So, once you decide you want to do this – getting a reseller account (or server), starting a business, getting a merchant bank account, yadda yadda – then you have to decide how you’re going to do it. So, what does that mean?
Well, there’s the way most people do it – purchasing a web hosting billing/support software package and automating as much as you possibly can. These days, it’s actually possible to accept an order, open a billing account, install it on the server, provision it, bill it, charge it, and send a thank you note at 2am in the morning so that you wake up and notice you have a new hosting client while you were sleeping.
Then there’s the way we do it, which (we’re told) is quaintly old fashioned, and that’s by hand (once you are installed and set up, things are automated, but not until we decide so). We see every order that applies to be on our servers, a real human looks at it, investigates it, provisions the account, opens the billing, charges it, etc. We admit to you openly that most people of our size and with the frequency of the orders that we get do not and would not choose to do it this way. It’s a lot of work.
So what are the benefits and drawbacks to each system?
Well, obviously, the benefits to the automated system are that clients applying with you get instantaneous set up, and you won’t have to do much of anything for them. In fact, if you do it this way and they have no issues, you could have a client that you never have any direct contact with at all. You cut your staff costs down (or your own work), you are able to offer instant set ups since everything is automated. All you may have to do is collect money, and watch that you don’t overload your account.
So, why do we do it the way we do it?
The benefits of eyeballing every order is that a human being sees it, as opposed to an algorithm that may or may not be any good – spammers and black hat hackers regularly sign up with hosting companies so that they have an untraceable platform to do whatever nefarious things they are planning. Our firewall regularly (read: daily) firewalls IPs of other hosting companies servers as they attempt to attack ours through port scans, mod-security breaches, and the like. Just during the overnight we firewalled at least one shared hosting server from every large shared hosting competitor in the “top ten” due to attempted security breaches.
If you are indiscriminate about who you sign up regardless of how ridiculous their order form looks, you’ll have these problems sooner or later. That’s not even considering the chargebacks that you can face from stolen credit cards being used to sign up.
We personally prefer to do far more work on the front end (and to turn down any orders that seem slightly hokey) than to clean up on the backend after we’ve installed someone we shouldn’t have. They’re both work – it’s just a matter of which work you want to do.
It’s also going to depend on your market – are you going after a market where instant sign ups are absolutely imperative for growth? If you’re going after a market that wants it “now now now” and lack the patience to wait for an install, you may have no choice but to go with a system that provides instant sign ups.
Making these decisions before you look at your billing software is important because each set of software has its features and drawbacks, and each set may have a ceiling as far as expandability. Before you plunk down the cash that may have a hefty price tag, consider how you’re going to run your operation – because if you choose billing software before you do, that and software how it operates will likely decide many things for you.