I'll be trying to sell my Ruby on Rails development skills to small local businesses.

It seems I'd be shooting myself in the foot if I couldn't manage to put their apps into production, in fact catering for this would be a selling point.

However, I do not want to bill every client monthly for the cost of their hosting, they would have to be the contract holders with the hosting service, and I'd only consult if they needed technical help when scaling.

I've looked on one hand at cloud platforms, like engine yard, which seem like they would be too costly for the smaller clients, and on the other hand at vps providers which seem they would not be client friendly enough.

Has anyone faced the same issue and come up with a decent solution ?


It seems that you are missing out on some potential revenue by making that restriction--worse, you may lose business because of it. Here's the deal with local small businesses (a good friend of mine runs an IT support business that caters to this market): they don't want to deal with the headaches of hosting companies. If something went wrong, the hosting company most likely isn't going to know anything about the app you deployed. They won't be able to diagnose the problems and bring the system back to functioning perfectly.

Your best bet is to find someone who caters to the IT support (such as my friend) while you sell application development skills. The IT support company takes care of the monthly billing, and first line support role. This takes the monthly responsibilities off your shoulders (what you want) without leaving the small business with a "dump and run" application.

The fewer moving parts you have in your application the easier it is to troubleshoot and support the application. When you throw cloud computing in the mix, it's just going to make things more complicated. And what if the cloud isn't accessible for some reason? Systems fail. Will the application also die?


Cloud? :) Are you mad? It's just a marketing hype to sell overpriced services to customers that don't need them. Maybe a week ago i saw some stupid HTML5 game that was advertised to be "hosted on cloud" and "not using flash". Static HTML files, can this FUD get any dumber?

It's appaling that something as serious as IT is so dependable on fashion.

But to the point: Probably any VPS for $15-20/month will do for you. VPS services are little overpriced compared to servers too (but not 5-20x like clouds), for 8 euros month you can get this: http://www.hetzner.de/de/hosting/produkte_vserver/vq7/ that'll be enough for you and you can host sites of your 20 friends on this :)

Personally i'd get myself some reseller account on a RoR hosting. Managing your own server isn't worth saving 20 USD a month. If you think it is... probably the idea of selling RoR dev skills isn't as nice as you think, and maybe better to explore some other options :)

Small local clients doesn't need computing power or gigabytes of space. Small websites with 300 hits / day. Anything can host it. For costumers with thousands of clients... you don't want to buy server farm that'll idle waiting for a client ;)


What do you consider a small local business? I've been surveying/working this market and it seems that mostly these guys need help with graphic/web design, and maybe some SEO & social media campaigns. Unless your SMBs are a lot more technically savvy than the ones around here, if you try to sell them "Ruby" on "Rails" they're going to slam the door in your face and say they're not interested in jewelery or trains. And if you want them to actually take the initiative in hosting, you've just added another barrier. What I see a lot of SMBs needing, is stuff along the lines of getting some excel files into their OS/390 to do some P&L statements, then wanting to produce online reports for their clients (for example)... Then you have to explain why you're charging 6x what they paid for their entire database system + server.


I'm surprised Heroku hasn't been mentioned yet. If you're just serving sites for small local businesses then the one free dyno should be sufficient for most sites. One dyno can handle about 10,000 visitors a month without trouble.

The great part about it is virtually no administration overhead and if your client needs extra capacity or scaling it's easy to adjust. It's ridiculously simple to deploy your Ruby on Rails sites to Heroku. (see this great answer of Stack Overflow https://stackoverflow.com/questions/2075920/heroku-in-real-life-apps for more info.)

The only caveats are:

  • If there are no visitors for about 5 minutes, Heroku will put to sleep your free dyno instance, meaning the next page view will have a slight delay.
  • Heroku is a Read-Only filesystem. If you need the capability to serve larger files or support uploads it fully supports Amazon S3, which is dirt-cheap (ie. pretty much free) for the typically small usage a local business would need.
  • It might be tricky to explain to your client how Heroku hosting and Amazon S3 works, and determining whether extra dynos/workers are needed. If you turn open the tap and your site gets a lot of traffic, costs could escalate.

But that's the point of these services. You only pay for what you use. And for small sites, you don't need to pay much, if anything.


If you can do JRuby on Rails then you should be able to deploy to the Google Application Engine, which is very cheap for low traffic site.


Maybe I'm missing something here, but why cant you search around and select one or two shared or vps web hosting services you recommend, and have the customer set up an account there? Then you set up their site for them there.

Though as others have mentioned, if you have your own server, you can just as easily set them up on that and automatically charge their credit card every month just as the hosting service would. You wouldnt have to manually 'bill' them every month. This isnt 1980.


What you need to do is figure out what your clients or potential clients need or want, and how to get it to them conveniently and profitably. Have you talked to some small business owners to see what they actually are willing to pay for?

If you're trying to sell them a service that they don't already have, and therefore know (or at least believe) they can get along without, requiring them to contract with somebody else is going to be an additional barrier, and likely often a deal-breaker. If you can't at best present them with a standard deal to sign up for, you're adding complication and work to something they already may be dubious about.

My gut feeling is that you're trying to slice your services too finely, and that you're going to have to look less at what you want to get paid for and more at what your customers are willing to pay for.

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