At ICDSoft, we've been running a web hosting business since 2001, and instead of investing heavily into marketing, we have decided to build tools to help others get involved while sharing the profit.
Unlike similar "How to Start a web hosting business from home" guides you can find online, the one we give you here takes a much more detailed approach, with real and working examples.
We will show you how to create a real-life fully working webhosting company website (called HectoHost.com). Step by step, page by page with detailed instructions and video walkthroughs. Better yet, we will show you how to do it using nothing but free tools.
You will only need a hosting account, but you don't even have to buy it from us. Else, you can go for our hosted version, which is absolutely free, with no hosting purchase required.
You can check out the finished product at HectoHost.com. The website is built with WordPress and Elementor. The reseller program is integrated into the website by means of our WordPress plugin allowing you (the reseller) to accept real orders and payments online.
This tutorial builds on our previous post named "How to Build a WordPress Website in 10 Steps", so it's a good idea to keep that post open in a tab for reference, if you are not familiar with WordPress/Elementor.
The Building Blocks of a successful hosting company
We provide all the tools to succeed in the hosting business.
You can open hosting accounts directly on our servers while we take care of the technical aspect and entire hardware & data center infrastructure.
If you buy an "unmanaged server", you will have to set up and maintain the entire software stack. Good news for you - all of our hosting plans are fully managed.
With our SureSupport team at your disposal, you get a "white-label" support service of the highest level at no cost. Your customers can contact us directly.
In line with our company philosophy to be independent, all of our hosting plans come with an in-house built Control Panel software, so you wont't have to pay any license fees for it.
Other reseller programs require you to build your own knowledge base. With our reseller program, your end customers will have access to an extensive KB freely available.
We will also show you how to build a professional looking hosting company from start to finish using nothing but free tools - WordPress, Elementor, and our plugin.
1. Sign up for our reseller program
If you don't have an ICDSoft Partner Account, we recommend that you sign up first.
Your business venture into the web hosting world starts by registering your free reseller account with us. There is nothing scary about it, we don't tie you down with any contracts, monthly payments and other financial or legal obligations. Furthermore, all services we offer require manual renewal payments, so you will not be charged automatically for services you no longer use.
Signing up is completely free, and you can do it here. You will just have to enter the desired username/password, your full name, and email address. Simple as that.
Alternatively, you can sign up using our WordPress plugin. Install WordPress and the ICDSoft Reseller Store plugin and you can use the sign up button there, to have the reseller account and WordPress plugin automatically configured.
2. Create and configure your online store
Now that you've registered, you are ready to access the Reseller Account Panel for the first time. You can log in at https://reseller.icdsoft.com. Extensive information on the different menus and features can be found at the Help section.
Let's jump right in and create our online store.
- Go to the Online Stores menu on the left side and click -> Management
- Use the "Create a new store" button.
You can create multiple stores, so you can offer hosting services on separate websites with different pricing policies for each.
On the first screen, you are prompted to enter the name of your brand, the hosted storefront address, the currency of your store, and your contact email.
Once you press the Save button, the store will be created, and you will be presented with the Settings page. Let's see what needs to be configured there.
The Hosted StoreFront
When creating the new store, you have two options - Hosted or Self-hosted. Our Hosted solution allows you to have an online store with a fully functional hosting company website created for you automatically. You can preview one at https://hecto.surebillingnetwork.com/.
You can customize it via the Storefront Translations menu. There is also the option to point your domain to it, so the website would be accessible at your-own-domain.com instead of the default user.surebillingnetwork.com address. To do that, you should enter your-own-domain.com in the field labeled "Domain/subdomain" and point its DNS records as specified in the instructions shown when you click on the "i" (info) icon next to it.
This is a completely free solution, but it has some limitations on the design and structure of your website. However, if you would like to explore the web hosting business with no financial investment, you can start with the Hosted Storefront option, and proceed with the more advanced and customizable options later. We will cover the Hosted Storefront in more detail in a series of blog posts we are currently working on.
The Self-hosted / WordPress Plugin Option
The Self-hosted option we will describe in this article is based on our WordPress plugin. That's the option we will use here, so you should switch to it and skip the "Hosted storefront settings".
The other important bit is to note that this is the page where the Authentication Key and HMAC Secret are displayed. You would have to copy and paste them into the settings of the WordPress plugin, in order to connect it to your online store.
Note: If you registered through the WordPress plugin, the Key and HMAC Secret should be already populated.
Click here for detailed information on each setting.
- Brand Name - this is the name of your store. It appears in the Reseller Account Panel and in the email expiration notices that would be sent to your end customers.
- Hosted storefront address - this is the internal name of your online store. It's used as an identifier for your store on our SureBillingNetwork.com website. You will find there a ready-made version of your hosting company website - informational pages on the hosting services and features along with an order form. It's made for users who don't want to go through the process of creating their custom website and are OK with using a default store under our domain. For example, here we entered hecto as the Hosted storefront address, so we have a fully working store directly at hecto.surebillingnetwork.com.
- Main Currency - the currency used to define the prices in your Products Catalog and that would be displayed on the order forms on your website generated via the WordPress plugin. You can choose among all that are supported, which at the time of writing are - USD, EUR, CAD, AUD, HKD, BGN, MXN. Of course, your end customers and all visitors of your hosting company website would be able to submit their payment in their local currency subject to conversion by the payment processor or their bank.
- Contact Email - this is the email that would be used as a "From" address when the system sends out notifications on your behalf (e.g. renewal reminders).
- URL in notifications - choose between Hosted or Self-hosted solution.
- Domain/Subdomain - If you decide to use the Hosted storefront, this setting allows you to use a custom domain or a subdomain for it. This is to make the website accessible at your-own-domain.com. You have to create custom DNS records to point it to the hosted storefront server.
- Widget WordPress/URL - when the ICDSoft Reseller Store plugin is used as in our case here, you should enter the URL of your website (same as "Your Site URL"). In our case, we would have "https://www.hectohost.com" (without the quotes). This address is very important because it's used by the system to generate URLs for payment requests. Such as when you decide to generate a payment link for a client to upgrade their account to another hosting plan. You can create such payment links from the Online Stores menu -> Payment Requests.
- API Active - this setting basically turns On or Off your reseller store. If you set it to "No", orders forms on your website created via the WordPress plugin would be disabled. Since we are building a fully working hosting company website, we will keep it set to "Yes".
- API Security - keep it set to HMAC Security. Setting it to Authentication Key is generally for debugging purposes, if you are trying to work with the API directly.
- Order Auto Processing - this setting determines whether the system would attempt to process confirmed customer orders. If you have enough money in your reseller balance, the order will be processed automatically, and your account will be billed.
Once you've created the store, you should review the Products Catalog. It shows you all the services that you can re-sell on your own hosting website. This includes all of our hosting plans, domain registrations and SSL certificates, and additional services.
It also allows you to set your own custom names for each service, in order to distinguish your brand.
2.1 Set Your Prices
The Prices tab is where you enable/disable products for your store, as well as manage their prices. For the purpose of this tutorial, we've decided that we would resell the following plans - Economy, Business, SmartVPS, SmartVPS Pro, and First Class. Thus, we disabled the rest of the plans.
By default, the online store is configured to use our standard prices without any discounts (aside from the regular 20% on renewal) as "Base Prices". The idea is that resellers with multiple hosting accounts are automatically set to make profit as the price they pay for an account is much lower than our standard prices, because their reseller discount is automatically applied (per our discounts table). The system automatically calculates the fees in the currency of your specific online store, and these would be the actual values displayed on your website. Let's take a look at the default Prices menu for a reseller with a 50% discount.
We will leave this part up to you. You can set custom prices on absolutely all hosting plans and additional services. Check the renewal prices as well and adjust them as needed!
The easiest way to set your prices for all of our hosting plans is with the "Change, percentage" field. When configuring the prices for the hosting plans, set the page to show "200" results, for easier management.
Let's say that you want to make 100% profit over our base prices, so you would enter 100 for the "Change, percentage" field and you can set the "Round to" drop-down to ".00".
Thus, if the regular price for our Economy plan is $72.00 USD, you would be selling it for $144.00 USD at your online store.
The "Change, amount" option allows you change all prices with a fixed amount in the units of the currency set for your store.
For example, if you switch to "Change, amount" and enter 20, and your store is in USD, all prices would be increased with $20.00 USD at your store on top of our base prices.
2.2 Add a Payment Processor
The next important step is to configure a payment processor for your store, and this is done at the Payment Processors tab in the Store Management page of the Reseller Account Panel.
To accept payments online through the Online Store, you need to have an active account with at least one of the following payment processors: PayPal, 2Checkout, ePay.bg, Authorize.Net, Stripe, PayU.com (South America), PayDollar.
In this example, we have configured just one payment processor - PayPal. We've labeled the Checkout button "Secure Checkout". All you need to do is press the Add new button, and enter the email address associated with your PayPal account. You should consider using an email address at the domain used for your hosting company website. Better yet, you could upgrade (for free) to a Business PayPal account as that allows you set the company name (Business name) that would appear on the bank statements of your end clients.
2.3 Configure Your Notification Settings
You are now ready to proceed to the Notification Settings tab. There, you can enable the "renewal reminders", so that your end customers would receive expiration notices when their accounts are about to expire.
To make sure that your renewal notices don't get filtered as spam, you should copy the SPF record highlighted in red and add it to your domain's DNS Records. If your domain is hosted on our end and uses our name servers, you can easily add this SPF record via the DNS Manager in the Control Panel. You should add it as a TXT type of record. In case you already have an SPF record, you can modify it and add the following part:
If you need help with adding the SPF record, just contact our support team for assistance.
3. Install and configure WordPress
Installing WordPress is very easy with the ICDSoft WordPress Toolkit available in the online Control Panel of each hosting account.
You can also refer to our previous blog post How to Build a WordPress Website in 10 Steps for detailed instructions on how to install WordPress, and also add the Elementor plugin and OceanWp theme to it.
At this point, you should have a blank WordPress installation with an active OceanWP theme. The theme will show you a message that it recommends adding three plugins - Rank Math SEO, Ocean Extra, and WPForms. We only need Ocean Extra, so you can install that plugin along with Elementor (make sure to activate them).
The next step is to install the ICDSoft Reseller Store plugin. You can do this from the WordPress Plugins menu on the left side -> Add New, and search for "icdsoft". When you install and activate it, you would be presented with the Welcome screen.
The next step is to connect it to your online store where the products and prices are defined.
The Welcome screen of the plugin helps you with this task as you are prompted to register for a new reseller account or use your existing one.
The online store would be created and connected automatically (with default settings) for users that sign up through the Welcome screen shown upon activating the plugin, so they can skip this step.
If you created a reseller account as part of the first step in this tutorial, you should select the "I have an account" option. We have chosen this approach to provide you with better understanding of the system.
ICDSoft Reseller Store Plugin Settings
When you press the "I have an account" button, you will be taken to the Settings page of the plugin. There, you should copy and paste the Authentication Key and HMAC Secret from the Store Management page at the Reseller Account Panel.
Set Plans per row to 5 and disable Test mode.
Continue to part 2 of this tutorial series.
The next three parts of this tutorial focus on building the actual website. It will be based on the freely available Elementor plugin with the ready-made templates and building blocks that come with it.