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This page attempts to answer frequently-asked questions by prospective members.
The Most Important Question
Q: Can I do <something> with an HCoop membership?
A: The answer is more or less a qualified "yes" for anything! We have no fixed technical structure. Everything is decided democratically by the members through their equal voting power. As long as there are enough members willing to share the added cost of the new service that you propose, we can make it happen. In some of the answers below, we address particular common requests that we've already taken the time to set ourselves up to handle, but the sky's the limit.
Q: Can I edit this wiki before joining?
Q: Can I use an HCoop account for commercial purposes?
A: Yes! Owners of sole proprietorships can join and use HCoop for their small business just like any other member. For partnerships, LLCs, corporations and such, the terms would depend on the intended usage of HCoop. If all you need is one shell with websites and email aliases for your domains, then your business can probably join as a single member on the same terms.
Q: How does HCoop exist legally? What makes it likely that HCoop will be around a few years down the road, and what prevents the arbitrary whims of the founders or admins from messing it up?
We're a registered Pennsylvania (USA) non-profit corporation with HcoopBylaws that put complete control and ownership of the co-op in the hands of the members. Each member has an equal vote on issues like electing the board of directors. The board makes all of the day-to-day decisions that control how the co-op works socially and technically.
HCoop is also recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(12) tax-exempt cooperative, and thus is not liable for any federal income tax.
Q: How can I get answers to questions not covered here?
Q: How much does membership cost?
This is addressed on [http://hcoop.net/ our front page], but here's some additional anecdotal information: At the moment, each member pays about $3/mo., with no "plans" distinguishing what different members may do. We are planning an expansion under the criterion that we can offer full membership for $5/mo., with a "sliding scale" plan or some similar way of letting members who value our services more contribute more and keep costs low for others.
Q: What are the entire co-op's monthly expenses?
We currently pay around $200/mo. for all services, and that amount should rise to around $800/mo. after our planned expansion.
Q: How much does it cost to pay with PayPal?
See [http://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_display-fees-outside their fees information]. We have a business account.
Q: I've heard that PayPal sometimes does nasty things like closing accounts without refunding their balances. Since you use PayPal as the primary dues payment method, could something like this happen to bankrupt HCoop?
No, several times a month we transfer our PayPal balance to a Wells Fargo bank account in the name of our corporation. It's from that account that we pay our providers.
Q: Are payments or contributions to HCoop tax-deductible?
No. While HCoop is tax-exempt, it is not a charity or other 501(c)(3) organization. Neither dues nor donations to HCoop are deductible for United States federal income tax purposes. HCoop cannot advise you as to tax obligations in your jurisdiction, but it is unlikely that such dues or contributions are deductible for any purpose.
Q: Is there any kind of additional "security deposit" required to join?
We require that every member's balance with us (that is, the amount of money you've paid in total minus the total amount that you've been charged so far) stay above $10. You can think of this as a requirement for a $10 "security deposit." The main reason behind this is that it sometimes takes a while to prod someone into paying when he has forgotten about it, and we don't want to find ourselves unable to meet the co-op's financial obligations during that period.
Most members prepay at least $20 when joining, and initial payments at the $50 level or higher are not uncommon. Irrespective of the minimum balance requirement, it's in your interest to pay at much at once as you're comfortable paying, since PayPal has a per-transaction fee that makes this cheaper for you.
Q: What are the basic ideas behind how I create and maintain Internet sites with an HCoop account?
We've developed a suite of custom command-line and web-based tools for managing everything. See DomTool for one of these and our WelcomePage for links to all of the documentation related to our infrastructure.
Q: Who performs system administration? Do I have to worry about the consequences of some willy-nilly scheme for granting folks root access?
Our board of directors appoints sysadmins from among the member base. We aim to have about 3 sysadmins appointed at a given time. These are the only people with "root access."
Q: How do I get in touch with them?
As part of our member portal, we have a "support ticket" system like you'll find at most commercial hosting providers. There are also special systems for "semantically rich" requests for things like installation of Debian packages or permissions to configure particular domains. Members never contact admins directly, but rather interact with them through these web-based tools. We tend to have fast enough response times to requests for members to remark on them favorably.
Q: You describe the co-op as an umbrella organization for supporting whatever kinds of hosting the members want. How do new services come into being in practice?
New services are born by majority vote of the board of directors. We always try to have an open discussion on our mailing list of each new proposal before voting on it. The directors and the members will try take into account only the real monetary and volunteer-time costs of a new idea in evaluating it. However, it doesn't seem worthwhile to codify a more specific process than this. Your votes for the board of directors are largely votes based on what informal decision making processes you expect candidate directors to apply.
Q: What are your hardware specs?
Q: Do you offer colocation or anything else beyond "shared hosting"?
Not at the moment, but we provide the structure for members to decide on new services and implement them, so let us know if you would be interested in purchasing such a service through the co-op, and it can happen with enough people registering interest.
Q: Can I use multiple domain names that I own with an HCoop account?
A: Yes, and we even have our own software called DomTool to let you do so without superuser intervention.
Q: Do you do back-up MX and secondary DNS hosting for domains primarily hosted elsewhere?
Yes; see DomTool.
Q: Can I use mod_python, Zope, mod_perl, etc.?
Yes, you can use these customized web server modules or web servers, but you will probably need to run your own web daemon to do it. Most of these are not designed to work in an environment like ours, where resources are shared by mutually untrusting users; as a result, they run all scripts as the same user, which would let others trample your data, either intentionally or through negligence. We do support running your own daemons and proxying from our main Apache, though, so no worries!
Q: Can I do fancy things with e-mail sent to my mailbox on HCoop, like both saving it on your server and forwarding it elsewhere?
Yes, members can use [http://www.exim.org/exim-html-4.66/doc/html/filter.html Exim filters] to do this and more.
Q: Can I compile binaries myself?
A: Yes. You can install your own compilers, and we'll install system-wide most any compiler that's found in Debian testing.
Q: Can I run my own daemons?
A: Yes, though whether or not this is feasible in terms of resource use depends on the kind of server.