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Shared Hosting vs. VPS - How do I deliver the problem/solution?

gejaegert

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Aug 4, 2018
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Hi there,

this came to my mind last night when I was browsing random blogs,shops and websites.

Most of these sites are using a 'Shared hosting' Plan (Bluehost, A2 Hosting, Hostgator, etc.) and don't care much about the underlying system.

What is the problem with the underlying system:
Note: That is my point of view and my goal is to 'understand' it.

1) Security: Shared Hosting plans are having security concerns. With a plan like this you need to trust the guys behind the Hoster. With a VPS (Virtual Private Server) you have basically full control and therefore you need to secure your Server. If your Website is hacked on a shared hosting solution, other customers on the same server might suffer as well and vice versa.
Wordpress is used by 59.9% (Usage Statistics and Market Share of WordPress for Websites, August 2018) therefore Wordpress is one of the biggest targets for hackers.
Yes, you can install Plugins, but you shouldn't install every security plugin, because: Security Plugins: More of a Problem Than a Solution? - ManageWP (from 2014).
The other problem(s): It is pretty easy to find other Websites on the same server and a hacker could either target the whole server to screw up every website on the same server or target every website individually (And maybe still screw every website afterwards). If the hacker targets the whole server, the website owner needs to trust the hoster and just can hope it is secure enough (Updates, (Kernel-) Patches, secured/hardened SSH, etc.), website owners also need to trust their hoster in terms of configuration of the web server (Apache is used most of the times), if its misconfigured you might have a faulty website (Specific Bots, crawlers or user-agents are blocked for example). It is also possible to add a layer of security with the web server configuration such as block specific requests (SQL Injection blocks), block XSS (Cross-Site-Scripting), block Layer7 attacks (DDoS Attacks) or simply customize other configurations such as cache size/length, buffer and upload size (with timeout, if it’s a BIG file and depending on upload speed).
So you are able to tweak, customize and configure everything, IF you have full control.

2) Performance: Losing performance is bad for SEO. The faster a website, the better the user experience and therefore googles crawling frequency is faster as well as more requests per connections. It is not possible to always optimize a website with the underlying web server technology, sometimes it’s a faulty Wordpress Theme or even a Plugin, now, if you have a badly coded Theme or Plugin PLUS the lower performance of a shared hosting solution, your SEO will suffer from it.

3) Scalability/Traffic: Since it is shared hosting, you share all the Hardware with other website owners on the same server and with that said, you are limited. The problem here is, most of the hosting providers offering a 'Unmetered' usage per month. What that means: You don't know the limit and the Hoster can cancel your hosting immediately, if your traffic affects other websites on the same server.
But I have to say: Even with a VPS you share resources, but the resources are MUCH less than with a 'shared hosting' solution and you have full control over the system itself plus a much higher bandwidth limit.

Now, I don't want that you cancel your shared hosting solution and hire a sysadmin or to scare you away (even though it is pretty scary - but that might be me, working in InfoSec is scary nonetheless..).

I also don't want to bring down shared hosting or rant against them, because the market is there and many people appreciate and use the market.

I would like to know, how to deliver this message without too much technical insights to people. Because I have the feeling that the technical stuff scares most people or they simply don't care and wave me away.


Thanks!
 

rpeck90

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I've been working on an underlying solution to this for several months now.

Whilst everything you've mentioned is valid, you're forgetting the one simple fact as to why "shared" is by far the most popular - money. People only want to pay for a solution that "works" and aren't overly concerned about anything else.

The only way you're going to make any money in that market is if you have a "product" that works better & "cheaper" than the shared comparative. For example, most people only get hosting because they want a Wordpress website. The location, price, security, functionality of the service is mostly secondary. Important, but only after the decision to go with "shared".

Furthermore, the absolute key to driving adoption in the tech market is functionality. If you create a new solution, it needs to have some piece of "killer" functionality that NO other service can do. I worked out what that is and have been working towards a solution ever since :D. Can talk more in DM if necessary.
 

gejaegert

Contributor
Aug 4, 2018
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Germany
That's what I notcied so far... 'Selling' security for websites/servers is hard, if it's not 'easy, quick and cheap'. Plus the monthly cost for maintenance and monitoring scares them away I guess.

Interesting, will get back to that and DM you later :)
 

rogue synthetic

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Whilst everything you've mentioned is valid, you're forgetting the one simple fact as to why "shared" is by far the most popular - money. People only want to pay for a solution that "works" and aren't overly concerned about anything else.
This is a nut I've been trying to crack lately.

Cost really shouldn't be a factor anymore since you can go over to DIgitalOcean or Vultr and spin up a fresh server which is more than enough for a Wordpress install for $5 a month. For $20-80 a month you can lease some beastly horsepower.

The problem is that the Venn diagram of the people who have the skillset to set up and manage their own VPS and the people who are looking for cheap and easy Wordpress hosting doesn't add up. The circles barely overlap.

WP Curve and WP Engine do concierge service for WP and seem to be the go-to for tech-challenged people wanting to get away from shared. The DFY model has more going for it than hawking unmanaged hosting to the guy who has to call tech support to install a new plugin for him. Then you have to ask yourself what you're bringing to this space that they and their current competitors already aren't doing.

In what I'm doing, I've been using site speed/security/stability as a bonus feature rather than a main offering. But I am interested in more thoughts on this as I think OP is right that this is still a big possibility space.
 

rpeck90

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I'll save you the DM....

You're looking at it wrong.

Basically, you're looking at it from the perspective of the worst type of buyer - WP users. Most of these guys don't really care about the tech. Or... in other words... they'll buy "anything" (respectfully) that's recommended to them (as long as it checks out). It's like trying to sell a Shopify dropshipper the merits of WooCommerce. Ain't gna work.

If you're looking at trying to pitch them on scalability etc etc etc none of them are going to give the slightest shit. They want to have a "business website" (with "a custom logo") and that's it. If you have to set up this VPS thing, keep it maintained etc, then what's the point - when there's a comparable solution for equal money.

AWS, Azure, Google cloud and others are multi BILLION dollar businesses. They didn't do that by being "slightly better WP hosting". They did it by providing ENTIRE backend infrastructure which can run MASSIVE scale applications. This is what you focus on. The question isn't shared vs vps... it's "how BIG do you want to grow?"

Maybe the company needs an eCom solution. Maybe they want a fast site (that can only be handled by third party CDN). Maybe they want to launch their own line of products "just like Kylie Jenner". Maybe they want to incorporate a CRM into their sales flow. Maybe they will eventually want to extend their warehousing infrastructure into an online interface. Maybe they want to keep digital backups etc etc etc.... "Wordpress is just a small part of a growing infrastructure stack which is becoming increasingly important for modern business - both from the ability to SAVE MONEY (no more costly servers) and the capacity to GROW"...

The answer to these lies in the NEW "cloud" hosting platform that's been created by many of the leading companies - providing a completely decentralized infrastructure stack which allows you to deploy everything from load balancers to CDN's without having to spend a fraction of what it would have cost on old "outdated" hosting.

Regardless of that... you know what they all need? One solution to bring it all together. DEPLOYMENT ACROSS ALL PLATFORMS. Get FULL security, database, email, x, y, z functionality running across the most effective, trusted infrastructure in the world. For the small price of $x - GUARANTEED.
 

rogue synthetic

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I'll save you the DM....
I like where you're going here. I'm not officially a 'tech guy' myself, more just a dabbler who tries to stay enough in the loop that I'm not using tables for layouts 5 years after everybody else realized that CSS exists.

Serverless looks like the trend. But since it isn't my main focus and tech moves so quick I really have no idea what possibilities are out there or hanging on the horizon. I use WP because it's familar, because of the ecosystem, and yeah I'll say it, because I've gotten comfy with it over the last 10 years.

But you're absolutely right: that's red-ocean stuff now, and it is just begging for a new player or players to upset the whole game.

Don't give away the farm here if you've got something proprietary going on, but it sounds like you're thinking of exploiting this for the kind of crowds who think things like "I don't care about the platform, just give me a fast, secure, reliable website and maybe let me do neat things with it" and "I need a quick and easy CMS and what is a server?"

I noticed just the other day that Seth Godin is using these guys to host his podcast: How To Make Your Own Website - Best Website Builder | Strikingly Haven't had a hard look at them yet but it looks like they're (maybe?) in the kind of space you're thinking about.

Any particular tech or platforms worth a look here?
 

rpeck90

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Any particular tech or platforms worth a look here?
All the "cloud" providers have API's ;)

--

To give context, I found that you can't deploy Ruby on Rails apps to the majority of shared hosting. 99% of Rails guys start using DigitalOcean etc - of which I've been a member since 2016.

The big problem with all of that is you have to manage the server. I did this but it's a MASSIVE pain in the a$$ - so imagine what it's like for someone who doesn't know what to do...

Untitled.png

Thus, I decided to make a "rails" hosting system (VERY similar to Hatchbox or Nanobox). The ability to deploy to a particular "cloud" provider, have the server monitored and add extra functionality is basically what the product needs to be. Whether you do this with a containerized setup, or just with manual server management is up to you.

What you're looking at is something called PaaS - Platform as a Service. The most notable of these is Cloud Application Platform | Heroku, which is AMAZING... but has one fatal flaw - it's entirely built on AWS. Any service you create would basically be a rip-off of Heroku except with the ability to integrate onto a number of different platforms (which can be achieved with the API connectivity they have).

That's your starting point.

In terms of a product aimed at WP users - one exists: Managed WordPress Cloud Hosting For High Performance

They've not done a very good job of explaining the core benefit but whatever - their service is robust and very effective. Interestingly, they incorporate hosting costs into their prices (so you only pay one fee).

Now, all this sounds great - but it's a cutthroat market and takes a lot of money to set up. The biggest issue you'll have is how you "sell" the service. All of the above are basically focused on the provision of hardware - which, if you're PaaS, is not what you need to do. If you're going to sell a service like the above, what you're doing is focusing on the "business growth" it can provide.

Thus, when you talk about all the "features" that people may be interested in... whether their "Venn Diagram" fits with the service, it's BS. People care about one of two things - "getting laid or getting paid". How well you do either determines how much value they attribute to your offering. If you're in the "cloud" business, it's about RAMPANT GROWTH. How you capture this triggers which people come to you...

You need to get out of the WP thing with it. WP is just a convenient solution to a deeper problem; people want to get access to the "traffic" that the web can provide. WP provides this solution in the most effective way... if you had a simpler app or whatever, many people would use that.

--

In terms of how I've been working on the solution.

Firstly, I have been sorting out backend connectivity with all the cloud API's. This is proprietary and - to the best of my knowledge - not been done before. And yes, that has meant I've had to contact all the leading providers including the likes of Hetzner, Scaleway and Exoscale.

Secondly, I have been working on the underlying "solution" that is being offered. Rather than just selling the functionality (which is not very valuable), you need an actual reason for business owners to give a shit. This is what I've been looking at.

Thirdly, I've been building up a bunch of ancillary services. Most of these companies need 24/7 support, which I've been able to provide with the help of a service I developed some time back. In other words, the company I operate is able to provide an effective mechanism for business growth - utilizing the tools we built for the job.
 

rogue synthetic

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Thus, when you talk about all the "features" that people may be interested in... whether their "Venn Diagram" fits with the service, it's BS. People care about one of two things - "getting laid or getting paid". How well you do either determines how much value they attribute to your offering. If you're in the "cloud" business, it's about RAMPANT GROWTH. How you capture this triggers which people come to you...

You need to get out of the WP thing with it. WP is just a convenient solution to a deeper problem; people want to get access to the "traffic" that the web can provide. WP provides this solution in the most effective way... if you had a simpler app or whatever, many people would use that.
Sure, this wasn't ever in question. Whatever kind of "but why don't they care about my terabytes?" nightmares occupy the marketing-virginal web-dev crowd isn't the interesting issue here.

I was thinking more, what does a viable alternative look like that can fill more or less the same niche WP presently fills in the problem-value space? If the move away from shared hosting is going to be a viable part of a web-service whatever business, then it needs at a bare minimum to replicate its functionality.

Now, I don't doubt for a minute that you can do this, it's just that I'm not entirely sure it's as easy as digging into the core benefits.

Of course it is just that in the abstract, but the worry here isn't an abstract technicality. In fact you've hit on the real problem (your second point): why I -- "me" being a proxy for people interested in the balance point between getting done what needs to be done and not being a pain in the a$$ to set up and maintain -- haven't fobbed off WP to go for the shiny new RoR, or Django, or some Node or React do-whats-it that seems to spring up like fresh mushrooms.

There is no incentive to change what's not broken. So far it is easier to deliver more value, to myself as site-maker and to the end-user, with the existing toolkit and ecosystem. I was curious as to what would be out there to get over that bump. What am I going to do with it, and why should anyone else care about what could be done?

If there is a pain-point in terms of functionality, then -- Halbert 101 function/benefit talk notwithstanding -- that is absolutely relevant to the offering.

The server-management thing is interesting because for the last few years I've been using this little gem (minus the local Vagrant environment): Trellis | WordPress LEMP Stack | Roots

Even without using the API you can go from pointing the nameservers to a live WP site on a freshly provisioned server in 10-20 minutes. For me, that takes the 99% of the headache out of the process. For most users and a good portion of the web-design community who uses WP, it wouldn't because they don't have any idea about any of this stuff.

This makes it difficult to (a) show the non-tech audience that there is value worth paying for and (b) make a product that can exploit it, which was really the OP's problem.

So there's the big-ticket dollar question: can you frame this as something worth doing/using/buying for an end user or a tech-naive web-designer without jumping back into the "look at my cool megahertz" type of feature-talk?

This looks like the hurdle you're going to have to leap here. Clearly you've got some thoughts in mind on where to go with this, so I'll be interested to see how you go with it!
 

rpeck90

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Didn't mean to come across rude - I get excited writing about this stuff because most people don't get it (at least in a business capacity). I respect your opinion and didn't mean to appear condescending.

can you frame this as something worth doing/using/buying for an end user or a tech-naive web-designer without jumping back into the "look at my cool megahertz" type of feature-talk?
Absolutely - the question isn't about the technology (it never is), it's about the business - and the technology's impact on it. Obviously, this has to be delivered through the scope of a technically better product (which is probably something I forgot to mention).

The "cloud" VPS world is interesting for this reason - ALL hosting is just software. Apache/NGinx, PHP/Ruby/Python/Node, MySQL etc -- all software packages running on all server providers.

The way this software is managed, maintained and optimized is part of what hosting companies are paid for.

Typically, they'll use some variant of cPanel to ensure the server's packages are all running properly. This works extremely well... but - as mentioned - "shared" hosting means you're part of a wider collective, all sharing exactly the same software packages.

The core benefit of "cloud" VPS servers lies in the fact you can completely customize your software to meet your own requirements. You get to allocate your own security packages, backend infrastructure, etc etc. The difficulty is that there's presently no "cPanel" for this type of setup. You've got to do it through SSH/CLI which is obviously a massive pain.

The solution is to create a cPanel type system which works across "all" providers. You use the API's to connect to the various services and have the ability to add servers, CDN's etc. After that, it's a case of "populating" the infrastructure with various elements - be it a frontend CMS, database server or some other thing. The benefit for business comes from how "scalable" this aspect is -- what growth you're able to facilitate through this structure, as opposed to outdated shared hosting.

Part of the solution I've been considering is an "endpoint manager" - allowing users to manage the various "endpoints" in their system, so if they wanted to have a "private" ROR app, they'd be able to set that up - whilst at the same time, having a publicly-facing WP server. The "endpoints" determine which aspects of the system are accessible etc.

Here's some feedback I got if you're interested:
Untitledb.png

what does a viable alternative look like that can fill more or less the same niche WP presently fills in the problem-value space
I think you're looking at it from the outside-in, rather than inside-out.

If I'm a small business making $x,xxx-$xx,xxx profit per month, why would I even need to concern myself with "cloud" infrastructure, irrespective of which CMS I end up using? WP has tons of addons, but you've also got Joomla, Umbraco, SiteCore, Magento and others. That's not to mention the plethora of "DIY" site builders like SquareSpace and Wix.

The computer industry typically works in "paradigms". Each "paradigm shift" brings an opportunity to capitalize on its growth. Lotus 123 → Microsoft Excel; Walkman → iPod; Blackberry → iPhone; Static HTML → Wordpress.

The key comes from the added functionality each shift brings.

The modern shift seems to be moving towards a decentralized infrastructure. This means that rather than having email servers running in your premises, just use some "cloud" provider. Likewise with applications you may to deploy publicly (running on WP, Joomla or other stuff) as well as any other infrastructure (CDN's, load balancers etc). For example, back in the day, MJ would have required a dedicated server for this forum... now he just needs an account on DO/Vultr etc - which can scale as required.

The value play (in my opinion) lies in managing your infrastructure across *all* providers. Instead of being locked into using the likes of Site5/Hostgator, you're able to pick-and-choose where you want your infrastructure to reside - routing traffic & deploying resource as necessary. This gives you the capacity to add extra "stuff" to your infrastructure which may not have been possible otherwise. The classic use-case is S3 + cloudflare. How many WP sites are using S3 for storage, and Cloudflare for asset delivery?

From what you've written, it seems to me that you're focused on a different market to me. Maybe it's for this reason your "value skew" is different to what I would consider. Maybe I've missed a massive opportunity.

In either case, collaboration is often more profitable than competition. I have the underlying code I've been developing - it may be prudent to whitelabel the solution for specific purposes. I'm already planning to do this for Rails centric hosting, so maybe it would be worth looking at using it as an engine for others.
 

Dramolion

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I would like to know, how to deliver this message without too much technical insights to people. Because I have the feeling that the technical stuff scares most people or they simply don't care and wave me away.
Maybe you should start by being realistic about your product;

Security: You 're a start-up, so you're prone to making mistakes
the big providers spend gazillions on security so they won't get hacked, they're also long in the game.
(btw, VPS MIGHT be an extra layer of security(=good) but it would depend on implementation and get techy fast)

performance:
you PAY for performance, and if you share it, you're paying a little less.
Many sites on the web have times where there are no visitors(everyone asleep or whatever)so sharing bandwidth is the most economical thing to do.
(and yes, occasionally a shared server will become a bit slow due to another website,
but if it happens more often then it's the provider's job to move that site to a faster server)

That said, i'm pretty sure there 's a market for VPS;
tech-guys, like you, would love to utilize their improved control to customize their website in ways impossible without VPS, market to them, show them what they can do on VPS and you're selling.
 

rogue synthetic

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From what you've written, it seems to me that you're focused on a different market to me. Maybe it's for this reason your "value skew" is different to what I would consider. Maybe I've missed a massive opportunity.
Right, that is what I was trying to get into. No worries about perceived rudeness, friend. It's all the internet and tone is easy to miss in exchanges.

I'm honestly just trying to see where you're coming from here, because what you're saying is very interesting, and I am thinking more, Who is this for? And how could I use it? Is it even aimed at me?

Because you are right, I am coming at this from the standpoint of someone who builds/maintains websites for himself and occasionally makes them for others. I have a different take on it than the B&M shop owner or the local dentist who just wants a nice website, and hey how about an email service, and could we throw in a CRM?

Do you have in mind something more like that, making it cheap and easy to do a serverless setup, being agnostic to the underlying hosting and protocols, and It Just Works for a neat monthly fee?

Great input, in any case.
 

rpeck90

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No problem!

Who is this for? And how could I use it? Is it even aimed at me?
Don't know tbh. I have in my head that a particular type of functionality is required (cPanel equivalent) and that's what I've been working on. The level which that works is quite involved - not so much in the sense of the servers - but the way in which the entire infrastructure-layer is managed.

For example, how you'd handle "multi-lingual" applications, database sharding, remote backup, multi-server applications, redis, elasticsearch etc all has to be maintained within the application. This stuff isn't handled at present because if you're running on RackSpace, they'll only deal with their own infrastructure. Likewise with AWS/Azure etc.

The key thing I found is that most use-cases for this stuff will have a series of endpoints, through which the company will channel traffic. The endpoints are typically determined by a domain (DNS) and will correspond to the underlying server software. Even emails are endpoints... (rpeck@frontlineutilities.co.uk).

The backend infrastructure will generally reflect the level at which that traffic will be hitting each endpoint (for example, MJ's forum will receive large amounts of traffic and thus require lots of concurrency). Limos.com may have received large amounts of US traffic, so he'd have ensured that any US visitors would have been routed to his US server cluster. Other geographic regions may have had a single server instance.

In all cases, you'd need the following functionality:
  • Infrastructure management (what I call an "endpoint manager") - what happens when someone hits facebook.com, facebook.co.uk or facebook.de. Which servers do they get routed to - does it have a load balancer and is there a CDN involved? What about the DB? Each "endpoint" needs to be routed to some sort of application infrastructure (servers) which deliver a response depending on the type of request received.

  • Monitoring - the ability to monitor every inbound request from its response time to any errors which showed. On top of this, infrastructure monitoring and the ability to determine whether an app/server is running properly. Azure Monitor great example

  • Deployment & Ancillary Services - Extra resources such as CDN's, load balancers, security, etc.
There's a good example of what I'm talking about - a product called NGinx Controller:




Imagine NGinx controller but for "cloud" VPS servers, and the ability to completely manage your stack.

The main reason I started looking at it was because I don't like Heroku (locked in to AWS). Obviously, the Rails problem on shared is another issue... but it became apparent that the "cloud VPS" thing was a major deal. And most people don't actually know that all these "cloud" systems were literally just linux/windows VPS servers running across 1,000's of pieces of hardware - you can use them for everything from render farms to web hosting.

I realized that if you're able to get front-facing "web" servers provisioned, you'll have the ability to give users the ability to split their functionality across as many servers as you need. Heroku does this by deploying the same "stack" across any web server that it provisions:

Untitled.png

Nanobox uses containerized images to achieve the same result:

Untitled.png

The point I was trying to make is that whilst you're concerned about Wordpress, the reality is that the "depth" of the infrastructure is more than just about whether it can run WP or not.

The real magic for an offer like that is to provide some sort of connectivity in the backend for a company's entire digital infrastructure.

One of the benefits I have is that have a wealth of experience in this market, and made some significant investments with a domain I bought for 24/7 tech support. Was going to put up a progress thread but didn't feel the need tbh. Some of this stuff is months away.

Because you are right, I am coming at this from the standpoint of someone who builds/maintains websites for himself and occasionally makes them for others
When you make a site - you'll undoubtedly have a "stack" you use. Mine used to include WP, but then I moved into Ruby on Rails, developed our own backend. This necessitated the need for the "cloud" hosting, but I wasn't overly bothered about what I used. I really wanted the ease of shared, but couldn't get it for cloud...

Untitled.png

If you're developing your own sites, the deal is this...

You need traffic. Otherwise the site doesn't have commercial value. Thus, which traffic you receive, from where, and the quality, is basically the "value" of the website. To this end, building a site isn't so much about the site itself, but its place in the world/market, and how you're promoting it as a business.

Whether you're using Wordpress or another CMS doesn't matter - you'll have certain "pages" which you need to get hits on. The number and depth of these pages determines how much money you can realistically hope to make from the asset. Obviously, promotion "offline" multiplies any effectiveness they have.

I tend to go really deep into this stuff. Really deep.

Do you have in mind something more like that, making it cheap and easy to do a serverless setup, being agnostic to the underlying hosting and protocols, and It Just Works for a neat monthly fee?
Personally, no.

That's what I was saying at the end of the other post - if you wanted to look at that, I'd be interested in sharing the technology (when it's working) in the form of an engine, putting a different UI on it and ensuring that it actually serves the purpose you intend, then have it marketed as a different product.

The trick would be to be completely open with it... "built on X technology... we worked with the creators to build the simplest way to deploy WP websites to cloud infrastructure. We've also added X analytics engine and Y backup facility to give the best hosting experience in the world."

Obviously down the line, but it should give you some juice for imagination etc.
 

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Got ya. I'd be interested to see a progress thread on this just to keep tabs on where you're at with it all, and I can't be the only one.
 

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For those of you working on security for small to mid-sized businesses, consider getting in touch with a Cyber Liability insurer. Yes for yourself, of course, but that's not what I mean. Get a program going, show the insurer that your security protocols are good (that will make the premium lower), and sell/include cyber coverage for your clients. You'll make money on the security consulting and annual, recurring commission on the liability contract. And bonus: you can come at a business from either angle -- some can be convinced to pay for security consulting, while others are easier to convince to buy insurance. Either way, you solve two problems they need to solve, whether they know it now or not.
 

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