How DataLords works, and how it could be a huge benefit to your agency…

The web hosting industry is… well, huge.

There’s no other word for it. It’s one of those industries that actually, is probably vastly underestimated.

The one thing we can be sure of, is that it’s going to be worth many hundreds of billions per year. From small startups paying perhaps just £30 a year or less, to the enterprise businesses including Amazon – the amount of money invested into, and resulting from – hosting – is unthinkable. So entering into the market, how can we possibly stand out?

How can we possibly make a difference?

Well, for the most part it’s simple… we have a unique offering… we have something that isn’t being offered (in the way we’re offering it) and most importantly, our control panel which is specifically designed for those that deal with hosting most often: web designers/web agencies.

Many ‘mainstream’ hosting companies’ control panels haven’t really been designed by the people who are most likely to be using it: web designers/agencies. As such, the functionality can be clunky, frustratingly slow, and irritatingly difficult to work out. Basically, it’s a platform that’s either been designed by the ‘techies’ who built it, who are set in their own ways, or it’s been designed by ‘management’ who (again) aren’t the common users of it.

The simple fact is in the vast majority of cases, a web agency will provide the hosting for the customer, rather than the customer going direct to the hosting company. Obviously some will go direct, of course… but as a general rule – the control panel should be engineered to make your life easier, not harder… and that means tailoring the functionality around what web designers/agencies need.

So how does our platform work?

Looking first at the hardware, we utilise Dell servers, all with local lightning fast SSD storage. Each server forms a node in our cluster, and we’re able to quickly and easily migrate websites from one physical node to another (and this is done automatically upon server failure). Each server connects to our external network with independent links to each switch, and our storage network (at 20GB). We utilise a ‘virtual SAN’ technology, to merge all these machines together from a storage perspective, providing us with a pool of network storage that’s exceptionally fast but astronomically resilient.

We have built our own ‘command centre’ which proactively monitors all the hardware on all the machines, and alerts our engineers the second something is either degraded or has failed. All our servers are currently upgraded on an annual basis, to ensure that we’re always working with the latest and greatest hardware we can.

From the software perspective, currently, we are using cPanel/WHM as a back end tool, to manage our DNS and Email services. In time, we’ll be replacing these… for no other reason than we want to make the user experience as smooth as possible, and that subsequently means we’ll need everything, in time, to be bespoke.

We’re designing our control panel, so that when you first login, you’ll be greeted with your highest-usage accounts, with a quick search box to find the account you want. Each account you add to our platform, is designated its own Linux Container (LXC). We’ve built our own server/client management tools, which run as a service on the containers, to act as a way for us to easily and quickly manage the software on the server (i.e. you can easily customise PHP versions and Apache extensions, and in time, will be able to choose between Apache or Nginx).

Each container is designated a default amount of resources (RAM and CPU cores). You, as a client, will have an amount of resources available depending on your pricing tier. The more websites you host with us, the more resources are available to you. Our control panel will let you adjust the resources for specific sites based on demand… so if you have a few ‘heavy users’ they can have more RAM and more CPU cores – whilst the really ‘basic’ and quiet sites, simply take less.

Our client management service that we’ve built to run on each server, additionally brings us continual reporting/updates. This provides us with a level of unparalleled monitoring for individual websites, ranging from load times to SQL query times and more. This hooks up into our central management suite, where we’re alerted the second a website starts to perform sub-optimally. We’ll look into it proactively, getting in touch with you if changes are needed that are beyond our remit (i.e. modifying the website or performing updates). Alternatively by prior agreement, we can just go ahead and fix these problems for you – so that as an agency owner you can do what you’ve always wanted to; focus purely on the agency.

We also partner with SolarWinds, and have every single container backing up its own environment every 15 minutes. There is no limit to the duration of the backup, meaning that you can sleep easy knowing that your client data is safe.

Additionally, we then use an external monitoring tool, to ensure that our websites are all available beyond our own network… and we’re so confident with our SLA that when we’re officially live and out of beta, we’ll be Guaranteeing a 100% Uptime/Availability SLA. As it stands we know we have some overnight maintenance required over the upcoming months, but will be still committing to 99.995% uptime/availability guarantee.

How is this of benefit to me, as an agency owner?

Client satisfaction comes from having a well designed, and well coded website up online. Having previously run an agency of varying size for over 13 years, I know how happy a client is when their new website is up. They’re proud of it. They want to show it off.

And the first thing that’ll come back and bite you?

“Looks great, but it’s a bit slow?”

Whether you’re renting your own dedicated servers, or just using off-the-shelf hosting tools from a larger provider… fundamentally, you have no real control over the speed. This is why it’s crucial to choose a provide that you know won’t put you on overloaded servers, or have an overloaded network… or just have an old legacy network they haven’t upgraded in years. The only way to truly control the speed of your hosting, is to physically own your own servers – and that’s a LOT of work. This is why DataLords was born in the first place.

By providing dedicated only environments for your client websites, you know it’s going to be faster than on a shared host… but you also get a whole host of other benefits.

Individual website monitoring, backups, and ultimate control over what software is installed on each individual website.

“Sounds great, but I only host low usage sites, it’s a bit overkill for them….”

I wrote previously, about how DataLords means a huge deal to me… it’s not just about making money. For sure, we have to make money… we have to be able to reinvest into our equipment, network and people. But what’s more important: I want to make the Internet a better place.

We’ve all too often sat waiting, with a spinning wheel of boredom, for a website to load… and that website could very well be one of the websites you think it “low usage”. Just because it’s low usage, doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve the best treatment possible.

Our pricing structure is designed so that you’ll likely be paying either the same – or less – than your current hosting company… if you’re an agency with 50+ sites, and you’re spending less than what we’re suggesting will be the pricing tier, I’d recommend you reconsider how important the hosting is to you… your clients deserve quality hosting (even if they don’t know it!).

There are many other features of our platform I’ve not gone into here, but if you want to find out more, and get on board in the beta program, click here.