How to Export ? - Part 12 What Kind of Web-Site Suits Your Business

It is now fairly accepted that web-site is as essential for business through Internet as your daily cup of tea. We have gone through some of the reasons in last article. Let us go into specifics in this article.

There are essentially four issues - that you should address before starting work on your web-site. These are:
  1. What is the purpose of this web-site or, to put it differently - ask yourself 'What exactly I am expecting from it ?'

  2. What kind of hosting solution should I consider

  3. What will be the content and how to manage it

  4. How to promote the web-site

Purpose of Web-Site

Design of web-site is critically dependent on your business goals. Web-sites are used for various reasons, such as
  • Pure Dissemination of information For examples - web-site of very large companies (IBM, Reliance) Newspapers, Govt organizations (DGFT, Customs), Educational institutes, business associations etc

  • Extension of existing services, such as banks using web-sites for on-line transaction processing. Customers can enjoy many services from home without physically visiting bank premises (NetBanking)

  • Marketing products and services - where it acts as online brochure. Most companies use web-sites for this purpose

  • Selling Products on-line - where it not only markets products but also acts as store-front for selling products and services, popularly known as e-commerce.

  • Customer service where customers use web-site for troubleshooting, lodge complaints, request information etc. Examples are web-sites of hardware, machinery, equipment manufacturers

  • Facilitating interaction among a group on subjects common to all group members - such as discussion boards, consumer activist forum (e.g. etc.

Above is merely an illustration - there are many other applications (such as BLOGS) and more will emerge in future.

Important point is to decide the purpose of your web-site - which may be one of above or a mixture. A helpful tip is to write the purpose clearly on a piece of paper and discuss it with your design team. Use feedback from your friends, colleagues, technical team and customers to evaluate and if necessary, change your web-site plan. It is better to develop a plan first as mid-course changes are always expensive and time consuming.

Hosting Solution for Your Web-Site

Web-Site is composed of html files, computer programs, databases, Javascripts etc. Once this stuff is placed on a special kind of computer called server - your web-site becomes part of World Wide Web (WWW), visible from any part of the world. Such servers are called 'Host' in Internet lingo and the process called hosting.

Hosting Solution means zeroing on a suitable server that will host your web-site. There are two broad issues that will largely determine the nature and extent of your web-presence - one is technical and the other financial.

Technical Considerations

Apart from technical specifications of host - you need to consider following
  • Over 90% of servers that constitute WWW are either Windows or Linux/Unix based. Windows and Linux are a kind of computer software called 'Operating System' or OS. In internet lingo - they are called platforms. So, your first job is to select the platform for your web-site host.

  • While static html files will work perfectly from both kinds of servers, computer programs and databases are largely platform-centric. So, if you are going to use databases and software - better select the platform first.

  • Linux is considered more robust and faster than Windows. Besides, it is far more capital-inexpensive as most databases and software for this platform are available free (called open source in Internet lingo). However, in India, it is easier to find a Windows programmer than Linux, as most teaching schools use Windows. So maintenance cost of Linux software may get higher than that of Windows.

Financial Considerations

Apart from selecting hosting platform, you also need to decide the extent of your web-presence - mainly dependent on financial consideration.

Based on budget and other considerations - there are essentially three options :
  1. Part of larger web-site - like a Rented Office

  2. Virtual server - like owning an apartment in a high-rise

  3. Dedicated Server - like owning a house or bungalow

Part of Larger Web-site

Like a rented office, in this mode you hire some web-space from a larger web-site (not host). Your internet address (URL in Internet lingo) looks like

  • or


The later (also called micro site) is little more prestigious and may suit some businesses.

While such web-presence is inexpensive, convenient and maintenance free, it may not suit your purpose in long term for following reasons:
  1. Like rented office, the address is temporary. If decides to throw you out or close down their business - you will have to look for another place and consequently another URL. This could be suicidal as your customer will not be able to locate you and all your money spent on promotion (as we shall discuss later) will go down the drain

  2. You will never be able to use business e-mail like

  3. There may be severe restrictions on usage

There are many other reasons against such web-presence, but the most important is very low cost benefit. This kind of web presence might have been cost effective during initial days of Internet when web-hosting was a costly affair - but is no longer so today. Falling price of web-hosting has made this option mostly redundant.

Virtual Server

This is perhaps the most popular and cost-effective option today where you enjoy fair amount of independence and a permanent Internet address (URL) for a moderate price. Like apartment in a large mansion - you get space earmarked for you in a server or host alongwith many others like you. Unlike apartments - you will never lose your Internet address (URL) as domain name ( remains same even if you change server or hosting provider.

You will enjoy almost all facilities that a dedicated server or bungalow owner gets like business e-mail, own programs, databases etc. Your web-site will look and act like independent of anyone though in reality it is not (it is part of a server) - hence the name virtual server.

The disadvantages of this mode of web-presence are
  • Beware of cheap service providers who cram hundreds of web-sites in a single server choking processor efficiency and bandwidth. Your web-site in such a server will be slow to respond, resulting in lose of customers. Research has shown that a typical website visitor does not wait beyond 20 seconds for a web-site to load. Make sure your web-site does not keep visitors in a queue - else all your investment goes down the drain.

  • Stingy service providers may not invest in server resources or user-friendly web-administrator software resulting in slow server and time consuming web site administration

  • Over enthusiastic hosting service providers may impose unreasonable service restrictions

  • One can not grow beyond a certain limit. An apartment owner can not build extra rooms.

  • Like apartment owner - you should not do anything that might cause inconvenience to other apartment owners such as too many visitors, too much use of common facilities etc.

All said and done - this is an excellent option for all small and medium enterprises (SME) who take necessary care to select a suitable hosting service provider. True, there are limits in such web-presence but in reality - it may take quite some time for you to reach that limit. Till that time - it is cost effective to use virtual server.

Dedicated Server

As the name indicates, you get a whole server to host your web-site - no sharing of resources. There are almost no limits in usage and everything is good in this mode except cost. You need to spend quite a lot for a dedicated server and hire highly skilled technical professionals to maintain it. Normally, an SME may not need a dedicated server, not at least in the beginning.


We have discussed two of the four issues identified earlier. In next issues, we shall discuss remaining two issues that will play a crucial role in making your web presence a success - content and promotion.

Happy and Productive Surfing

Dr. Amit K Chatterjee

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Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol: 6, Issue 12 ; September 23' 2005

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at )

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