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Spec for our next generation hosting solution

Ianwild
Grafter
Posts: 3,835
Registered: 05-04-2007

Spec for our next generation hosting solution

Overview
PlusNet is looking to build a next generation hosting platform, either in-house or by using a for a credible partner who can manage some or all aspects of our Broadband customer's web hosting requirements. PlusNet in the past was associated with delivering good value through numerous
value add services which are included with the subscription, and we want to get back to that. We hope to develop a reliable, flexible and unique in the industry standard hosting with every account. Alongside, we want to be able to offer, through upselling to existing customers,
more advanced hosting solutions that will match any requirements customers have.
Goal 1. Replicate our current features
Currently, we offer all of our customers all of the below. Any proposed solution must allow us to offer this same level of service to all of our customers free of charge. The provision of these items
would form phase 1 of any migration from our current hosting platform. The list is for residential products. We offer the same thing to business customers, but with higher storage and transfer allowances which reflect the additional subscription charges.
- 250MB of FTP accessible storage with Apache based web hosting -
support for SSI, htaccess, etc
- 7.5GB per month data transfer allowance (Could be lower for new
subscribers and we could discuss lowering this volume for all
customers)
- Support for MS FrontPage extensions (This is one thing we could
possibly lose, but it would cause a stink among some customers so we
would rather maintain it if possible).
- CGI -BIN, PHP, Python, Perl scripting environment with access to
standard Unix tools like cron and SSH access (This has to be activated
separately, but is free to customers).
- Access to FTP from any connection, SSH access restricted to PlusNet
IP addresses
- 1 MySQL database with 50MB storage limit and administration via
PHPMyAdmin and command line from Shell server
- Shared SSL cert
- Webaliser webstats (I prefer AWstats!) and also raw apache logs
available to download via FTP.
- Hosting for up to 5 extra domain names as well as a standard
www.username.plus.com address, with the ability to have a different
web-root directory for each domain. May also need to offer
ccgi.username sub-domains for legacy purposes and support some other
visp domain names.
- Standard scripts - form mail, web counter.
- Webspace usage monitor (Includes storage, but not currently data
transfer although it should)
- Business accounts provide double storage and data transfer allowance
but to all intents and purposes have the same feature set.
- We also offer a standard 'static page only' platform with 25Mb of
storage to our free dial-up customers. We would need to maintain this
for existing subscribers, but would probably not want to offer this to
new 'free' customers unless it made commercial sense (ie upsell
opportunity) to do so.
Goal 2: Offer an Improved Platform
Free Stuff we would want to offer:
------------------------------------------------
- PHP5, MySQL 5 support
- RoR support
- Zend optimiser support
- 1 click install and updates for the following:
Blog software (eg Wordpress)
Wiki (EG PHPWiki)
Forum software (SMF)
And for business accounts, OS Commerce or similar, to form a good differentiator
- A basic web based page builder (We had one but recently disabled it
due to a potential vulnerability in our script)
- Customer control panel
- Support Control panel (For our support team, but also for reporting
on customer usage, ordering the upgrades etc).
Stuff we would like to charge for:
Additional storage
Additional Data transfer
Additional domain name hosting / more subdomains
Additional Databases / Database storage
Personal SSL certs
More pre-installed scripts as available (If we were using fantasico scripts like solution!)
Hosting upgrades - dedicated / virtual servers etc
Tomcat / jsp hosting
.net hosting / ASP / Windows stuff
Individual backups / snapshot rollbacks
Media Streaming Support
WAP Support
Anything else you can think of or customers want!
If we went down that route, we would expect our partner to take a majority proportion of the
revenue generated from these items, and we would look to upsell customers via ongoing and well co-ordinated marketing efforts. We would also sell all these services to new customers during signup etc etc.
The way I see us doing this is a phased approach:
- Phase 1 - Offer all the functionality we do today, plus any easy value adds and launch this as an opt-in beta trial to our customers.
- Phase 2 - Introduce all of the free stuff and implement the chargeable upgrades and resolve all bugs raised in beta
- Phase 3 - Full migration of all customers who have not moved voluntarily
- Phase 4 - Focussed upselling of chargable extras and lots of customer education
- Phase 5 - Business as usual, looking for more revenue opportunities, ongoing co-marketing etc.
I'd imagine that in total this is at least a years worth of work, from the time we agree a proposal to getting to the BAU state. I would want to get something beta-like out to customers as soon as humanly possible though, because they are better at testing than us. This would be for users of the more advanced CGI platform initially, but one decision to be made is whether this becomes the default hosting platform for all customers as it is established. This would ultimately allow us to retire the static HTML hosting solution in due course.
Please let me know if you think I've missed any requirements, or if you have concerns about the items or approach here.
2 REPLIES
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,571
Thanks: 3
Registered: 13-04-2007

Re: Spec for our next generation hosting solution

I would like to see coldfusion offered as its very easy to use and integrates with Adobe stuff well.
I wounder how virtualisation fits int o the equation? My son works for a company who operates in that format if I want to host a domain I choose the O/S webserver etc from there list and then they install say Linux as a virtual PC which I can then connect to and do more or less what I want. It takes them no time to set it up they simple copy a predefined image fire it up and your away. This is the way the industry is going with everything being virtual.
mcgurka
Grafter
Posts: 764
Registered: 09-10-2007

Re: Spec for our next generation hosting solution

The only issue I could possibly see with coldfusion is that its a windows based app, which means liscencing... and money! Whilst I have no doubt that PN will spend (within reason!) to better themselves, once you shift to windows based, it would render the linux platform largely redundant.
Yes, IIS could run cgi, perl, php, .net, cfm etc... but at what performance hit to the servers?
I am interested by the Virtual solutions however, would be much like PN offerring Virtual servers, would mean a boatload of IP's, but then everybody is happy. The users cause they have webspace, and the more advanced users, because if it isnt there, or not how they want it setup.. ssh in and change it!
Also gets around the Chroot jailing problems as well... A VServer, with a nice iSCSI target as the file system... sounds good!