is taken is more for educational then negative. I have experienced a client too many in bad hosting situations and thought I would post this up in hopes of a good discussion.
We have our own servers which has some benefits and some drawbacks (like the overhead), and have a number of resellers.
I would say that there are some benefits from having resellers for any hosting company. It allows you to develop your client base more rapidly than you could do on your own and resellers generally have more understanding of the difficulties of the hosting business and frame their queries and problem reports more effectively than end users. (It is realy annoying to get three problems with people being unable to download their email come through - especially when the answer is that their connection has gone down at their end and all they need to do is dial up again!)
From a hosting providers point of view - it is almost impossible to keep a track of the quality of service that our resellers provide, they can be located anywhere in the world.
What I would advise is that any web designer that uses an external hosting source actually sets up an account with a reputable domain name registrar and ensures that the domains are under their control. Ensure that the domain is registered in the name of your client so that they are the legal owners of the domain name.
Getting hit with the Code Red virus wasn't fun, but I learned how to combat that as well.
Plus, when I maintain their websites I can make changes without having to FTP to another site.
I have thought about reselling, but really fear loosing control and perhaps that is because I am still a new host provider. - How does it work for you? Any negitives in offering resellers account with your hosting?
Additional thoughts & ideas
I would like to see a well designed and accredited membership organization which resellers could be a part of. The Membership organization would support and establish guidelines for reseller companies (hosting and alike) as long as the reseller followed the rules established by the Membership Organization.
It would kind of be like the ICANN or a BBB of Reseller Hosting in a way. I feel this would force Hosting resellers to provide tech support if needed (or required by their hosting company), account information, etc etc... In this, it provides the reseller some solid credentials to promote their services.
For me, I would feel better about offering reseller accounts for my hosting if I knew that my reseller would be representing me well and provide a solid service in reflection of my own business.
BUT! I guess I could offer this myself and have the same requirements of my resellers.
However, Since I don’t have the time to establish something like this for my business, (as well I am sure other small hosting companies trying to build up their client base) – A Membership type organization that maintained resellers across the world this would save me time.
I know that if a Reseller came to me – And was a member of an accredited organization I would have no doubt they plan to represent me well.
I know something like this would improve business on the internet. Customers like my client above would have not been in a situation like this if they at the least knew the reseller was an accredited reseller. It makes life easier for Web Developers, Website newbies, People new to hosting, and so on…
Brain storming here… thoughts rolling out of my mind as I type this. Any thoughts? Does anyone know of a group like this?
I think that there is little opportunity for a resellers organisation. By enforcing a policy of membership for your resellers you will lose them to your competitors.