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E-Commerce 101: Choosing an E-Commerce Host [3rd February 03]

A Web marketing report

Most small and mid-size online businesses aren't candidates for hosting their own sites in-house -- the setup costs for server hardware, bandwidth capacity and software development are beyond the means of most. And once the server is set up, ongoing maintenance can be challenging and costly.

Fortunately, there are alternatives. Companies specializing in Web hosting abound, and enable even the smallest e-business to gain an online presence quickly and inexpensively. But as an online business, you have a number of special needs that someone running a personal home page does not. That's why free Web hosting bundled together with your basic monthly fee from your ISP, or free home pages through services like Tripod or Yahoo! are generally poor choices for sites that generate transactions.

Ten key issues should be on your checklist as you select your e-commerce host:

1) Bandwidth

"You need your site to be easy for people to download," says New York-based e-commerce consultant Jon Bednarsh. "And you need to capture information that your site visitors send to you -- like registrations, orders and credit card data -- as quickly as possible." That means that you need a host with bandwidth to spare. Your best bet is to find a provider with a minimum of one T-3 (45 mbps) line connection to the Internet's backbone, or to an "upstream" provider. This is 28 times faster than the T-1s used by many smaller providers.

"Don't be fooled by the sheer size of the connection," says Bednarsh. "You'll also want to find out what percentage of their bandwidth is being utilized by existing demands on the system. The average bandwidth utilization should not be greater than 30 percent of the available total, and peak bandwidth should be no greater than 60-70 percent." Beyond that level, performance across the network begins to deteriorate. You might even want to write in a guarantee of bandwidth utilization limits when you prepare a contract with your host.

2) Proximity to Backbone

Many hosting companies connect to larger Internet connectivity providers, running a commercial phone line "upstream" to the larger company, who in turn might be running a connection to yet another "upstream" provider. The further "downstream" your provider is, the more chances there are for things to go wrong, as your data is handed off with each upstream connection.


Guide to Dedicated Hosting! [3rd February 03]

One of the most important business decisions you may ever make is deciding on what type of web hosting plan to use for your web presence. Web hosting options are on a continuum, with a variety of choices that are ideally suited to organizations of different sizes, and at different levels of web site sophistication. The two main extremes are:

Virtual Hosting - A virtual hosting provider is sometimes called a Web or Internet "space provider." Typically, virtual hosting provides a customer who wants a Web site with: domain name registration assistance, multiple domain names that map to the registered domain name, an allocation of file storage and directory setup for the Web site files (HTML and graphic image files), e-mail addresses, and Web site creation services. The virtual hosting user (the Web site owner) needs only to have a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) program for exchanging files with the virtual host. Virtual hosting is ideal for small to medium-sized enterprises for whom large amounts of bandwidth and storage are not a concern.
Co-located Hosting - Akin to an in-house solution with training wheels, a co-located solution requires you to purchase a web server that is located at a third party facility designed with resources which include: a secured cage or cabinet, regulated power, dedicated internet connection, security and support. These co-location facilities offer the customer a secure place to physically house their hardware and equipment as opposed to locating it in their offices or warehouse where the potential for fire, theft or vandalism is much greater. While a co-located solution is perfect for businesses who require a large amount of bandwidth and storage, physical access to your server may be an issue.
Falling between these two extremes is the dedicated hosting solution. For businesses looking to attract and maintain a high traffic-base, a dedicated server can be the best web hosting solution. Combining the advantages of a Virtual Hosts' technical support with the connectivity and stability of owning your own server, a dedicated hosting account gives you precise control over the functionality of your site - and is perfect for those organizations who do not wish to make the substantial investment required to own and operate a server in-house.

Dedicated Host?

Security, reliability, maintenance, and support translate into less responsibility for the customer. In addition, since you are renting the box rather than purchasing it, you are not responsible for maintaining the equipment and connectivity of the server. If a hardware component fails, the provider is responsible for resolving the problem or replacing the component. Your provider will likely be responsible for any downtime that occurs due to a hardware failure, and most have a compensation system in place as part of the SLA to reimburse you in the event of failure. Even if you are running your site off a custom hardware configuration, the provider may be responsible for ensuring that every piece of that hardware is functional, and works in harmony with the rest of the system. This allows you to maximize your return-on-investment by ensuring that you are paying only for the hardware is functional.

What costs/risks are there with a dedicated solution?

Though very advantageous for security, bandwidth, storage, and special technical needs, the principal drawbacks of a dedicated solution are price and support. Obviously, taking up an entire server on a providers rack will require a larger investment than sharing a portion of a single server. In addition to these direct costs you will have to cover the cost of technical staff to maintain your server if you don't possess the knowledge or time to do it yourself. Usually, dedicated servers range between $150 - $1200 US per month.

I don't need a dedicated staff, I can run my own server. Do I still have to pay the technical administrative costs?

While the actual costs of administrative and technical maintenance will vary depending on the provider you choose, clients can specify whether they require "managed" or "unmanaged" service levels:

Managed Services - Dedicated servers equipped with extended support. Usually in the form of a proprietary "control panel," a managed dedicated account will allow non-technical users to easily set-up, maintain, and administer sites on the server. Most control panels operate under a user-friendly "point and click" interface (or GUI) that eliminates the need for command-line queries. Ideal for organizations that don't wish to invest time and capital in server administration.
Unmanaged Services - While this provides the client with more control over the server, with more control comes more responsibility. Unmanaged accounts typically provide base root access to the server, which allows complete remote server administration. This requires a great degree of technical expertise, as every service on the box must be configured and managed by the client - which can cause serious system failures if you don't know what you're doing. For this reason, an unmanaged account is recommended only if you have a background in server administration, or have access to an experienced server administrator. This solution is appropriate for advanced Web developer who require root access to remotely administer the server, or create custom applications for their sites, as this can require an optimized environment.

I'm convinced, but what should I look for in a provider?

Quite simply, you should be able to design a server from the ground up. The dedicated host you decide upon should provide custom-made servers that are configured for the specific needs of your business. You should be able to choose the components, operating system, and open-source applications that you require.

Most importantly, the server should be completely scalable as your needs change. If you need a faster processor, storage space, or bandwidth, the upgrade process should be simple, seamless, fast, and affordable.

However, there's more to a dedicated host than the hardware. There should also exist accessible management, technical support, and consulting services. A host that provides managed services should provide full-time consulting services dedicated to your hosting resources, and while an unmanaged provider will require you to be responsible for managing your own hosting resources, consulting services should still be available for a nominal fee. Regardless of whether your service is managed or unmanaged, all dedicated hosting clients should be provided with an account manager who is dedicated to their service.

By shifting the responsibility for the expensive and time-consuming aspects of maintaining an in-house server can drastically reduce the cost of the technical competencies of your business. For e-commerce ventures, a dedicated account allows you to focus on sales and products, not hardware, and allows you to test the waters of a large-scale Web presence without requiring a large investment.


Find the Host With the Most! [3rd February 03]

No one can deny that the quality and reliability of your Web presence can make or break your business. The average attention span of a Web surfer is a mere 20 seconds, and your competition is always just a click away if load times and connectivity aren't fast, reliable, and browser-compliant. Support and back-end infrastructure are just as critical to your Website as aesthetic appeal. A gorgeous, multi-tiered graphical interface is useless if no one can get to it – and no one will try more than once. Like the stage and silver screen, you get one audition, and that's it.

For this reason, running your own server is a tempting prospect. You have total control, and can configure and reconfigure to your heart's content, without having to concede to bandwidth limits or third-party server failures. Even SOHO businesses can afford to purchase the industry-standard HTML editors, and no expensive hardware is needed to quickly create a Website. But opting to do it yourself without counting the costs and consequences can end your business, or cause your site to be dismissed as amateurish. While amateur construction is adequate for home or hobby sites, it is increasingly necessary to outsource your hosting needs if you wish to operate as an effective eCommerce vendor.

Quite simply, eBusiness doesn't end with the Website. Aside from handling the traffic that your site will attract, you need your server to maintain a constant connection to the Internet while simultaneously accommodating the needs of outside users. Few desktop PCs can handle such a load, and many home DSL and cable modem ISPs frequently prohibit hosting or any other high-bandwidth activities, which are so critical to eCommerce. Furthermore, there are the costs of site security, data backup, power back-up, redundancy, upgrades and transaction tracking to contend with, expenses that are far beyond the resources of even the wealthiest of small businesses. Furthermore, someone will have to constantly monitor and manage your infrastructure to ensure a constant level of connectivity, which will require the hiring of very expensive IT professionals.

A Web host will take care of all of this for you, for a monthly fee that is a fraction of the amount you would pay to purchase these services and hardware on your own. Many people are leery of turning control of their business over to a third party, and because of this unwarranted fear are dismissing the security and benefits that a host can provide. You are not outsourcing your business; rather, you are outsourcing the responsibility for keeping your business up and running. In the same way that a bricks-and-mortar warehouse hires security staff to watch the grounds, a Web host will keep a constant vigil over your virtual property, so you can focus on what's important: building your business.

Web hosts allow small businesses to play in the same arena as the corporate giants, giving them competitive bandwidth and traffic volume accommodation. Most importantly, your Web host will help you secure a domain name, something that most individual ISPs and free hosting accounts (such as Yahoo!) can't offer. Having a lengthy URL indicates that your business is hosted on a free server, and its amateur appearance will confuse your customers. Imagine the traffic that would be generated by a simple URL such as www.acmeflorists.com compared to www.yahoo.com/~128.hmpg/client2434/net~mypage/index_acmeflorists!

But how do you choose a Web hosting service out of the hundreds that are available? You'll have to do some careful shopping to find the services and relationship you need, as the wrong decision can be disastrous.

When shopping for a Web host, connectivity and reliability are key. The longer it takes for customers to access your Website, the more likely you'll lose customers. Of course, no one's perfect. Connectivity time will fluctuate on a cyclical basis with the flow of daily traffic, but you should insist on a guaranteed connectivity rate of 95% when seeking a host. Aside from that, there are a few other issues to consider before making a final decision:

Look to the future

As your customer base and revenue grows, your site may require the addition of server-side scripting, eCommerce and database support, and a large bandwidth to accommodate audio and video streaming. Free hosting sites never offer these kinds of advanced features, but many commercial hosts don't offer them either. Make sure your host is big enough to accommodate your future needs, as well as your present ones.

Know thyself

On the other hand, don't empty your bank account paying for services you don't need.

The most basic level of service from a Web host typically positions your site among a number of others on a single machine, with a virtual domain name that points to the URL of your page. This is known as shared hosting, and is adequate for the simple "text-and-GIFs" variety of Website.

As your company grows, however, you will probably want to move from static HTML to incorporate more interactive elements into your site. Since this requires more bandwidth, you should probably move to a machine with more resources, and fewer sites vying for them. If you want to add streaming video, audio, or high-level graphics and forms to your site, your should probably switch to a dedicated server, which means having an entire machine to yourself. The host owns, maintains, and backs up the server while providing all the security, power management, and other aspects of maintaining a data center.

The highest level of service a Web host can offer is a Colocated Server. You own the hardware, but it's physically located at the host's facility. The advantage of this is that you can choose the bandwidth you'll need, while the host provides a clear pipe to the Internet. Unfortunately, it also means you'll have to pay for any and all security and firewall provisions, as you won't be protected by the host's firewall. While this gives you complete control over the level of security you desire, it can be quite expensive.

Demand prompt service and performance
The popularity of your site will be directly affected by your host's level of service. Slow load times due to an overburdened server will send your customers elsewhere. Furthermore, a long update-to-live lag time can be disastrous - especially if you have a large, constantly fluctuating inventory. For example, you may want to set up a special page for a new promotion, linked to the very expensive marketing campaign that your business is involved in. A few quick HTML entries are all that's required, but if you have to wait days for your host's IT staff to do the job, you could lose your marketing momentum and render the initiative useless.

No matter how renowned your host is, technical problems will occur. As such, demand 24-hour, 7-days-a-week technical support for all your applications. If a host claims to already offer this, check! Call their tech line at 3:00a.m. on a Sunday to see if anyone is really there. Ensure that there is some sort of written agreement regarding service, which ideally will provide you with financial compensation in the event of failure.

Security! security! security!

Ask for a detailed description of the hosting company's security protocols. They should provide adequate protection from everyday denial-of-service attacks and the various hacks and cracks that will be attempted on your server. Make sure that your host is responsible for upgrading and maintaining these measures - do you really have hours to spend hours reviewing server logs and updating software? The only thing worse than having no security is thinking you have some.

You get what you pay for

When shopping for a host, you'll find that they vary widely in terms of target and pricing. Some hosts skew their servers to accommodate many small sites, while others prefer to take on fewer, high-volume sites. If you inadvertently exceed the monthly "cap" on your site's permitted volume, you could quickly find that a little success can be your worst enemy, as your monthly fees make a significant jump. Be sure to strike a good balance between price and volume flexibility.

Don't commit right away

Many hosts will quote you a monthly fee, but bill in larger increments. You could sign on for a month, and find yourself promptly billed for a year's service. Ask about the billing period, and initially sign on for a small service term (60-90 days). If you're happy with the service after this trial period, extend the term.

Treat your Web host like you would treat any other supplier for your business. If they can't provide the service and reliability you need, why keep them? Their competitors will be happy to have your business.

Of course the service you will get from a host is important. But you should do some extra digging if you are to feel secure with your new host:

Master your apps

While a standard host with a large amount of disk space and a few fast machines is adequate for static HTML pages, certain sites will make greater demands on the host's CPU and will consequently run slower - and slow down every other site on the server as well. Streaming video and audio, discussion forums and message boards, online surveys, and high-level animation all require huge amounts of memory and fast access to the main server. If you can't afford a dedicated or colocated server, at least find one that has experience in integrating these more complex elements.

Don't be OS-tracized

Trying to put square pegs in round holes is ultimately futile, so let your applications be your guide. Don't assume that you need to use Windows NT to run your site with Frontpage extensions. Many applications created for Windows NT will actually be more efficient if they are rewritten for a UNIX environment. Don't worry about figuring this out yourself, but bear in mind that a host who offers both Windows NT and UNIX will be more flexible.

Don't make leaps of faith with your data

You probably have backups of your HTML data, as you created them locally and uploaded them to your host's server. But what about the other files? User logs, product databases, order tracking logs, server-side scripts, etc., probably only exist on your host's drives and could be lost in the event of a failure. Request the ability to back up these files.

Be master of your domain
Query the Whois database (www.whois.net) to ensure that your company is both the administrative and technical contact for your domain. If your host is listed as both of these contacts, it is the registrant of the domain, not you. Unless you are the registrant, your domain could be held for ransom if there is a dispute between you and your host.

Dealing with user complaints
Many hosts have a zero-tolerance policy with regard to spam and pornography, and don't always subject customer complaints to the proper scrutiny. As such, a customer complaint, regardless of its validity, could cause the plug to be unceremoniously pulled on your business. Find out what recourses are open to you, and if the terms are not acceptable, find another provider. Make sure your interests are protected as well as the host's.

Check references
You wouldn't hire a CTO without checking his or her references, would you? But that's what you'll be doing if you don't do a bit of digging before handing over your site to a host. Ask for a list of Webmasters who run similar sites off the host's server. Call them. E-mail them. Write them. If your host is unwilling to give you this list, go elsewhere.

Read their diary
There's nothing wrong with doing a little snooping to find out what type of people you are committing your property to. Query the Whois database and find the business address of the server. Use a tracing program to view the path to the machine in the Whois database. If another ISP's server pops up, chances are you're dealing with a reseller rather than an actual host. Check out the other sites on their server. If most of them are spam sites, banner click-through pages or porn sites, being associated with them could have a negative impact on your business.

Listen to other Webmasters
There are ways to discover what other professionals are saying about your host. Try the alt.www.webmasters newsgroup, and post the list about your potential host. It is a little time-consuming, but the investment is well worth it.

Accolades are meaningless
Ratings by various hosting "associations" are meaningless. While many members of the Web Hosting Guild are highly regarded companies, some are held in very low esteem by Webmasters. Ratings and awards can also be outdated, and might not reflect a host's current state of service.

Read the fine print
Make sure the terms and conditions of your service agreement are clear. Have a business lawyer review your contract before you sign. Carefully evaluate clauses that relate to copyright ownership, complaint protocol, fee renewals, and notification procedures regarding renewal or service discontinuation.

The bottom line is that you need a host to succeed in today's eCommerce world. But keep in mind that this still a world in its infancy, and is continually reinventing itself to suit the ever-changing face of eBusiness. As in any other market, you should expect constant change, improvement, and the occasional leap in performance or cost-effectiveness. As such, you must always be vigilant, and constantly evaluate the service you're getting, and what it's costing you. Remember, it takes years to build a reputation for your business and brand, and only two seconds to lose it.

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PSW Fits the Bill [1st February 03]

In the mid-90s the Internet boom brought with it a surge in the growth of information technology companies eager to take advantage of increased demand and huge revenue opportunities online. But, it wasn’t primarily demand in the market that prompted John Lombardi to build a billing solutions and payment company. “For us it wasn’t so much the demand; we knew we could make money doing it. It was a question of doing business a little different.”

In 1996 Lombardi launched PSW Billing Solutions, a billing solutions and real-time credit card processing company focused on providing user-friendly solutions - stable, smart and secure - to Webmasters, particularly those in the ‘subscription-based’ arena. Having been a ‘subscription-based’ Webmaster himself, Lombardi is familiar with the issues that many of them face.

One issue he discusses is database ownership. “One of the big things with me as a Webmaster was if I was with a billing company and wanted my database back because I wanted to change from one billing company to another - I didn’t want headaches. I didn’t want somebody saying we’ll give you your database in two to three weeks or your database is our property because we do the billing. I feel that if you’re a Webmaster and you’re with us and you’re not happy and you want your database - here it is, it is 100 percent your property.”

In addition to offering no set-up fees - another issue that Lombardi found was top of mind for many Webmasters - PSW Billing Solutions pays clients on a weekly basis. Lombardi explains, “At the time, many billing companies were paying out every three to four weeks, whenever they felt like it. But I know how tough it can be with cash flow as a Webmaster, especially if you’re paying affiliates, so one of the first things we did was to make sure we paid companies on a weekly basis.”

The key to the company’s success in this area was to develop a system that was flexible. Lombardi explains, “We didn’t lock ourselves into a particular software. We created this primarily for the ‘subscription-based’ business and made it flexible so that once we started to expand the only thing we would do is add features that would help the Webmaster. That’s why people love it.”

Since launching in 1996, PSW Billing Solutions has experienced significant growth. With four offices in the US – one in Detroit, Virginia, Rhode Island and the Florida Keys, approximately 60 percent of the company’s business is in the US. The remaining 40 percent is with international clients. “We’re probably one of the biggest billing companies in Russia,” says Lombardi. They also have clients in other countries including China and Japan. “We’re pretty much all over the world.”

PSW Billing Solution’s success in the international market is largely attributed to its customer service, which has enabled it to keep its charge backs low. The company has built a system that enables customers to easily retrieve their password if they lose it, “so they don’t get frustrated” and cancel their subscription.

The company also develops customized order forms for its clients at no charge, which Lombardi says increases their clients’ conversion rates. Because the order form looks like the site, customers feel as though they are still on the site and “not leaving to go to Joe Blow’s service.” In fact, the company has even translated order forms into the language of the client’s site. “It costs me money but I’m not going to charge the client. We’ll take care of them across the board…and do everything we can to get them up and running.”

Lombardi also points out that they have first class management system that enables Webmasters to see accounts in real-time, add passwords, see their members’ information, and extend memberships. “Lets say you are a Webmaster with five different web sites. You can break down each web site by daily transaction, transaction details – if you want to search for a client, you can search anyway you want – by e-mail address, IP address, first or last name, credit card number…”

But, Lombardi believes it’s the company’s customer service that sets it apart from competitors like iBill and CCBill. Clients “have the ability to actually talk to a programmer, or a graphics person or even our accountant,” explains Lombardi. “We’re really flexible, we will help them set-up, and deal with any issues they have.”

As far as ‘subscription-based’ businesses go, Lombardi believes that it will be a time where bad sites will disappear and larger, niche clients will be doing their own content. It’s going to be a shakeout that will leave the good Webmasters. “Webmasters have to go back to quality,” explains Lombardi. “You can’t just buy content in can and put that content on a site, have twenty different doors to the site and then have identical content behind each door. Webmasters will need to do constant updates, really pay attention to their members and retain them for as long as possible.”

With an approach to business that is ‘different’ and based on years of experience, PSW Billing Solutions is poised for success in the ever–expanding ‘subscription-based’ arena. “We’re growing, have unlimited credit and will always maintain our customer service and the way we run our business. Size is not going to make us forget why we started this company.”


Igniting the Managed Hosting Market [1st February 03]
Robert Offley, President and CEO of Fusepoint, tells how his company is lighting up the hosting scene.
TH: Fusepoint recently launched a world-class IDC in the Greater Toronto Area in September. Obviously the business of managed hosting is going well. Tell us about your recent successes.

RO: We’re pleased about our ongoing successes in 2002. In eight months, we’ve:

introduced our new brand – Fusepoint Managed Services
expanded across Canada to open our new 85,000 sq. ft. data centre in the Greater Toronto area
introduced new bundled managed solutions to our customers, in addition to our existing customized solutions
introduced our Easy Transfer program which enables businesses to transfer their IT support services from struggling telco providers
added 40 customers to our ever-growing customer base
And, our momentum is particularly evident in our 135 per cent growth of our Toronto team in the past three months. More importantly, we expect to continue this momentum as we deepen our presence in the Canadian market.

TH: Do you anticipate solid growth in the managed hosting sector as the analysts predict? What factors are responsible for this?

RO: We are very pleased with the growth that we’ve experienced in the past eight months, and we expect this momentum to continue. I’ve personally been involved in the managed hosting market in the UK, Continental Europe and Canada for close to 10 years. Taking my experience abroad, I believe that Fusepoint is uniquely positioned to service Canada’s mid- to large-market -- and analysts agree.


On The Line With Joel Kocher [1st February 03]

TH: Are there more acquisitions in store for Interland? What things are an absolute must to be considered worthy of an Interland takeover?

JK: We believe the hosting industry will continue to consolidate, both through acquisition and failures. The key to survival and success in this business is scale, which drives profitability. So it makes sense for Interland to take advantage of current industry conditions to acquire more scale quickly. However, we’re not interested in a growth-at-any-cost, roll-up scenario. We look specifically for business that fits our model and will integrate well into our business. So a perfect acquisition target for us is a hosting company that targets small and medium business customers, is well run and efficient, and delivers great customer service.

TH: The fact that you can make these acquisitions so frequently, what does that say about the state of the industry right now?

JK: The state of the industry, in the wake of the dot-com meltdown, has certainly created an opportunity for a well-capitalized player to be a consolidator. Right now, it is more economical to acquire customers through acquisition than through marketing. That will not always be the case, so even while we are taking advantage of the opportunities available right now, we are developing a longer-term organic growth strategy.


The Big Picture [1st February 03]

NetNation, the global hosting provider, has hit the profitability target for the last six quarters — consecutively. Dale Bunten, NetNation's Sales and Marketing Manager provides some insights on this and gives us the wide angle on the hosting scene.
TH: How has the landscape of hosting been changed? I ask this in light of financial difficulties by some of the best known hosts in the business…WorldCom, Digex, Genuity to name a few. Has NetNation benefited from some of the fallout? What are some concerns customers have expressed to NetNation regarding bankruptcies?

NN: Firstly, I’ll state that this is based on my professional opinion. As NetNation policy, we do not comment on forward-looking issues, so any forward-looking comments on trends and such are my own.

The landscape has shifted from one of many new entrants, to consolidation. I believe the shakeout will continue for a while, since, unlike NetNation, many providers have yet to achieve profitability. Even though we are seeing many companies going out of business, I still see excess capacity in the market, which will tend to drive prices down and force still more companies to exit the industry.

NetNation has seen an increase in business from orphaned customers, but not to a huge degree.

We have noticed recently that customers tend to be much more cautious, and ask many questions about financial stability and industry experience. From my experience, many customers have been burned badly and have every right to ask tough questions.

TH: Industry analysts say that in looking for a host you should choose providers who have six- to twelve-month cash reserves and target dates for reaching profitability. Is this fair? Where does NetNation fit in this scheme?

NN: Of course, it’s critical that the company you choose to host your web site be financially viable. However, this information can be difficult to obtain if the company isn’t publicly traded. Customers should perform due diligence when choosing a hosting provider because the last thing they need is for their web site to go down with no notice. I have personally dealt with many customers who have been left with no web site and no back up at other hosts; it’s a frightening place to be. If customers have concerns about the stability of their hosting provider, they should at the very minimum back up their site files and have a contingency plan to minimize downtime in the event that their provider goes under.

Fortunately for NetNation, we are publicly traded, profitable and have solid cash reserves. Our financial situation is public for all to see. As a public company, customers can review our financial statements on our web site at http://www.netnation.com/company/financials.cfm/

TH: Some market reports indicate that managed and professional services will continue to grow steadily while the co-location and shared hosting segments will see lethargic growth. What is your take on this?

NN: Managed and professional services will almost certainly out-pace growth for shared hosting and co-location, simply because it is an emerging service and the overall number of companies using this service is currently relatively small. As more companies begin to use managed services, it’s natural that we’ll see impressive industry growth stats.

That said, shared hosting still has a lot of potential. Despite the growth of the Internet, almost half the small and medium-sized enterprises in North America still do not have an online presence. I believe it’s only a matter of time before these businesses realize they need an online presence –even at the most basic level. I see an opportunity for the market to double.

Co-location is a different story. These customers were the early adopters of hosting. They tend to have a high degree of expertise and can typically configure and manage their own servers.


Security: Just Do It [1st February 03]

Dr. Bill Hancock, Chief Security Officer and VP of Security at Exodus, longs to get back into the networking field. He has one major drawback. The security business is too good.

Hancock says that while security is complex, customers require a lot of help and Cable & Wireless with its "extensive global reach and deep expertise" is able to provide a myriad of needs. For those not totally convinced, Hancock alludes to the fact that C & W is its own largest customer, in that it manages more than 2,000 firewalls internally.

Having one of the world’s largest and fastest data networks, available in approximately 80 countries worldwide, speaks volumes as well. Also, Cable & Wireless by virtue of acquiring Digital Island in July 2001, PSINet Japan in January 2002 and the business assets of Exodus in February 2002, is now the largest hosting provider in the world. And the company's managed hosting operation, which includes a strong security component, is poised for further growth.


Taking Hosting from Wall Street to Main Street [1st February 03]

Intelligent management and intelligent hosting solutions are two key elements responsible for turning the tides for Savvis Communications.

Shaking the bankruptcy bug in 2001, the management team of Savvis stayed committed to the business plan and ploughed on full steam ahead. True, the global network provider whose network spans 112 cities in 48 countries, thankfully accepted US$ 158.1 million in equity funding from investment firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe in March 2002. But growing the customer base in its IP VPN and Managed Hosting operations by 247 per cent in 2001 amid the turmoil, showed tremendous poise and resilience in the management team.


Package Deal [1st February 03]

In just over three years, Omnis Network has established itself as a leader in shared hosting, serving over 20,000 customers across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Omnis’ customer base represents a particular demographic: it is comprised mainly of individuals hosting “mom and pop type sites,” as President, Dustin Bomar describes it. This type of hosting clientele does not require huge amounts of bandwidth, sophisticated features or a dedicated server. What these customers invariably look for in a provider is efficient customer service and affordable pricing.

Omnis’ mission is to deliver on these requirements. From the beginning, “We wanted to provide customers with a lower cost (shared) hosting solution,” says Bomar.


Keys to Small Business Hosting [1st February 03]

Finding the right web host can be a tricky proposition for small and medium sized businesses.

Just ask Campbell Evans, Principal of Key Personnel Staffing Services in Vancouver, B.C. In search of the right fit, his staffing agency has gone through three different web hosting providers in the last three years.


Hosting Goes Solar [1st February 03]

For the would-be Web host, power is an essential consideration. Servers and routers consume an enormous amount of energy, and electrical bills are a major part of most hosting companies' overhead. In fact, hosting companies place such heavy demands on their power suppliers that the hosting industry is the principal consumer of electricity in California's Silicon Valley, a region that has recently been plagued with erratic and extremely costly brownouts.


Special Report on the Hostpro and Interland Merger [1st February 03]

As the hosting market moves toward consolidation, mergers and acquisitions have begun to redefine the nature of the industry. However, the most significant merger so far may be that of Hostpro and Interland, which announced their definitive merger agreement on March 23. The merger will close in the summer of 2001.

By uniting the Micron web-hosting subsidiary HostPro with Interland, Micron will reinforce its leading position in the hosting industry. The company resulting from the merger will be named Interland, and will be based in Atlanta, Georgia. The company's resources currently include six data centers, 112,000 customers, and more than 227,000 paid hosted Web sites.


Is Your Site Suffering From Dead Links? [1st February 03]

Do you know how many dead links are plaguing your Web site right now? If not, what you don't know, may be hurting your online business. My own Web site has been online since 1996, but I had no idea just how many dead links it contained until I received a few "dead-link complaints" via email. I decided to take stock of the black holes my site was linking to by running a systematic link check. Much to my surprise, I found that my site had a severe case of link rot!

Link Checking Software

Software solutions are ideal for larger sites and they allow you to perform the link checks through your own computer. I tried a number of programs like this and each one did the job effectively.

Create a Safety Net for Internal Links

One last tip I recommend is to add a customized error page to your site. No matter how well you maintain your internal links, there will always be surfers who enter an URL incorrectly and get the dreaded 404 error page. You can keep your visitors from getting that ugly error message by simply creating a customized error page. In a nutshell, it is the same as creating any other Web page. Just create a page that tells your visitors they are a little lost and invite them to click a link to your home page. For an example of an effective custom error page, go to this bogus Web page at my Web site: http://www.bizweb2000.com/asdf.

It is simple to create a similar page for your site. Create a custom page, and then contact your Web host and they'll tell you exactly how make it work on your server!

Remember, dead links will compromise your Web site visitors' experience severely. Visitors may even click away from your site never to return. Take your Web site maintenance seriously if you want your site to be taken seriously!

Article by Jim Daniels of http://www.bizWeb2000.com Jim's been making a living online from the comfort of home since 1996. If you're interested in making your living online, Jim's site contains every shred of information you need to make it happen.


Wireless Manufacturers Walk the Talk [1st February 03]

The looming recession has caused many financial movers and shakers to proceed with great caution, and not even regular interest rate cuts have been able to prop up the slumping North American economy. Nevertheless, WAP and smart phone providers are continuing to launch new product platforms - completely immune, it seems, to the somber fiscal realities of the world market.

Handspring, Inc. has recently introduced Visor Edge, a handheld computer that brings portability and flexibility to the Visor family of expandable handheld computers. Visor Edge is Handspring's first slim-design handheld, combining a lightweight metal casing with the optional expandability of the Springboard platform. The company has also introduced a new graphite color version of its Visor Platinum.


Microsoft Hopes Hailstorm Creates Firestorm [23rd January 03]

Recently, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates unveiled the latest cornerstone of the software company's Internet compatible technologies. Dubbed the Microsoft .NET strategy or "Hailstorm" to most in the industry, the series of Web services should allow for easier and assimilated work among Web developers on the Internet. "Hailstorm is a key milestone to deliver on the Microsoft mission to empower people through great software, any time, any place and on any device." Gates at the opening. Gates also said Hailstorm empowers the individual user. Obviously, the effect on the hosting industry remains to be seen, but studying Hailstorm should provide some answers.

For example, if someone presently decides to book an online travel reservation, they essentially have to go to the Web site, fill out various bits of information and execute it themselves. With Hailstorm, and with the user's permission of course, the travel service meets the needs of the user by looking at the user's calendar to see what dates are suitable to them. "Any solution using Hailstorm...enable management of basic elements of a user's digital experience -- such as calendar, location and profile information, saving the user from re-entry or redundancy...."

Although some people might still be skeptical about software in which companies can access personal information from your own computer, the user has ultimate control as to who is given such information. According to Bob Muglia, Microsoft's vice-president of the .NET Services Group, Hailstorm's basic premise is to give the user the power to decide whom or what is privy to their personal information. The Code of Fair Information Practices is also the blueprint for maintaining privacy standards. The effect Hailstorm should have on the hosting industry is varied. Some hosts may feel that the assimilating software will infringe on potential business and thereby render some of their current hosting options meaningless. But the overall effect should be a positive one for the hosting industry. Hailstorm in effect places everyone on the same level playing field with its universality. So new innovations, designs and strategies are needed to maximize the most for both hosts and users, which should provide the next wave of superior hosts and providers. There should be a hailstorm of upcoming activity from Microsoft's newest creation.


New.net Says I-CANN, Too. [23rd January 03]

On March 5, New.net, a small Pasadena-based start-up, announced that it would be offering 20 new domain names, including .shop, .game, .chat, and .xxx - without the approval of ICANN, the Internet's chief regulatory body.New.net hopes that its aggressive move will meet the massive demand for new TLDs ... a market that has so far been fed by the fact that there are only three top-level domains (.net, .com, and .org) available for registration. In September, ICANN promised to release seven new TLDs, but then retracted the promise earlier this month. Now, there are rumors that, in yet another change of heart, ICANN is about to reinstate the new domain names. Dr. Vint Cerf, chairman of ICANN, denies that the threat of New.net's domain names have anything to do with this most recent flip-flop.


Putting the Focus on Bandwidth [23rd January 03]

Business websites are no longer single page billboards that list basic company information. Businesses are taking their Web presence seriously, and are launching fully comprehensive sites. But with the increased functionality of sites come new concerns - one of which is a higher demand on bandwidth. For larger sites that incorporate high-resolution graphics, flash animation, multiple pages, and other larger file, bandwidth is something is an essential consideration. But what exactly is bandwidth? Webopedia.com has this to say:

"The amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed period of time. For digital devices, bandwidth is usually expressed in bits per second (bps) or bytes per second. For analog devices, bandwidth is expressed in cycles per second, or Hertz (Hz)"


UK Infrastructure Has Backbone [23rd January 03]

As people around the world make their first ventures online, the backbone infrastructure that sustains the entire medium is being put to the test. An Internet infrastructure, which consists of high-speed connections, routers, and peering arrangements with other ISPs, is not an island unto itself.

While individual countries may experience varying degrees of cyberspace gridlock, their infrastructures are like strands of wool woven into a single giant structure. In other words, weak strands can damage the fabric as a whole. However, one local backbone that appears well suited to the needs of e-commerce is that in Britain - and many hosting companies are eager to claim a piece of this vital new market.


Building A Good Web Development Team [23rd January 03]

An Affiliate for Virtualis Systems, Inc., a leading Web host and provider of Web site management tools

Whether it is used as a marketing tool or as an eCommerce business, Web sites are more than just an addition to the corporate presence. They are a necessity. In many instances, a site can make-or-break a company's image, especially concerning eCommerce businesses. Visitors want simple, yet interesting sites with appealing graphics and user interaction. However, if the design is too busy or its pages take too long to download, you will lose potential clients. In other words, you have to be aware of what the public expects from your Web site.


Spotlight on PHP [23rd January 03]

Like so many things, it started out as something small. In 1994, a Toronto-based consultant named Rasmus Lerdorf developed a small hack to help Web designers. It was a simple little program that allowed the user to place a macro in static HTML code. Lerdorf decided to follow the new trend of open source, and the program proved to be popular.


ColdFusion Developer's Guide - Part I: What is ColdFusion? [23rd January 03]

When it comes to development platforms, Web app designers have lots of options. Of these, one of the most comprehensive is Allaire's popular ColdFusion, an integrated platform for designing and hosting Web applications. Currently in version 4.5.2, ColdFusion features its own markup language, CFML, and offers full support for both Unix and Enterprise-scale applications.

There are three editions of ColdFusion, which allows businesses to select the platform best suited to their needs. For large businesses that require complicated Internet applications and increased scalability, there is the Enterprise edition. On the other hand, the Professional edition is ideal for smaller companies that require less advanced applications. Finally, small companies that need simple but dynamic Web applications can use the Express edition, which is essentially bare-bones ColdFusion. ColdFusion contains several components. Perhaps the most important of these is the ColdFusion Server. This is the part of the platform that processes application pages, and returns HTML pages to clients. It also takes care of the administrative aspects of the application once it has been designed, using a Web application named the Administrator.

Another vital part of the package is ColdFusion Studio, which is tightly integrated with Server; Studio provides all of the developer's programming tools. The advanced editor is compatible with Java, HTML, WML, XML and CFML, and the visual database tools allow integration with Oracle and SQL databases. Studio handles advanced project management, allowing developers to deliver their product to several servers at the same time via HTTP or FTP, and also allows developers to remotely access other projects via HTTP.

What Allaire has done is to create an integrated platform that takes care of all aspects of Web hosting - from the creation of the application to the administration of the site. A Web developer no longer has to acquire several different programs to work on e-commerce projects, but can do it all from a single platform. This gives ColdFusion an edge that other Web development tools lack, and it will likely remain a favorite tool for years to come.



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