What hosting platform should I use to host my web design clients?

As a web designer and application developer, I understand how hosting client sites can benefit your business. It’s something we do at Asheboro Creative for several of our clients and honestly, it has made our lives easier. I’ll explain how.

How hosting client websites made our lives easier

At Asheboro Creative we design and develop websites for a variety of people. Many of our clients choose to be very hands-off with their websites, including choosing and managing their hosting accounts.

It’s understandable that a client wouldn’t want to manage their own hosting account. After all, it can be a heavy task for someone who doesn’t know much about web hosting.

Fortunately for our clients, we do.

Adding hosting to our available services helped make things a lot simpler for us and our clients and it can do the same for you.

Hosting client websites will boost your finances

The most obvious benefit of hosting client websites is the financial boost it provides. As an additional service, you’re giving your clients something that they would otherwise have to handle on their own. This frees them from the burden of finding and choosing a host, then managing their business and a hosting account.

This additional infusion of cash every month can help you build up your own business and grow it faster.

Hosting client sites gives you easier access to their files

As the website designer, hosting your client’s websites can make it much easier for you to access their files. No more asking for cPanel or FTP passwords. Just log in, do your work and that’s it.

Maintenance is also a lot simpler now and easier to bundle in with your initial service offering. Think of how much easier it will be for you to handle updates, modifications, and backups when you host your client. This will make things easier for you and faster for them.

Hosting client sites means you know the hosting environment

Even if you aren’t a server administrator with 20 years of Linux or Windows Server experience, you know more about your own hosting environment than you do a random one your client might use.

When you host your client’s websites on your own hosting platform, even if you’re using a Reseller hosting account, you’re going to know a lot of the abilities and limitations of the platform. This will make it a lot easier for you when it’s time to add new features or upgrade current ones.

If your client is using a different host, there may be server limitations that you aren’t aware of. Applications you expect to use may not even exist on other hosting accounts. What if you need PHP 7.1 but the client is using a host that only goes up to 5.6?

Being familiar with the hosting platform is very beneficial to you and your client. It can save time, money, and the occasional headache.

Choosing the best web hosting platform for web design clients

Once you’ve decided to start hosting your client’s websites, you need to decide how you are going to do it. There are many ways you can go about it.

Reseller Web Hosting

One of the easiest ways to start hosting client websites is to use a reseller hosting plan.

Reseller Hosting is a web hosting option that provides you with tools to create additional web hosting accounts. You are hosted on a shared web server with other customers, but your account has the power to create more accounts.

A reseller hosting plan typically provides you with a set limit on bandwidth and storage space. You use this allotment of resources when creating your own hosting plans. For instance, if a web host gives you 60GB of storage space and 600GB of bandwidth, you could create a hosting plan that gives away 1GB of storage and 10GB of bandwidth. This would allow you to host 60 accounts under that plan.

Because Reseller Hosting is hosted on a shared web server, you will face several restrictions and limitations.

  • Your account and those you make will all be hosted on a single server that hosts several other customer accounts. The web host will usually put fewer accounts on a reseller server, but they may not limit the number of accounts a reseller can create. This means the server you are on could potentially have hundreds of accounts on it.
  • You have no control over the software running the server. Eg. Apache instead of NGINX or available versions of PHP
  • You have no control over most of the settings on the server. Eg. MySQL Connections Limit
  • Your host may have limits on how many emails can be sent out via shared servers. This is done to combat spammers and may not apply to their VPS or Dedicated Server plans.
  • System resources may be limited per account. Eg. CPU, Physical RAM, and I/O limits
  • No root SSH access, as this would be a huge security issue on a shared server

Despite the limitations, Reseller Hosting is usually the best place to start. There is less for you to deal with and the cost of entry is inexpensive. Since Reseller Hosting is done in a managed environment, your web host is responsible for issues with the server environment so if anything goes wrong with the server, they take care of it.

VPS

A VPS platform is a great option for hosting client websites. This is because a VPS, or virtual private server, provides you with an account that is hosted within its own container on a web server. Your account has it’s own operating system, possibly configured differently than others on the same server.

Hosting with a VPS comes in two flavors: managed and unmanaged. Managed means that your web host takes care of the hosting environment, including configuration and upgrades. Unmanaged VPS hosting places everything in your control, leaving you responsible for managing all of it.

Unmanaged is usually cheaper, but if you aren’t capable of handling things like OS installations and server software configurations, you should spend the extra money on a managed platform.

Some web hosts only offer reseller capability for a VPS as an addon item, while others make it available as part of the initial VPS plan. Also, managed VPS platforms may not provide root SSH access, so if this is a requirement then you will need to check with your web host first.

A VPS also provides more room to grow. When a site becomes too popular for shared hosting, it often moves to a VPS. This is because the limitations on resources are not the same as they are on a shared server. For instance, a shared hosting platform may cap your entry processes at 30 while a VPS may have a much higher limit or one that is defined by you.

Unlike shared hosting, a VPS can typically be configured with additional or different software. For instance, a shared cPanel server with your web host may only run Apache, but with a VPS you may be able to add Engintron for NGINX support. If you’re running an unmanaged VPS, other operating systems may be available to you. Instead of running CentOS and cPanel you could choose to run Ubuntu and VestaCP, saving the cost of a cPanel license.

A VPS can also be destroyed and rebuilt quickly. The software is managed through a virtualized platform so your whole operating system can be wiped out and reinstalled in a matter of minutes. No more waiting around for a server technician to take care of it. You can do it yourself to an unmanaged VPS in 5 minutes.

A VPS is a great move in terms of hosting more demanding and powerful websites, but it does bring new challenges. If you run an unmanaged VPS, be prepared to handle your own server environment.

If you don’t know how to use SSH, unmanaged is really not for you. Instead, go with a managed VPS for the support and expertise of your web host.

Dedicated Server

The last platform on the list is a dedicated server. A dedicated server is much like a VPS. The biggest difference is that you are the only one on the whole machine. No shared environment or additional containers of accounts.

Just you. The whole. Freaking. Server.

Nice.

This platform also comes in both unmanaged and managed flavors, just like a VPS. In fact, think of it like a big VPS. It has all of the same pros and cons.

  • Limits are much higher or configurable by you
  • Root access may be available
  • Software availability can be much higher
  • Support from your web host is available for managed dedicated server hosting
  • You can host a lot more accounts. Like, stupid amounts of small websites.

Dedicated servers do have a few additional fallbacks. For one, not all dedicated servers can be as easily destroyed and rebuilt. If you purchase your server with CentOS 6 and decided to start over with CentOS 7, a VPS can be done in a few minutes while some dedicated servers may take hours.

This is not true for all web hosts. Some run their dedicated servers in a virtualized environment, with only your container on the whole machine. Other hosts do not and the server has to be wiped out and reinstalled from scratch. It takes time so be aware of this before purchasing your dedicated server.

Choosing a dedicated server is a big deal. The cost is much higher than other hosting platforms. It is also the most powerful of them all. If you plan on hosting a lot of clients or you need to host clients who have powerful websites, a dedicated server is going to be the way to go.

Why you should never host clients on a single hosting account

Before we close this out, let’s go over hosting via a single shared hosting account. Specifically, we’ll explain why this is an absolutely terrible, awful, not good in any regards kind of idea.

In fact, we have a whole article dedicated to why it’s a bad idea to use addon domains to host client website.

Most web hosting companies provide shared hosting plans that offer addon domains. Addon domains give you the power to host multiple domains on a single account. The idea is that you’ll be able to put several websites on one account and save money.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Yeah, it’s really not.

Since all of the websites are hosted on the same account, the potential for disaster is much higher. I’ve worked with customers who try creating the next Dreamhost via addon domains on a $8/month hosting plan, only to get the whole thing destroyed by malware.

I’ll give you an example of how bad it can get: Customer has a dozen websites hosted via addon domains. One of those sites uses an out of date plugin that had a security hole in it. The security hole gave a hacker a doorway into their site, allowing them to upload malware that infected every PHP file on the whole account.

Yes, every single PHP file. It didn’t matter what the file belonged to. It hit Drupal, WordPress, Joomla — this person had a lot of different sites — and infected them all. If these sites were hosted in a reseller account, only the initial hacked site would have been affected.

There are multiple reasons why hosting client websites under a single account is a bad idea, and we’ve outlined many of them in this article. Before you choose to go down that route, read about why you really shouldn’t. It’s not worth the few bucks you save in hosting fees, especially when your clients start having trouble with their websites.

Final Thoughts

For most web designers who want to host their client’s websites, starting with a Reseller Hosting plan is a smart move. Many never need to move beyond that because their clients don’t have resource hungry websites. Meanwhile, many large web design agencies will host their clients out of managed VPS or managed dedicated servers.

No matter which platform you choose, make sure to go with a reliable web host. It’s not just your reputation on the line, but also that of your clients. Choose a host that is stable, with 24/7 support and ready to help when you need to scale up your web hosting operation.