The Internet offers opportunities for anyone motivated enough to start a business of their own or “try” something different, and the opportunities are almost endless. Have you ever dreamed of running your own web site, your own piece of the “dot com” pie? It all starts with a great idea, but to get a successful website up and running it needs a little effort. Anyone can create a revenue-generating website with time, energy, and the few dollars a month it takes to host it. And, like creating a brick-and-mortar business, creating a website can be as much about expressing personal development and providing the world with a service as it is about earning a living.

So, to do business online you must have a website. Why? There are many answers to this question. Some of the most important reasons to establish an Internet presence are:

1. Increased credibility. It’s a proven fact that a professional, well-designed site has a good impact on the customer’s confidence in your company. It shows that you are up-to-date and you care about your customers by offering them a convenient way to contact you and to learn about your products and services. Using the Internet to search for services and products is much easier and faster than searching by hand through the Yellow Pages.

2. A 24/7 International presence. Your website is available for your potential customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With a website, you open yourself up to a world of opportunity in reaching people who might not otherwise find you. When your offices are closed you can be sure that your website is open to showcase your products and services and answer your customer’s questions.

3. A powerful sales tool. Your customers will be able to reach your services and products in their own time. You can save money on printing costs for brochures, coupons, flyers, newsletters, and other mailings. Of course, a website doesn’t exclude the traditional forms of marketing, but rather complements them.

But if you are here, chances are that you already have a website or considering having one, so let’s proceed to the next step: hosting a website.

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Hosting a website

A website is basically a set of files linked among them through a navigation system. More complex sites will have buttons, forms and extended functionality with a database to store emails, requests, products characteristics, etc. but in the end they come down to the same thing: a collection of files. So, hosting a website is the process of making those files available to the Internet users. To make the website available to the Internet users you need:

A computer connected to the Internet where the files will be stored.
A software called web server (for example Apache Web Server) that will “serve” the files to the visitors.
A way to make the visitors find your site.

Why can’t you use your own computer to host your website? It has already an Internet connection and that Apache Server shouldn’t be so hard to install. Well, it’s not that simple. There are a few technical aspects to be considered. Hosting a website implies the following:

Be Online. If you shut down your computer, your web server will also shut down, making the website inaccessible. If your computer’s hardware or software fails and you need to change a component or restart it, the time until it’s back up will count as downtime for your site.

Have a dedicated IP address. If you are behind a router then you most likely don’t have a “real” IP address so you have to forward the traffic. Also, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) might change the IP for your computer from time to time. More about this in the next article: Choosing a domain name.

Resources. Hosting the website in a home server will use part of the hardware resources (disk space, memory, CPU power) and part of the total bandwidth that you pay for.

The need for additional software. If a simple site needs only a web server running, more complex sites need additional software installed. For example, if you need a database you must install a SQL server (MySQL, Oracle, etc.), if you need functionality and forms processing, you need PHP, Perl, ASPx or other similar software installed.