© by Verlie Wynne
[Note from Editor: Verlie includes some excellent domain name tips here along with practical advice on starting an online business.]
There are a lot of articles out there that can tell you how to start an online business. This article is designed to tell you how NOT to start an online business. Or better yet, point out the pitfalls so as to help you avoid them. The information here is geared toward the small business/home business entrepreneur.
Naming your business
Assuming you have a product or idea that you feel could be successful on the Internet, the first thing the new entrepreneur always does is think up a name for the business. Let's call our imaginary business 'Widgets4you'. (Widgets is your product or idea). In order to go online with your new business you will have to secure a domain name, such as: www.widgets4you.com.
Registering your domain name
There are hundreds of domain name registrars on the Internet. There used to be only one. Network Solutions was the only place you could register a domain name until ICANN allowed other companies to share in this very profitable business.
You can go to any number of domain name registrars to check if the domain name you have chosen is available for you to register to your business. Beware; there are some very unscrupulous registrars out there.
One customer of mine checked the availability of his chosen name but did not immediately register it and two days later someone else did. The company that registered it then placed the name up for sale.
Use a reputable registrar and if you have chosen a name and it is available, register it, don't delay. Also be careful of extremely low cost registrars. Find one that you can trust, someone that has been referred by a friend, or a registrar with a good track record.
The day may come that you want to make revisions to your domain name information so check out the ease with which you can make modifications. There are deeply discounted registrars and hosting companies out there. Remember, you get what you pay for.
A lot of hosting companies will register your domain name free, as part of your hosting package and that is fine. Again, be sure you can trust this hosting company. Check their credentials, such as how long have they been in business and will they let you contact their other customers for a referral?
Another customer of mine had a salesperson walk into her store and suggest she put her business on the Internet. My customer handed this person a check for 200.00 and that was the last she heard from them. It took us almost 3 months of work to get their domain name wrested away from that company and up and running on the Internet.
Free hosting is available if you are on a limited budget. However, keep in mind again that you get what you pay for. (Enough with the clichés already, OK).
There is no business that can operate for very long by giving their services away free. If you find a free hosting company check them out thoroughly. I cannot stress this enough.
If you register your name, put a lot of time and effort into building a site, get a customer base buying all your widgets and suddenly the hosting company up and disappears, you are sunk.
Companies are going out of business at an astounding rate these days. Don't let your business go down because you didn't check out your hosting company.
Choosing a good web host
Your hosting company should respond to any inquiries from you within 4 hours. If they do not, find someone else. This is all new to you; find a company that has very strong technical support. When you find the right host, you will know it. You and your host are going to be partners for a long time, get one you are comfortable working closely with.
Web hosting plans
Be sure you get the right hosting plan for your needs. Most hosting companies will or should start you out small and let you upgrade to heftier hosting plans as your business grows.
An average website that sells about 25 items should fit comfortably on about 100mb of space. This will depend on the number of graphics, pages in your site, etc. But 100mb is a good start.
If you are going to be selling items you will need a secure server that allows you to take credit cards or collect personal information, such as your customers name and address securely over the internet connection.
One more thing, there is no such thing as unlimited bandwidth. In fact it is the single biggest cost on the Internet today. Read all the fine print before you sign up for hosting. You will almost always find that bandwidth is never unlimited and the charges for using extra could break you in one month. The average bandwidth that would come with a 100mb plan should be around 3 -5 gb, and sometimes as high as 8 gb. (this can vary greatly between different hosting companies).
So here is your checklist:
1. Do your homework
2. Register your domain name
3. Get a reliable host
4. Back up your site
Verlie Wynne is the owner of a Web Hosting and Design company with 5 years of Internet experience. She is also a college instructor of web design and publishing and an MCSE. Visit her at www.4greathosting.com
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