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:
- What is the purpose of this web-site or, to put it differently
- ask yourself 'What exactly I am expecting from it ?'
- What kind of hosting solution should I consider
- What will be the content and how to manage it
- How to promote the web-site
Design of web-site is critically dependent on
your business goals. Web-sites are used for various reasons, such
- Pure Dissemination of information For examples - web-site
of very large companies (IBM, Reliance) Newspapers, Govt organizations
(DGFT, Customs), Educational institutes, business associations
- 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
- 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. Mouthshut.com) 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.
Web-Site is composed of html files, computer
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
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.
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.
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 :
- Part of larger web-site - like a Rented Office
- Virtual server - like owning an apartment in a high-rise
- 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
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
- Like rented office, the address is temporary. If large-website.com
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
- You will never be able to use business e-mail like email@example.com
- 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.
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 (yourcompany.com)
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
- 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.
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
- Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad
Vol: 6, Issue
12 ; September 23' 2005
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