Convenience Service


#1

So I’ve been wanting to start my first business for a while, while I’m working on my associates in college. I’ve done a bunch of research here and there about general business stuff, but I’ve never actually filed for LLC because I haven’t gotten around to it, and pick business strategies that are very difficult, and I don’t think I want my first business to be hard to keep it surviving (I wanted to start an Internet Service Provider at one point).

Anyways, I want to sell a convenience service for Mail-in-a-Box. Note that I said “convenience”. I’m not selling the actual thing itself, just convenience of setting it up. I know that Mail-in-a-box is easy as-is, but I think we could really expand the number of people that use MIAB if we could make the setup process even easier. Most people don’t know what a server is, a VPS is, how to SSH into a Ubuntu box, buy a domain and hook it up to the box, that we system administrators take for granted. If I were to convince your grandmothers to switch from doing business from yahoo.com to their own box to become yourgrandmother@yourgrandmother-example.com, they would not be able to follow the instructions, pick a VPS, pick a domain registrar, SSH into a box, install MIAB, and hook up the records.

So I want to create a service that takes credit card information, a username, password, and a domain, takes a convenience fee ($2.00?), pays a VPS (DigitalOcean?), pays a registrar (Namecheap?), SSH into the server, installs it, hooks up the domain to the server, and HANDS IT BACK TO THE CUSTOMER. The big problem I am having is figuring out how I can set stuff up, and hand everything back to the customer, so that they maintain full control over their server (which gives them privacy). So that means the payments are between the VPS, the registrar, and the customer, and I don’t have to worry about it at all. They would also have the control console of the server and domain with whatever company I try to get my customers to go with. I would also send them the SSH key, mail-in-a-box instructions, usernames, passwords, etc. to their admin mailbox before handing it back to the customer.

But I can’t seem to find a VPS/registrar that would allow me to hand it back to the customer, so that I am not and cannot be involved with the customer after I hand it back after the install.

I was also thinking about selling support for MIAB, but this is my first business ever. I think I need baby steps. If this business starts at a loss or very low profit, that’s fine. It’s the business experience I am looking for.


#2

Many VPS providers allow you to transfer an account to another person. You just have to find the right ones. Many of them require an account to have existed for several months, so it may not be an easy task. The same is true with domain registration - one example you can easily push a domain name to another account with NameSilo. The customer would have to sign up for the receiving account though.

But realistically, you are more likely going to need to walk people through the steps of creating a VPS account and provisioning service. Give you the credentials to do your thing and then change or revoke the credentials when you are done.

There really is no clean simple solution. It would be nice if there were as I’d already be doing it. :slight_smile:


#3

The other thing that may be an option is to find a VPS company that would allow me to auto-create accounts (I mean, %100 of the auto-created accounts will make them money, why not?), but I’ve already asked Digital Ocean, and they are NOT okay with that.


#4

I love giving business advice so here goes. :slight_smile:

Always think about people before technology. Consulting is always a nice business. If you can find a client you can help, you ask them what they need, then you do it, and :moneybag: comes. Technology is harder. First you have to build something. Then most times you find out that it doesn’t solve a problem anyone actually has (or is willing to pay you for), and you’re nowhere.

IMO, there aren’t people who would pay to have a Mail-in-a-Box set up but have the inclination to then maintain it going forward.


#5

Right - those who would be willing to pay to have it set up are going to want to have someone maintain it long term … which then negates one of the reasons for having it set up - a personally maintained mail server.

I think someone wanting to take the path proposed by the OP has to take the path of we will set up, maintain, and control a fully private mail server for you. But then, there are hundreds of ESP’s out there, so what would set this service apart from the rest?

That is the question the OP has to be asking … what would set that apart from the rest and who would the audience be?

There are already members on this forum who will respond when the occasional “I want to pay someone to set up MiaB for me” post comes along … but I would imagine in those cases they require the person to obtain their own domain, VPS, and then they hand access back once MiaB is installed and running.


#6

Well, I have seen a bunch of posts on here about stupid simple issues they have (which is %60 of the posts on here, round figure), and it seems like an issue they have on their initial setup. They’re mostly saying things like “I had just installed mail-in-a-box, and my stuff is getting marked as spam”, then you find out that it was because they didn’t copy and paste their DKIM key so that their emails could be verified with DNS/DKIM.

Super easy issue that would be fixed if they installed things correctly on the first time. The other thing is that I am sure there are plenty of people who would be willing to pay a few dollars a month for mail that don’t anything about technology other than to go to gmail.com and email people. I feel like these kind of people who aren’t in the business of technology, but want full control and/or privacy and/or full ownership of their email, would be interested in throwing in money and not worrying about it.


#7

DO Doesn’t allow API account creation like that BUT if you run your own system you can use DO API to make VPS on a persons behalf (you are still responsible for it’s data and billing but you also bill another person so it should at least even out.)

The Digital Ocean API allows you to use your own images too (only created with another VPS, like one can be created using Ubuntu 18.04 and having MIAB git repo pre-cloned in it with updates and such)

Example:
You make a custom site where users sign up with YOU and then YOU automate VPS creation on YOUR account using DO API. I believe this is fine to do. Though might need to confirm their ToS.


#8

My concern with hosting other people’s stuff on my DO account is the liability. If I am somehow do business with a client that is associated with a terrorist group, am I responsible because it’s my server on my account?

If I can just pass the blame onto the customer, then I guess it’s okay.


#9

If you have a contract that removes your liability, at least in the US, you would not be at fault for that. Just like how if a group uses GoDaddy in an illegal way, as long as godaddy follows a protocol to rid their service of the offenders then its no problem.


#10

It is most likely that the hosting company will be contacted by the security services and will root the box. The first you are likely to hear about it is a visit from the security services and some questioning. If you have done nothing wrong and not a political activist you should be fine. Lawyer up first chance to get.


#11

It sounds like you are looking for convenience for yourself, less so for your customers - that is the exact opposite of what running your own business is about.


#12

Been there, done that. I used to run diymacserver.com where people got instructions on how to setup their own mailserver on a Mac. Went brilliantly and then I got asked to help people to setup their servers because they ran into problems. Result was that in the end I got to run their servers for them. This isn’t scalable and becomes a full time nightmare as they ran into problems in the most inconvenient times imaginable. So don’t go there is my advise… Better of running your own servers and provide an email service, which could be based on mailinabox servers.