Web hosting for clients


#1

Most clients are technically clueless and I can tell they are reluctant to sign up with a web host when a site is completed, so I’ve thought about offering this as part of my services. Naturally I’d just be opening a reseller account and taking it from there.

Two slight points concern me from a legal point of view. The first is GDPR and effectively becoming a sub-processor for data. I am not thrilled at the possibility of having to register with the information commissioner or taking on a lot of additional admin and costs. Does anybody know the legal position here as web designers providing hosting?

The second is how I would go about protecting myself from any claims if a client tried to hold me responsible for some aspect of the hosting like downtime or email issues that are effectively beyond my control. Is there some kind of recommended legal text or best practice in this regard?


#2

Why not, instead of reselling the hosting service, just provide the service to the customer to sign up for hosting for them “in their name” ?


#3

Offer it, and make money! I host all my clients, I won’t allow one of my sites to go on anything other than my server. I charge a tenner for placeholder sites, this includes one email. Regular hosting is £20, includes four emails. If the site has “dynamic” content, like a store, or booking system etc. Hosting is £30. Next up is Managed hosting at £50. Includes the same as the regular but includes one hour dev time per month. Fully managed is from £100 and includes full hosting plus three hours of dev time a month.

As for all the server management stuff, I’ve partnered in business with a company that do it all for me; they take a flat fee, I get the rest.

To just build sites then hand them over is nuts. You are literally handing money that could be yours to someone else.


#4

I would agree with Jannis, setup everything for them, with their credit cards, email addresses contact information. This includes domain registration, you might still keep a login account to do maintenance but make them the “owner”.
Unless you’re wanting to make a profit as a reseller and a good profit it’s not worth the effort.


#5

It’s all about the upsell.

I start them at the £20 hosting. Then I sell them on some dynamic content, which adds a tenner (what’s a tenner?). From there, it’s easy to say “hey look, for only another £20 a month you could get an hour of my time, so I could add a new picture here, or change the text there” etc. With a short conversation you’re now lifting £50 a month, every month, for often very little work.

From there you explain how crucial it is to keep their site fresh and boom, you’re at £100 a month.

This is standard business practices: Bring them in and start them small, then add value and then cost. Then you have a nice regular income from your contract clients and your money from website builds is the icing on the cake.


#6

I agree, if you can make a good profit at it and Steve has found away to make it work.
Way to many website developers don’t have it in them to “make the upsell”. They end up taking on way to much for free. My point is to make sure you get paid for it, upsell or a higher price.


#7

Is that monthly figures ? Geez Im missing a trick here ! i have used fast hosts as a reseller for over 10 years , never missed a beat in all that time. Its simple to use and as a reseller I make a few quid on top of the fees. But i charge £65 - £75 per year. Never though of adding in a monthly 'work on site fee ’


#8

Yes! I know of many who charge similar to you, per year, and it’s madness. Most clients are shit scared of things like hosting, so offering to take the worry away and keep everything under one roof is a huge bonus for them, and they are willing to pay a reasonable price for the service. I do often get emails saying “why would I pay you £20 when I can get my own server space for £3 a month”. I could go back explaining how the £3 space is shite, but it’s a pointless discussion as they just won’t get it. So instead I just tell them “you’ll pay it because you want one of my sites, and that’s one of my conditions”. At which point they either tell me to feck off, or say fair enough and proceed.

Nail on head Teefers. I’ve been having this conversation with people since forever. If you’re a web developer, or a cycle mechanic, or a painter and decorator, or whatever, and you run your own business, you’re a business person first. So you need to learn to run a business, and sales is the most important part of running a business.

If people don’t have it in them they should seek employment, not go the self-employed route.


#9

Up to now I’ve been guiding them through the sign up process with a web host, either remotely over the phone or in person and I am generally listed as a technical contact. It’s very rare I have to do anything more at that point, though I’ve noticed they always come back to me, rather than the web host if they have a problem checking their email or something.

When I look around locally, it looks like many offer free hosting for the first year, then charge say £50 a year thereafter. I think Steve makes a good point though that clients are scared of that side and there are opportunities to upsell. I know a lot of designers also register domains for clients in their own name, but that can potentially create problems.

Obviously I am interested in the business angle, but any thoughts on my initial questions?


#10

I always register the domain too, if it’s a new one. If they are on contract with some hours I cover the cost, if not I just invoice them renewal price plus a fiver. It’s all about making things easy for the client in this instance. Even when the client already owns the domain they often transfer it to me so they know it’ll get renewed. Not sure how it can create issues though, just hand it back if they ask for it, just don’t try to use it as bargaining power if they owe you money.


#11

I think it might be a problem if they were involved in any kind of business that was legally questionable. The website might be quite incidental, but used as part of their dealings, in which case you might find yourself answering some tricky questions as the owner of the domain.


#12

Not really sure what that would have to do with the domain name holder: Say I buy a domain and build a site for a client with an online store in it. I’m not responsible for that they sell, or policing what they sell.

It would be a bit like holding a car hire company liable if one of the rental cars was used in a bank robbery.


#13

It’s never wise to assume the law is fair or logical. When you register a domain you effectively have to stick with the rules of whoever controls that TLD and in some cases that will mean the government. For example, when I lived in Italy you had to jump through all kinds of hoops before you could register a .it domain for anything business related.

I’ll try to do some more research on this, because it’s been some time since I looked at this.


#14

Take a look at https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/responsibilities-2014-03-14-en

As a one example of a potential problem:

“Registered Name Holders must represent that: “to the best of the Registered Name Holder’s knowledge and belief, neither the registration of the Registered Name nor the manner in which it is directly or indirectly used infringes the legal rights of any third party.” This means that the Registered Name Holder must represent to the Registrar that the domain name is not being registered for use in a way that would violate the legal rights of others. An example of this “infringement” could be a registration of a domain name that violates a trademark or copyright held by someone that is not the Registered Name Holder.”

Very simply, would you want to deal with that kind of hassle? You can guarantee the client would be happy to leave you with the responsibility.


#15

I don’t. The law is an ass. But we’re not governed by laws in the real world, we’ve governed by the courts and CPS’s interpretation of the law.

And there you go, the catch-all get out of jail card.

So I built the website, supplied the domain and hosted a site for Bob called BobBits.com which according to Bob was for selling fishing tackle. But it turns out Bob was an international arms dealer and he covertly used the site to sell guns the IRA. Am I liable? Only if it can be proven I knew about Bobs sideline. But I didn’t, so I’m golden.

My last six clients were a wedding florist, two bike shops, a baker, an outdoor adventure centre and a barber. It’s not a hotbed of criminality.

Each to their own though.


#16

And you’re British, you outlaw!


#17

I was a private banker in a previous life (get the jokes out the way) and had to deal with potential money laundering issues on a daily basis. We had a few investigations by law enforcement agencies from around the globe and the general line of questioning went “Did you suspect Mr X of money laundering?” We answered no. That was the end of it. After it became more of an issue we created a compliance questionnaire for clients to sign with questions like “Will you be using our service for criminal purposes?”

You can never be sure what clients true purposes are but to not do anything for fear that they may be a criminal is not very productive. Even if they appear to be a well groomed, fit, pastry chef cycling to work with a lovely floral bouquet in the front basket.

All it means is they’ll go to someone else for the service and the other company gets the dosh.


#18

Bravo SteveB
Your demonstration is good for any kind of business.
Your sell products or services, but also your knowhow(is this correct??) !
I’m trying to explain that every day to my customers (I am not a web designer :-)). My customers resell my products.
Regards


#19

My customers own their own domains, but I host all their accounts. Gives them control to leave me if they want too. (They never do), but also keeps me from having to chase after people for domain renewals… I’m just not a fan of that. So based on the “ICANN” rules posted above I’m not liable because its not my domain, I just manage their hosting. As @steveb said. That’s throwing way too much money out the window. Why just make X dollars per site project when you can make recurring dollars *while you sleep? Stop working hard and start working smart.


#20

Loving this quote!