Benefits of a web site.

When you’re searching through the Internet you will find endless amounts of information, about everything, and all at your fingertips. The Internet is the largest source of knowledge in the world. Why is this? Because anyone can get their information on there. All you need is a web site and a resource generous web hosting company.

Many people think that getting their website on the Internet is an expensive venture, fortunately though, this need not necessarily be true; if you find the right web host, the benefits of having a web site will definitely outweigh the costs.

There are many different ways to benefit from having a web site, whether it is for personal gain, or to aid your business success. Those who have their own personal websites generally use them to further an interest or a hobby; having a web site is a great way to share and exchange knowledge with others. Businesses on the other hand use a website to promote and market their goods and services, while cutting back on such expenses as postage, couriers and advertising, etc.

These are but a few key benefits of owning a website:

Increased awareness of products and services – Businesses can now greatly expand their markets, no need to constrain the focus to only the local scene, but by using the Internet, businesses can venture into international and regional markets, with greater ease. This dynamically changes the nature and the marketing activities of some businesses, possibly encouraging the business to expand the diversity of its products and services, to meet these new markets. Websites, in their nature, allow hundreds and thousands of items to be on view 24/7; thus encouraging wider viewing, and extended trading hours.

Freedom – With the freedom of being able to post your information on your website, hence on the Internet, at any time of the day; available information of all variations is increasing at a huge rate. The freedom to browse anywhere and interact with anyone is enough to tempt the smallest of businesses and the most introverted of people to get on the Net; hence Net users are increasing in numbers, at an alarming rate, approximately 50,000 per day. Businesses are buzzing on the Net, they have found a way to compete on an even field, with even the largest of corporations; and within a daily increasing customer marketplace.

Cost advantage – Net businesses are extremely aware of how they can profit by being on the Internet; they can advertise their products and services without the huge costs, and delays of printing, publishing and distribution. The market is a global one, which adds greater value to the costs outlaid for promotion and marketing; compared to the limits of offline. Ecommerce facilities can be incorporated into the website, transforming 2D screen visuals into user reactive models, for example, consumers can order their products and services online, greatly reducing administration expenses. Reduction of telephone calls to potential customers; follow ups by email; newsletters digitally made, promoted by email or downloadable from the website, with reduction of distribution costs; less promotional material sent out, printed and wasted; extended trading hours without a human presence; are just a few ways to cut costs.

The current opinion is that any business not on the Internet now or in the near future is not only missing out on the rewards of this new and vibrant industry, but is adding itself to the list of “the forgotten”.

Don’t waste time scratching your head wondering what the Internet can do to benefit your business, you will be left behind; instead, think about how you can take advantage of this new and cheap form of industry awareness. Look for a web designer, or web developer, get a quote, and tell them what you need.

Written by Candice Humbley

Free hosting – is it charity?

Free hosting – is it charity?

“Free hosting” is most of the time offered in exchange for placing advertising on your website, meaning that the host will automatically place an advertisement at the top and sometimes at the bottom of every page of your website. Sometimes they don’t use banners they use pop-ups.

No matter what they ask you to do in exchange for free hosting, you have to do something in exchange, so you’re not being offered free hosting! It’s just a barter. They give you hosting in exchange for placing ads on your website. They call it free because you don’t give them any money, but you do pay for it.

They claim and even convince you that they’re doing you a favor: they give you free hosting. They know that if you think the service is free you’ll not complain for downtime, unresponsive support teams. But you’re not getting it for free!

Now, even if they would offer it for free, the service should be at least acceptable. But it usually isn’t. If one offers free lunch for the poor, that food must not be rotten. It’s just common sense!

What these free hosting services always seem to forget to mention is the fact that they’re not charities. They’re businesses and they’re always looking for ways to make a profit.

I find it deceiving that they use the word “free” when the right name for it should be “barter hosting” or “trade hosting” or “ad-funded hosting”. But, as strange as it might sound, the world doesn’t revolve around me , so the so called free hosting will remain “free hosting”. Too many people in the hosting industry use this term and too many regular people look for “free hosting” for it to go away.

Common problems with free hosting

It should not be a surprise that free hosting is not as good as paid hosting. The problems that are common in the paid hosting section of the hosting industry are almost a rule in the world of free hosting. Timely support is almost out of the question with most free hosts. Excessive downtime and slow servers are almost the norm rather than just common problems.

That isn’t to say that free web hosting can’t be acceptable in terms of quality. There are some companies that offer reliable free web hosting. Don’t get me wrong, reliable here doesn’t mean paid-hosting-reliable, it means reliable according to the free hosting standards (whatever that means) .

Free hosting without the ads

Yes, you can find free hosting that doesn’t require the placement of ads on your pages. That doesn’t mean the company isn’t there to make a profit! The free account will give you only a small amount of bandwidth and space. What the hosting company does is give you free hosting while you’re starting your website/business and/or your needs are low.

They figure (bet) that you’ll go for their paid version (most free hosts have paid plans too), as soon as your website will outgrow it’s account in terms of bandwidth and/or space. Sure, you’re getting a free start, but the host gives you well below $1/month worth of resources, so they’re not giving you much.

Some free hosts allow only the use of subdomains or directories, which means that your website’s URL will look something like this: yourwebsite.yourhost.com or www.yourhost.com/yourwebsite. That means that if you move your website you’ll lose all those hard earned links that point at it, people will send you emails that you’ll never read etc. You are stuck with that host!

What’s in it for the host in this case? Well, the host gets brand awareness because it gets to be published in the myriad of free hosting directories. Also it gets it’s name in your URL and in the URL of lots of other websites. Branding again! Also, if the service is at least acceptable it will get a good reputation, which often is worth more than pure gold. All those ultimately mean more business for their business .

It happened and it still does, that some hosts start their business with a great “free hosting” offer. Their name soon gets published all over the Internet. After a while (usually a year or more) the company stops offering free hosting. Some of their “free” clients will agree to become paying customers, while others will decide to see their work vanish into oblivion, but not pay. By that time though, the host gains immense brand awareness. It might also get quite a few clients as soon as they turn into a paid host because of those clients that were hosted for free and decide to pay to keep their websites up and running.

Unlimited bandwidth/space?

Unlimited space/hosting are a no-no in the paid hosting arena. In the free hosting arena it’s even worse. It basically spells out that the servers will be overcrowded. Although you might like the idea of having as much space and data transfer as you need, please resist the temptation. Unlimited space/bandwidth is an illusion. It’s like when you’re seeing water in the middle of the desert. A mirage. You are promised, but you will not receive.

Secret backdoor to quality free hosting

Actually it’s not that secret, just not widely known. As I said in the beginning of this article, free hosting is most of the time nothing more than a barter.

Now here’s the idea: why settle for lousy “free hosting” when you can barter for quality hosting instead? All you need to do is find a few good paid hosting companies and then ask for hosting in exchange for placing ads on your website.

Your greatest advantage is that you’ll be able to make those ads fit your website perfectly. They will not be automatically added to your pages at the top or bottom. You’ll have complete control over your website’s design.

Sure, you’ll have to negotiate where to place those ads. It’s normal for the host to ask for the ads to be placed so that they’ll get high chances to be noticed by your website’s visitors. As long as they don’t ask for a big banner to be placed on your pages I don’t see a serious problem. I would suggest you though to go for a text ad. It’s usually much easier to make a text ad blend-in nicely so that it doesn’t scream “I’m an ad!”.

This solution for getting great hosting without giving money out of your pocket is not for all websites though. First, the hosting company will want a suited audience. Targeting the right audience will bring them the best results in terms of sales volume.

So your website’s audience should have a rather high interest in buying hosting. Web programmers, web designers, webmasters, search engine optimization specialists and web business owners are among those who might be interested in hosting offers. If your website attracts such people, you have significantly better chances to trade ads in exchange for hosting.

One thing to notice is that your chances to barter for hosting are considerably smaller if you’re just launching your website. That’s because you can’t get something for nothing. If you offer advertising and have no audience you’re basically offering potential audience and ask for hosting in exchange. The only chance you’ve got is to convince the host that your site has great potential. That you have a good plan to get visitors.

You might think that if it’s just starting your website will not consume lots of resources. After all, the activity is near zero. However there is more to hosting than just that. You will need some support, which costs the host quite a lot.

One thing to notice is that hosts will prefer to barter hosting with text based websites. Websites offering big files for download are not likely to be accepted.

Conclusions

Free hosting is not free – at least in the form in which it exists on the internet today. I have yet to find a free host that is a real charity. As strange as it might sound, look out for free hosts that seem to be completely free (charity-like). A host must have funding! Ask them how do they cover or plan to cover their costs. Is there a foundation behind that host? It’s highly unlikely, but who knows!

All hosts have to pay for the servers, bandwidth and staff. If they don’t have a good plan to cover the costs, the future for them is grim and services will soon degrade due to under funding.

The best option if you don’t want to spend money for hosting is to barter for it with a respected, serious, honest web host. But don’t ever trick yourself into thinking that you’re getting something for nothing. Ads are a form of payment so you’re payin’.

Comparing servers

Almost 70% of sites on the internet are served by Apache, a completely Open Source, free web server. Quite an achievement for open source software, especially considering Microsoft’s share is less than 20%

There are other web servers of course, which all provide various other features… I considered quite a few alternatives when building this new server, all of course are Open Source.

The Apache Servers
The biggest, and arguably still the best, web server is Apache which is now available in two variants – Apache 1.3 and Apache 2.0, both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Apache 1.3
A long running, well established, and stable web server that is considered pretty much the standard now.

I have always used apache, for all of my previous sites and servers, and have now come to understand most of it’s configuration very well. Also, Apache 1.3 is still considered the most stable platform for PHP, and it’s VirtualHost support and the power of .htaccess files for site and even directory specific configuration make it an excellent server for shared hosting.

Apache is the default web server on most Linux distributions, Including my new distro of choice – Debian. This would make it wonderfully simple to install (i.e. do nothing, it’s already there) and also I could simply copy across all the old config files and, in theory, they’ll work.

On the downside, Apache 1.3 is now showing it’s age, and is surely soon to be discontinued now that Apache 2.0 is stable. Therefore, I have decided not to continue to use Apache 1.3.X on my servers.

At present this server is running Apache 1.3, despite what’s said above… explained later

Apache 2.0
Apache 2.0 complete rewrite of Apache, only recently considered stable enough for production use, destined to replace the Apache 1.3.X server through time.

At the time of writing, the latest version is 2.0.48, which is their 11th Public Release. I have found Apache 2.0 to be completely stable, even with PHP 4.3x, despite the various bugs that have been reported at times with that combination.

Obviously, having PHP is of the utmost importance to me, considering this whole site (and every other one i’ve built!) uses it.

Debian doesn’t have a package yet for PHP for Apache 2, although Apache 2 itself is there.. I have found a third-party package that provides php4 as a module for Apache 2.0 in Debian, which works great!

Apache 2.0 uses completely different configuration files, which I must admit I prefer, which are close enough to the Apache 1.3 ones that it’s not difficult to migrate or to learn to use the new configs.

I had decided to use Apache 2.0 as the primary web server on this server, but it’s now changed back to 1.3.X… explained later!

Caudium (Roxen)
Caudium is a completely Open Source web server based on Roxen, with a few unique and very powerful features. I like this server, but it’s very different from Apache, and indeed any other web server, It’s mainly configured from a web interface, allowing virtual sites to be set up easily.

Where Caudium is truly unique is in it’s modules. There are modules for almost everything including the nice tag which renders text graphically (as a PNG), there are also tags for generating ‘business’ graphics (charts, graphs etc…) and for image manipulation. The RXML markup even supports if / then / else statements and even SQL queries.

There is even a photo gallery modules which, with one tag, will look through a folder of images and generate clickable thumbnails and prev/next links. For rapid development of dynamic site (including nice headings, and tab-based navigation) there is no better platform, It’s easy to learn, fast and powerful

However, Caudium cannot handle the same load as Apache, it isn’t as efficient, particularly when it comes to running PHP within pages. And I don’t want to be developing sites which require a specific web server, it seems to defeat the purpose of everything following standards, I can take this site and deploy it on any server so long as it supports PHP4, if I used the extra tags offered by Roxen/Caudium, this wouldn’t be possible.

Caudium is installed on this server, mainly as a development environment which I also occasionally use for generating images, which I then save as static files and can include them in pages served by the standard Apache 2.0 server. It also enables me to host sites that require Caudium for others

thttpd
thttpd is used by several big names including Demon Internet and Global Internet, it’s also used by mtv.com and a couple of the leading banner ad companies.

thttpd also includes a couple of unique features not found in any other web server (at least without extra modules) including URL-based Traffic Throttling.

Where thttpd really excels, is in it’s speed and load it can take before slowing down or dropping connections. It’s also incredibly efficient in it’s use of system resources, which is always a good thing.

thttpd is only around 400k (as opposed to Apache which is nearer 6Mb) and has only 7,230 lines of source code. It is incredibly secure, fast, and can handle 720 requests per second (for small files) as opposed to around 300 with Apache. Additionally thttpd is considered very secure.

So why ain’t I using it?, Firstly it’s not ideal for PHP-based sites, Apache and even Caudium have much better support for PHP and are more flexible. Besides, the upstream on this server could never serve 1000 simultaneous connections, so although I can understand why Demon need something this scalable on their web servers, I dont.

Notes on Apache 2.0
I say above that I like, and use, Apache 2.0 yet this site uses Apache 1.3. Why? The aforementioned third-party module provides PHP support, but not MySQL support. I will not compile it myself, because it confuses Debian’s package manager. So until Debian releases a php4 module for Apache 2 in the official sources, I’m sticking to 1.3…

I will, of course, move as soon as that module appears!

Points to know a good Web-Hosts

Points to know a good Web-Hosts

Here are a few things I consider a good web-host to have. Also if you are considering starting a web-host these are some points you should breeze through.

•Professional Layout – It is very important for a web-host to have a great and easily navigable layout.
•Support emails – This along with a help desk system is a must
•Response time – This is one of the most decisive factors in choosing your Web-Host. I believe a good response time is anything between 4 hours, if its later then that I would not consider purchasing anything from them
•Live Chat – This handy tool can help you bring immediate sales if you know how to use it. But Web-Hosts having ‘Live-Help offline’ for most of the time would also not be in my To-Buy list
•PageRank – No matter how good the site is, if it doesn’t have a PageRank greater than 3, I’d just hit it close.
•Language – The overall language used on the site would spell its level of professionalism to me.
•Testimonials – Really essential to convince future buyers and also if I saw a testimonial of a site I visit, I would definitely consider this host. Another instant sale method!

I consider these are the general essentialities a good Web-Host should have. However there are many other nitty-gritty techniques to boost your sales in addition to the above.

I hope you may have enjoyed reading my post and it helped you choosing YOUR host 😉

What is the use of a web site.

Websites are a waste of money and time.

Well most of them are. Most people go online for just one reason– Get Information. Yet, what do you see at most websites? Portfolio! See the problem? If you stop and think, this is not a website problem. It’s a communication problem, which is why most advertising fails. The customer wants information and help and most communication fails to do that. They load you with portfolio and with information about the company. It’s all about me, me, me.

This primary reason causes more than 90% of all websites to be inefficient, useless and a waste of time. It is also the prime reason why not many people make money off their website. If you start talking about YOU, no one is interested. To give out credible, useful information is the prime function of every communication piece. If almost everything on your website doesn’t answer the question What’s in it for me?, it’s definitely not worth the time of the customer.

What A Good Websites Does

1)It gives information, and builds credibility.

2)It builds the brand and allows you to earn off the brand.

3)It builds customer loyalty.

4)It allows customers to use it as a suggestion box. It’s not a perfect world and customers should be encouraged to let you know what can be fixed.

5)It should achieve basic marketing principles. It should be solving a problem and aimed at a specific target audience.

6)It should generate its own income like any profit centre. It should justify its reason for existing. How To Create A Near Perfect Website Consider these factors as important benchmarks for creating a website. If your website doesn’t do these things, you have to question, why not?

1)Revenue Generation

2)Data Collection

3)Information Source

4)Feedback and Complaints

5)Distribution 6)Reconstruction

7)Fan Club

8)Associated Tools

9)Meet the Basics of Communication Show Me The Buckeroos!

While it’s all very fine to be a charitable institution, a website costs money. Which person or organization in their right sense would spend US$50 for no return? There would be questions to answer and heads would roll. Yet, most organizations do just that. They spend anywhere from US$2,000 to US$50,000 on a website that will not generate any return. We are not talking about straightforward e-commerce here. We are talking about a bigger brand issue and how you can use the brand to achieve the financial goals of the organization. The watchword should always be–Show me the money! Yes, even schools, hospitals and other organizations can use their websites to make money, and then use the money for a good cause. Charity and good causes are all very fine, but everything costs money. If you can generate revenue, there is no reason on earth why you shouldn’t be doing so.

When You’re A Guru, Everyone Listens It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Website design is not about design, it’s about thought process. Websites are but a tool to get information that builds the brand further. Articles and material that help the person browsing the site can achieve this. Information isn’t about getting across what you want them to hear. It’s about asking them what they would like to have. This is endless. The customers’ needs keep changing and you must be able to have information that can excite and educate them. This also keeps the other audiences active. Who Are Your Audiences? A website imparting information appeals to two simultaneous audiences. It speaks to your current audience like a newsletter or brochure would and it also speaks to a potential audience. While you are specifically targeting current clients, there is no reason why the information doesn’t impart knowledge to future clients, even potential employees.

There are a zillion bozos out there who are simply selling goods and services and not helping the customer in any way. If you help them and keep in touch with them, when the need arises, you will be first in line. Clawing Your Way To The Top This is also a good system to use when you want to capture business from competition. You don’t always have to be #1 with your client. If you don’t have the business, keep plugging at your #2 position and someday #1 will stumble. When that happens, you get an opportunity to move in. Don’t always look at everything as a sale situation. People have innate fears about change. Imparting good information marks you out as a credible, trustworthy source and their desire to work with you will go up as you keep giving them nuggets of useful information.

If You Don’t Do This, Drown Yourself This is one of the most important and inexpensive tools to corner your target audience. If a person feels the connection and you lead them through the right steps, they will invariably feel the need to get more information. If you aren’t collecting e-mail addresses off your website, then you’re missing out on the few people (or many as the case may be) that are really interested in your product or service. How To Get The Data Off Your Customers The only way to get them to part with their e-mail address is to first establish your credibility and then offer something in return. However, once you have their e-mail address and their permission, you can turn your website into a wonderful marketing machine as long as you don’t overdo it.

People get tons of e-mail everyday and the junk goes out very quickly. The more useful your information is, the more chances you have of getting visitors to sign up. You can then use that information to market to that audience selectively. So make sure you’re collecting data or your website’s true potential becomes pretty dodgy. Is Your Website Built For Complaints? You build a car with all the features. You paint it black. The customer wants it red. You try to sell the black car and face resistance. You call the customer stupid and go on trying to promote your black car. We all do this. We decide that’s what we need to promote. The customer on the other hand would like something else that fulfils their needs. We never stop to ask. Ever!

Every section of your website should have the ability to handle feedback that can then be incorporated within your website and other communication to give the customers what they need. Feedback also allows you to stay ahead of your competition big time! Once the customers trust you and see changes in the website, they will be encouraged to give more important feedback that could change not just the website but even the working of the organization. Perception is everything, and you need to know at all times what the outside world perceives your organization to be. Once you have that data, it allows you to go ahead and make the changes you need. Is Your Website Sitting In A Box? How are you going to promote your website? While most websites rely on getting to the top of the search engines, you may not have that need. You may have a very specific targeted audience you want to reach. That audience would never search for your website online. They would have to know it, or never find it at all. Companies print brochures and then make sure they go out. They build websites and it sits in the box undistributed. They hope, and this is a big hope, that someone will visit. It doesn’t happen. You have to figure out the distribution process as well, so that your website goes out to your target audience. If It’s Worth Building, It’s Worth Renovating Most organizations make changes to their business to keep competitive. Yet, they think nothing of keeping the website stagnant for 50+ years. (Ok, I’m exaggerating, but on the web 1 year= 10 normal years) Expect change to be inevitable.

The website should be constructed so that it’s easily changeable and updateable. It should also not require a degree in rocket science. You should be able to update it while you’re sitting at a cyber cafe in the Bahamas while sipping your Caribbean Punch! Understand that it’s inevitable and, like all marketing tools, this tool should be reviewed at least every 6-12 months and changed or reconstructed to meet current customer demands. Are You Signing Autographs Yet? Most organizations survive on their fan club. People who love you so much, that they’re willing to talk about you to everyone in sight. Many organizations have clients that are well spread out. The website can be used to keep that Fan Club together. It should be used as a networking tool as well.

Most organizations ignore this fact. If I love eating Indian curries, everyone else in that Indian curry section can be linked up to do business with each other. If they love your company or organization, they will reinforce each other about how great it is, plus they will do business with each other. The more successful they get, the more it rubs off the organization and eventually, the more business you get to do with them because of their success. Looking Beyond A Website Too many people are taken up with the glamour of websites. Websites are just a façade. You must understand the technology that drives business. Do you have autoresponders? How do you use email? How do you track customers? How can you communicate with customers? How can you make sure your best customers keep coming back? All of these tools have nothing to do with the website itself. However, they need to be thought through every step of the way. It’s The Psychology, Stupid! If you want to build a website, or do a brochure or have any form of communication, understand the basics of psychology. We are all driven by similar needs and wants. A Website Shouldn’t Be Deadline Driven.

It Should Be Need Driven What’s the point of having an absolutely stunning website before deadline if it doesn’t do anything for the person viewing it. Too many people in organizations are caught up in their own ego of having a website up. It’s often not worth it. Websites Aren’t For The Organization. They Are For The Customer Websites are a marketing tool. Use the principles of marketing to build and promote them. That of course, means having a target audience.

Having a problem you can solve. Flag off that problem and then provide a solution. Yahoo might be the wonder of yesterday but Google.com is the one that gets the most converts. Yahoo is trying to be everything to everyone, Google isn’t. Don’t get lost in the hype of technology because everything on this planet is based on psychology and emotion. Most websites have no objectives at all. They have no target audience. They are created because it’s fashionable to do so. Dump the fashion. Understand the basics of internet marketing and communication. And if you don’t understand the basics, get someone who can! Otherwise you’re doing what a zillion websites across the world do-

Nothing!

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