cPanel® Blog

Starting a new Hosting Service

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During my time here at cPanel, I have noticed that there were a number of tickets that I worked on in Technical Support where questions were asked about how to do things related to how to host a site.  My objective in this article is to introduce anyone who is interested in starting a hosting service to cPanels resources to help with this endeavor.  We do salute everyone who wants to start their own hosting service and are gratified to be able to help make it as successful as possible.

Here are a few How To’s that I would consider essential for anyone who wants to start a hosting service.

How to use a domain Registrar
How to manage DNS issues
How to use SSH access to my server
Who to contact when things go wrong

Domain Registrar Basics

Every domain name on earth has a Registrar which collects a fee for the one who wants to use the domain name and manages various services which are needed.  As a web site hosting service, you will need to be able to provide a way for your customers to get the domain name that is best for their business.  They may already have a domain name, which may not be the same Registrar that you use for your domain names.  But all Registrars have basically the same functions.  Here are some of the services:  Initial domain name registration, domain name renewal, nameserver assignment to the domain name, and nameserver host name registration.  The first 3 of these functions may be familiar to you, but the fourth service is the most important for your main domain name.

If you have a company domain name for your hosting service, you will want to customize the nameserver host names that you want your customers to use.  So for example if your main company domain name is newhosting.com you might want your customers to use ns1.newhosting.com and ns2.newhosting.com for the name servers assigned to their domain names.  Each Registrar has a different term and procedure for registering these host names, but it involves having the Registrar assign an IP address to the nameserver host name.  So for example if you servers main IP address is 192.168.10.50 then you will want to have your Registrar assign ns1.newhosting.com to the IP address 192.168.10.50.  If your server has another IP assigned, lets say 192.168.10.51 you could have them assign ns2.newhosting.com to the IP address 192.168.10.51.  All of your customers domain names then would use ns1.newhosting.com and ns2.newhosting.com as their primary and secondary nameservers on their domains at their Registrar.

Manage DNS

Every cPanel server will allow you to choose to have DNS running on it or not.  Most cPanel servers do have DNS enabled and the owner will allow the server to run the nameserver on the it so that the customers can make changes in their DNS zone files.  You as the System Administrator can also make changes in the DNS zone files to improve your customers experience.

Here are a few things that you may need to manage your customers zone files.  Changing the TTL (Time To Live) of the zone file so that updates can be made with a shorter propagation period to the rest of the internet.  Add Email authentication such as SPF and DKIM to the zone files.  Add custom records that may be required by Google or other sources to prove authorization of a request that the customer may need to make.  Also any changes in IP addresses that the domain name need to make can be done without waiting for another third-party to change the DNS zone file not found on your server.  By having the DNS zone file on your server, this makes your server the “authoritative nameserver” for the domain and carries with it the responsibility of having accurate information of DNS information.

SSH access to your server

As a System Administrator, you may be required to access your server by SSH.  This means that you will access the server from a terminal connection or at the console of the server.  SSH is a protocol called Secure Shell and provides an encrypted way to access the server.  Most server administrators will benefit from using SSH to do a remote login of the server.  This allow you to manage your server in a secure way and it also allows you to have our Technical Support department to have access to your server when you need assistance.

Most administrators access using SSH by a client program called Putty, which is available for a number of computer platforms including Windows.  You can also use the terminal client program if you happen to use Mac or Linux as your workstation.

When you SSH into your server you will want to access the server by using a public/private SSH key pair.  This would enable you to log into your server without using a password.  It would allow you to have a very complicated root password as well.  Many people make one of the system users on their server a “wheel” user which would make the server a bit more secure by only allowing SSH to non-root users who would need to escalate to root before running privileged commands.

Who to contact when things go wrong

One of the things that a System Administrator will need to learn is who to contact when help is needed.  A clear understanding of who to contact the first time will lower the stress level and shorten the time it takes to solve the issue.  As a hosting provider, you will have relationships with a number of vendors.

First, will be your data center where the Server is located.  If you happen to have network issues, such as no ping or traceroute to the main IP of your server.  A great tool that you should have bookmarked is https://tools.pingdom.com where you can place the IP of your server into the test field and select either a ping or a traceroute test.  If a third party site such as pingdom is not able to reach your server, then you will want to contact your data center and have them check the network connection to your server.

Second, If one of your customer sites is down but you can reach your server and can SSH into your server or access WHM for your server, you will need to focus on why this customer is down.  You should try and reach one or two other sites that are on the same server to see if they are down also.  Assuming that it is just this one domain that is down, you should check to see if the account is suspended for some reason.  It could be that the domain is suspended at the Registrar which could cause it to be down also.  You will want to contact the Registrar of that domain to see if a fee is due or if it is suspended for some other reason.  If more than one account is down, then you will want to open a support ticket with cPanel to have a Technical Analyst examine your server.

Third, Any of your major services in WHM that go down unexpectedly or after you have made some changes in configuration of the service but had an unexpected result, you should also open a support ticket with cPanel Technical Support to have an Analyst help to correct the issue.

Fourth, If one of your customers contacts you about how to do something in their cPanel account.  Your first source of information will be the documentation page on our website.  This is found at https://documentation.cpanel.net.  Another great source of information is the forums page found at https://forums.cpanel.net.  If the problem is not addressed in the documentation or the forums, you can open a support ticket and ask the Analyst how to answer the question.

Fifth, If you have a billing or licensing question about your server or the licensing billing, you should contact Customer Service here at cPanel.  The best way is to either call, chat or email us.  We are happy to work through any licensing issue for you.

I want to thank you for taking the time to review this article and I hope that this information has been helpful to you.  I also want to wish you the best in your new hosting service venture.