I know I need a website, but I know NOTHING about the internet. How can I tell you what I want if I don't even know what I want?


Don't worry, many business owners feel this way. We will guide you through the process. You don't need to do anything before contacting us. Contact us, and we can guide you through the process of defining your online goals.

 

What is a domain name?


A domain name is the address to visit your web site.  For example, www.YourBusinessName.com

 

What is a registrar?


If you buy a domain name, the company you purchase the name from is your registrar.  If desired, transferring the domain from one registrar to another takes 1 - 2 weeks.
With many hosting packages, one or more domain names are included for free, so it usually pays to use the same company as both registrar and host.

 

What is hosting?


In order to have your website on the internet for the world to see, your site's files need to be stored on a computer system that is always on.  It has to be connected to the internet 24 hours a day with special security software.  Hosting companies are specially set up to deal with these needs, and they usually store your site in a couple of different places to ensure it doesn't get lost.   In exchange, you pay a usually small monthly fee, as low as $3/month, but usually more like $5 - $10/month. 

High quality hosting is not necessarily synonymous with high prices.  Good hosting can be found for a few dollars a month in most cases, depends on the software and functionality you need.  Although we do not provide hosting services ourselves, we can arrange it, if you desire, at no additional charge.  Similarly, we can easily accommodate any hosting company you might choose. 

When choosing a hosting company, we recommend great care in choosing a reputable one.  Sometimes, spontaneous loss of e-mail can occur.  Other times, entire sites, costing thousands of dollars to design, can be lost to incompetent hosting companies.  Regardless of the hosting company, we additionally recommend always keeping a back-up copy of your site on your home computer to prevent site loss. We can teach you to use FTP to back up your site.

 

I want to sell things on my site. Can you help me set up e-commerce?


 It depends on how your e-commerce is set up. There are many ways to set up an e-commerce site, but security measures have tightened recently to protect the consumer from identity theft. Thus, you must ensure that you are in compliance with a set of stringent criteria: PCI-DSS. We can help with marketplaces and Paypal because they are automatically PCI-DSS secure, but we are unable to help secure custom carts that hook into a merchant account, thus we cannot offer those services at this time. Please feel free to contact us if you want to talk about your particular e-commerce needs with no obligation. We have included a summary of the various options for ecommerce below for those who want a more technical explanation. If you get lost in jargon or don't know what you need, please contact us.

Here are four basic types of e-commerce that are currently out there:

1. Marketplaces: Linking into a larger marketplace, like Amazon, Etsy, Ebay, etc... works very well for people who sell products on a small scale because it allows more customers to find your products. Artisans, retailers, writers, and many others will find this to be their easiest and best option. Generally, the seller uses a very easy interface to list and sell items, and this selling profile on the market can link reciprocally with your own site. The marketplace takes a higher percentage of your sales profits than the other methods, but it also increases traffic and offers convenience. We can definitely help you with this form of e-commerce. Please contact us with any questions.

2. Paypal-Oriented Site: For a retailer with low to moderate sales volumes, or for service-oriented businesses that want to accept online payments, Paypal is a great choice! It can definitely be used in addition to a marketplace profile. It has no security hassles involved, and does not require your customers to register for Paypal. They take a larger percentage of your sales than having a merchant account, but less than a marketplace. Unlike a marketplace, Paypal will not increase your customer traffic, but you do not need to worry about security. The savings in cost and security worries are very significant! The only downside is that Paypal has limited customization, so the cart, though customizable, will sometimes have restrictions that need a work-around. We have lots of experience with this form of ecommerce. Please contact us with any questions or to start setting up your own Paypal-driven site.

3. Custom e-commerce utilizing a merchant-hosted payment gateway: This option allows you to have a completely custom cart (until payment information is gathered), and a lower percentage rate from your own merchant account. Customers use your customized cart to select the quantities of the order, then the payment information is gathered and stored on the merchant's servers so that it minimizes risks to your business. Setting up a site in this fashion requires the purchase of a merchant account, PCI-DSS compliant hosting, SSL certificates, the services of a PCI-DSS security company (to help you maintain all aspects of the secure information transmitted on your server), and also the hire of a design team to code and design a custom cart that interfaces with the merchant portal. 
 
This setup has a lot of flexibility. The cart can be anything you want it to be, but is difficult to set up because there is a set of security standards known as PCI-DSS with which you must be compliant regardless of your business size.  For a business with higher volumes of sales, this method is cost effective because you will pay a lower percentage of your transactions to a merchant account provider, but it is expensive upfront, and it does require a security company to check in at least a couple of times a year and help you maintain security compliance.  The cost of security maintenance must be less than the costs of the extra merchant account percentage rates and fees in order to make this method preferable to Paypal.

We are currently unable to help with this type of e-commerce. We suggest finding a PCI-DSS certified security company in good standing to help set up your e-commerce site.

4. Custom e-commerce store on your own server: This option is the most complex of all. It requires the purchase of a merchant account, SSL certificates, servers, and security specialists to help you maintain all aspects of the secure information transmitted and stored on your server. For a fully customized, non-portal merchant solution, you also need to have your cart coded and/or configured.  Custom stores can accept and store customer financial information in any manner desired, but you bear the liability for any breaches of security if hackers manage to compromise your servers.  Our personal feeling is that portals are better in most cases. This is a lot of liability risk considering the crafty hackers out there!
 
This setup has the most flexibility with functionality, but is by far the most difficult to set up because you must maintain PCI-DSS compliance with your own server facility.  This is really only best for a very large business with high sales volumes. You will save money by paying a lower percentage of your transactions to a merchant account provider, and you don't pay an outside company for the hosting fees which could be cheaper for some situations, but you must invest in your own machines and staff, and it does require a security company and/or your own staff to help you maintain compliance.

We are currently unable to supply this type of e-commerce site. We suggest finding a PCI-DSS certified security company to help you get started.

 


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