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Hosting - The Silent Partner for Your E-Business?
By : Lisa Schmeckpeper

We have all been hearing the hype about online business--proponents declare that it's the way of the future; detractors claim that it will never replace brick-and-mortar business...which is reality?

The truth falls somewhere in the middle: Online business will never replace brick-and-mortar, but an online presence will be integral to the business model of any successful business. Already, e-commerce revenues are in the billions, and experiencing exponential growth. Any business that wishes to be competitive in this new marketplace--including your business--cannot ignore the power of e-commerce.

Many of you have taken that first step in putting your business online: You have done your research, identified your brand, and chosen and registered a domain name that speaks to your brand. That was the easy part. If you haven't yet registered your domain name, don't fret! You can easily do it at:

http://www.virtualis.com/vr/lschmeck/domain.html

After domain registration, what follows next may be one of the most important decisions you make for your e-business...finding the right hosting company. This is as important to the quality of your business as finding the right partner, and many people--even experienced webmasters-- find the experience daunting. I would like to share my hosting experience with you-perhaps it will make your decision-making process a little easier.

RELIABILITY

Hosting isn't glamorous, but as you know, it is the backbone of your web-based business.

That is why I refer to it as the "silent partner." A good hosting company is dependable, with a steady "up-time" track record. After all, what good is a web site if it's down? A good hosting company should operate like the electric company--every day you wake up, it's there, working. However, even the most reliable companies need to periodically take the system down for maintenance. Your hosting company should inform its customers in advance, and perform that maintenance at off-peak hours--so as not to unduly burden your web business.

The next things to look for I call the "Four S's:" Service, Software, Support, and Space.

SERVICE

An extremely important (and often overlooked) factor is Service. Unfortunately, many hosting companies end their relationship with you the moment the server sale is made. This leaves unanswered the crucial question, "Okay, I've got a server--now what?" This is critical when you consider that some companies are so controlling that web masters are discouraged from customizing and/or managing sites for their clients! Other hosting companies give you space on a server, but nothing more--you have to configure the server and set up all the back-end functionality manually!

As you have probably done this before, I don't need to tell you what a time-consuming and laborious task this is. My best service experience has been with Virtualis. So much so that I've spent the last 2 years with them! If you have questions, they are on-call 24/7 to answer them--they even have discussion boards where fellow customers can offer advice and helpful tips. Good service means providing a community of resources throughout the life of your e-business.

SOFTWARE

In addition to Service, the ideal hosting solution also provides easy-to-use web management tools. This is the third "S:" Software. Although many companies offer some of these features, my choice for the hosting company with the best overall tool suite is Virtualis. They offer tools that are easy enough for a novice to quickly understand, and customizable enough for a web master to optimize. In my experience, one of the incredibly useful tools is the Virtualis Email Manager.

The email manager has saved me a lot of time from manual configuration. You can quickly and easily set up email accounts, set up and remove POPs, create auto-responders, create aliases, and more. Virtualis has 21 tools in all--certainly more than I can cover in this article! One of the best features of the Virtualis hosting software suite is that it is totally web-based. This allows for instant accessibility, no matter where you are--certainly helpful if you travel frequently or have customers covering a wide geographical area.

SUPPORT

Even for experienced web developers, a primary consideration is Support. Questions always arise as you develop sites and add features and/or functionality. The ideal hosting company will be there to assist you along the way, as well as talk you through any rough spots. Since support issues are rarely constrained to regular business hours, make sure that your chosen hosting company offers support 24/7 (just in case), and offers a variety of means to contact support, such as telephone, email, and web-based access.

SPACE

Finally, "Space," refers to how much server room you will need to store/manage your digital data. How much space you need can be determined by how much content you will post, how much data you will store, and how much traffic you are expecting. Ideally, you should find a company like Virtualis that offers both shared and dedicated servers--that way, you can start small, and expand as your online business grows.

Shared servers are simply servers that are shared with other businesses. Most small to medium-sized businesses prefer shared hosting because it is cost-effective and can be scaled to the amount of space that your business needs. Virtualis offers shared "Virtual" servers that range from the VS Mini, at 30 MB of space, all the way up to the VS Meta, which has 300MB of disk space. Of course, if you require more space, a dedicated server option is likely best for you. Virtualis offers five different dedicated servers that range in size from 4.2 gigs (the DEDA1) to the huge DEDA5, which has 18 gigs of space.

I hope my experiences will aid you in your hosting selection process. You need to look at reliability, service, software, support, and space. That way, you can wisely choose the "silent partner," who will deliver steady uptime, sophisticated time-saving tools, and supreme customer support. After much personal research, and after consulting my good friend, Jim Daniels, I chose Virtualis. From getting my domain name to finding the right hosting package for my needs, my silent partner-Virtualis-made getting my business online impossibly easy.

For more information on how Virtualis can be your silent partner, go to.....

http://www.virtualis.com/vr/lschmeck/orderform.html

 

 

About the Author :
This article was written by Lisa Schmeckpeper of LRS Marketing and published in their free newsletter, Website Success Monthly. To receive a free copy of this informative e-zine just send email to subscribe@lrsmarketing.com or visit their website at www.lrsmarketing.com. Copyright 2000 [LRS Marketing]. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
 
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