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Articles of Interest to PC Entrepreneurs

Any of these articles may be republished by other newsletter, magazine or ezine publishers as long as they are posted intact with all credits. If you are an author and would like an article added to this list, email the article in HTML format to mtims(at)matcopublishing.com

Trials and Tribulations of Putting up a Real Web Storefront


Michael A. Tims

During this past summer break from teaching high school math, I finally had some time to think about developing a real storefront on the Internet for the mail order business I have run as a sideline for many years.

I did have a little experience putting up personal web sites on my AOL and Netcom servers. When they both offered free space for personal web sites a couple of years ago, I downloaded a shareware HTML program, learned some basic HTML code and VOILA I was an Internet entrepreneur. Well not exactly, the two sites were plain text on the default grey background. Not very fancy; no banners, no graphics, no tables---just some text advertising my book and several free reports to download.

Nevertheless, I did learn some valuable lessons. One, the simpler the web site, the faster it will load and thus not waste the viewers time (they appreciate that). And second, it is not all that difficult to write and publish a simple web site, even a novice could do it.

Now however, I wanted more. I wanted a nice looking web site to showcase all of my custom, reprintable directories and books on using a PC to earn an income. I wanted to be able to offer viewers a shopping cart system and secure credit card sales on the Net. I wanted to get a merchant's credit card account to offer credit card sales to my customers. I just wanted it all; I wanted a site like Amazon.com!

I didn't think it would be that difficult, just time consuming. After all, I did know my way around a PC and figured it would just take a few evenings to get it up and running. Wrong! But even though it did take longer than expected, I still feel that if a person perserveres, he can put up his own web site that will be just as nice, and offer just as much as the sites put up by experienced webmasters.

The first thing a person needs to decide is whether to rent web space from a web hosting service or from someone else that sells or sub-lets web space. I could have gone the easier route and rented web space from some other entrepreneur but I wouldn't have had my own domain name. Instead I would have had to contend with a web address such as www.sitesforrent.com/~members/subdirectory497/myname.htm.

Not for me -- If I was going to put the time and money into a storefront, I wanted my own domain name so I decided on a web hosting service that would register the domain name of MY choice, matcopublishing.com. By having my own domain name, web surfers would only need to type the URL www.matcopublishing.com and be whisked away to my web site. I did, however, check with www.networksolutions.com (the site in charge of registering domain names) to make sure my name had not already been registered. I was amazed at how many domain names had the word MATCO in them. I got it from my initials (MAT) and CO for company. I've been using this company name since 1956 and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw dozens of MATCO's. But I was lucky, MATCOPUBLISHING was not being used.

I could have registered the name at that time but the web host I had chosen advertised that they registered domain names free. I didn't know at the time but most hosting services will register domain names free, but it still costs $70 for two years to register no matter who files the paperwork. My web service just saved me from filling out one form. The cost was still $70 for the first two years to register my domain name with Network Solutions.

Next I had to decide on a web hosting service, so I made a search on the web itself. I use the Alta Vista search engine alot, so I went to their search site and entered "web hosting services". I got thousands of 'hits' with web hosting services costing $7.00 per month up to hundreds of dollars per month. Some even charged an additional percentage of your gross sales per month. Too much.

To reduce the number of hits and narrow my search down to a price range I had in mind, I entered the key words "cheap web hosting" This was more like it. There were about a dozen web hosting services with monthly fees from $7.00 to about $19.95. This was more like it.

I clicked onto each of the sites of these web hosters to see what features they offered and after weighing them finally decided on a company called Impact Host. No particular feature made me choose it, maybe it was the low $12.00 per month cost for a 50 Mb site and only $30 for a one time setup fee. Some companies charged two or three times this for set-up and much more per month.

I wasn't even sure that everything I wanted to accomplish could be done on this particular web host because I really didn't know everything that I would need. I was just hoping for the best. Anyway, I signed up online, with my domain name request and received an email back that the form was received and it would take two days to get my site ready and domain name registered.

Sure enough, two days later, I typed in my new URL (www.matcopublishing.com) and there it was, an announcement that this was the site of Matco Publishing and it was under construction. It sure was, I didn't even have one page ready for my new site. But that's another installment of this story.


AUTHOR PROFILE Michael A. Tims is a retired high school math teacher but has run a mail order business as a sideline for over 20 years. Being a self taught computer NUT, one of his passions has been to find unique ways to use a PC to enhance or enable a small business venture.

Mr. Tims has written numerous magazine articles on PC basics or using a PC in business and is the author of the published book, "101 Computer Related Businesses", as well as a syndicated column called, "PC Biz of the Month".

Visit his new web site at www.matcopublishing.com and let him know what you think of it. All three parts of this article may be read at www.matcopublishing.com/articles.htm


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