Thursday, February 17, 2000

George Mindling Column 2-17-2000 - Web sites for Small Businesses

Web sites for Small Businesses

The recent Super Bowl commercials hammered home the importance of Internet home pages and online enterprise services. Even those who don't own PCs commented on the overwhelming "dot com" commercials, especially the E- Trade commercial that said "We just spent two million dollars, how do you want to spend your money?"

So, you don't have two million dollars to spend on TV commercials to get someone to look at your Web Site? You don't even have a Web Site? No problem. Having your own Web Site is easier today than ever. And cheaper, too.

First, decide why you want a Web site. Is it just to have a place for Web advertising, or are you looking to connect online ordering and inventory to your back office functions? If your Web site is just advertising, there is free Web site space available from many Internet Service Providers (ISP). You don't get to use your own name, however, as you co-reside on someone else's address. You get to add your identifying "address" as a series of slashes (/) behind an existing address.

Beyond the free Web sites, there are basically two charges for a small Internet Web site. One is for the rental space on a hard drive on a PC server directly connected to the Internet. If you want your own server to be connected, prepare to pay for a high speed, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (24/7) data link. The service is not cheap. That disk you rent is usually 20 or 30 Megabytes in size and comes with basic services, such as e-mail links and basic file maintenance. This site has nothing to do with your ISP link to the Internet.

The second charge is paid by everyone who has a presence on the Internet: $70 for the first two years, then $35.00 annually thereafter. That charge is for the name of your site, called the domain name, and it is paid to Network Solutions, Inc. To find out if the name you want to use is available for registration, check their site at:

The ". com" sites are the most sought after, but anyone can have an ".org" or even a ".net" type page. The ".gov" and ".edu" sites -are obviously reserved for those types of organizations. When you reserve a domain name, you must tell Network Solutions where to assign it. Every server has an Internet address all its own, adding your domain name is like adding the name on a building directory. The service you rented the PC space from will be more than happy to assist you in getting on their server.

Now you have to decide what to put out there and how much to spend. Site design can be a simple, self-written page, or a complicated, multi-layered, multimedia extravaganza.

If you start now, you might be ready for next year's Super Bowl.

George Mindling © 2000

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