The internet provides many opportunities to be successful, andstarting an online business has never been easier. However, the competition can be stiff!
As a business owner, you have to work hard to stay on top of your game and grow your business!
This post will talk about five useful tips for developing an online business into something that will generate sustainable revenue for years (or even decades) to come!
The Basics of Online Business
First, let’s start with the basics and talk about making sure your online business is well-known. If you have a website that no one knows about or never gets any traffic, it won’t matter how hard you work because no one will know about it.
You need to be out there telling people about your business and what you have to offer!
This can be achieved by being active on social media, sending out press releases, and reaching out to local news stations.
You may also want to be sure that the design of your website is professional-looking, clean, and easy to navigate.
If your website is not meeting your expectations, consider hiring a professional web designer and content writer. They can help boost online business growth by creating a site that people want to visit and share.
Once you have a website that gets a fair number of visitors, follow these five tips for online business growth and development.
A business strategy is a formal plan that outlines the goals of an organization and how to achieve them. Business strategies are based on thorough investigation, market research, competitor analysis, and more!
Business strategy is key to online business growth and development! Without a well-defined plan, businesses may fail or won’t be able to meet the needs of their customers.
If you want your small company to succeed long term, then make sure you work on defining:
Clear short and medium-term goals.
Monthly expenses associated with running the company.
The estimated income from sales.
Remember a well-defined business strategy can help you: define critical goals, measure success, and get the support you need from your team.
Do Your Homework! Perform a Competitor Analysis
Competitors are a great source of information. Learn from them!
Here are some important questions to ask and things to keep an eye on when analyzing your competitors:
What sales and marketing strategies do your competitors use?
What products or services are they selling?
What are their strengths and weaknesses?
How they are marketing themselves?
What they are selling more of?
How they are bundling services?
Who they are catering to?
This information is important as you can set yourself apart from the competition by providing something different, having a unique approach, or catering to untapped markets. The business opportunities are endless!
Invest in Customer Service
Customer service can either make you or break a business, particularly a small business.
Make sure you have a well-defined customer service plan that is effective and efficient. This includes:
Hiring the right people.
Finding out if there are any services your customers are not taking advantage of.
Getting customer feedback on their experience with your company and services.
Remember! A happy client who comes back time and time again will keep bringing new business too.
You don’t want to be spamming, but you need people to know what your business is about and how it can help them. Here’s what you can do to promote your brand the right way:
Incorporate a call-to-action into all of the content you produce so that readers are encouraged to take action (e.g., purchase or sign up for something) after reading the content.
Have a social media presence as you can use it to share information on new products/services, upsell existing offerings, etc.
Network with other businesses and groups to establish new business opportunities.
Remember, all these strategies are great, but they won’t work unless your website can convert that traffic into paying clients or sales. Invest in a good website design and a premium web hosting service.
Starting an online business is an exciting endeavor, but starting one the right way can also be daunting. This checklist provides all of the steps you need to take before starting an online business and tips on making your business successful.
This post is designed for those looking to start their own online business, but even experienced business owners can gain insight from this list of helpful tips!
Starting an online business might seem like an easy project, but it often takes more research than you might expect.
To be well prepared when starting your online business you should:
Research the market for your product or service to see if there’s a demand.
Find out how much competition exists in this space.
Do some preliminary financial planning so you can figure out how much starting capital you need.
Determine Your Target Audience
It is essential to define your target audience and understand who they are before starting an online business. This will help you design your website, products, or services in a way that is appealing to your audience.
Create a Business Plan
A business plan is a document that details the steps you will take in starting and running your company. It can include short and mid-term goals you hope to achieve and how much money it will take to do so. A well-crafted and compelling business plan can help you get the necessary funds to start your business or find strategic partnerships.
Find a Company Name
The company name is often the first impression you give a potential customer. Your brand name can resonate with potential clients or give them second thoughts about doing business with you.
When choosing your company name, think of what you want your business to stand for? Take time out now to start brainstorming some company names that will set up an excellent foundation!
Register a Business Entity
Before starting an online business, it’s essential to figure out which legal structure is best for you. Different types of businesses have different tax burdens and benefits associated with them, so research your options carefully before deciding on one.
Once you’ve come up with a good name, it is important to register your trademark for that business or product(s) to prevent other companies from using the same name. In the United States, this can be done through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Set Up Your Bank Account
You’ll want to set up a business bank account before starting your online business so that you can keep business-related expenses/income separate from your personal ones. Your business bank account will also be used for tax purposes.
Register a Domain
Choose a website name with an easy-to-remember URL. In most cases, your website name will be the same as the company name. Once you have found the right website name, register your domain. You can register your domain for a minimum of one (1) year.
A logo is a vital part of your website and branding strategy. Your logo will help you distinguish your business itself from other businesses in the same industry.
Make sure to find a design that is visually appealing and reflects your company’s identity. If you need assistance in designing a logo, you can hire a freelancer from Upwork, Fiverr, or Freelancer.
Build Your Website
Once you have your domain name and hosting account, it’s high time to start developing your website. Create a clean and mobile-friendly design for your website that is easy to navigate.
Select the type of website that best suits your business needs – whether eCommerce or a CMS site, like WordPress.
Secure Your Website With an SSL Certificate
Website security is critical when starting an online business. The first step you should take towards securing your website is to get an SSL certificate. SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer.
When installed on a server, the SSL certificate will activate an HTTPS protocol and encrypt information between the server and a user’s browser. The SSL certificate
ensures that your website users can safely submit their information without the risk of being hacked or have personal data stolen.
All major browsers will now flag your website as “Not Secured” if you don’t have an SSL certificate set up.
Enable Plugins and Widgets
Add Relevant Plugins and Widgets to Your Website such as SEO tools, social media sharing widgets, Google Analytics, GDPR consent tool, live chat, etc. These plugins and widgets will help you provide a better user experience to your website visitors.
Set up Business Email Accounts
These will be email addresses that your customers, potential clients, and partners can use when reaching out for support or other inquiries about your company.
Once you have a website up and running, you need to add some content relevant to what you are offering. Such content might include service or product descriptions, images, videos, text articles, blog posts.
Relevant content will help your website visitors learn more about your company and help with SEO rankings because search engines will index your content when they crawl your site for updates.
Create a Google Analytics Account
Google Analytics is a powerful tool that helps you track traffic on your website and provides valuable insights into what people are doing on your site. You can learn which are your most popular web pages, which pages have low traffic, how users get to your website, and more.
Use Google Ads to Get More Website Traffic
Google Ads can help get more traffic to your website. This is especially important when you are just getting started with your online business.
With the right keywords in your ad copy, you can get in front of potential customers. You can also use retargeting to stay top of mind for those users that visited your website but didn’t make a purchase/decision right away.
Set up Social Media Accounts for Your Online Business
Social media has become an essential part of starting and running any type of online business. Set up accounts on the major networks – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, etc. to follow and engage with your target audience.
Choose accounts on those social networks where you can best engage with potential customers.
Setup Email Marketing
Set up email marketing software like Mailchimp, Constant Contact or ActiveCampaign, to send regular newsletters to subscribers who want updates from you via email rather than social media channels.
Once everything has been set up according to our checklist, go ahead and get those sales rolling in by following marketing strategies and data-driven insights from experts in the field.
If you are in the market for a successful online business idea, you’ve come to the right place. We have created a list of some of the most popular online business ideas for 2021-2022, and we know you’ll love them!
The internet is a powerful tool. Alongside computers, it changed the way we interact with each other, the way we work, the way we go about our daily lives. It opened doors to many new business ideas that were difficult to imagine back in the ‘90s when people started buying computers.
You can now build a successful online business from anywhere in the world. If you’ve got something good to offer, all you need is a good internet connection and a computer.
If you’re looking to start your own company, these popular online business ideas should help get the ball rolling.
With this type of work, you can write from anywhere and set your own schedule. You’ll be able to make money by providing valuable information to people who need it. It’s an exciting opportunity that will allow you to grow as a writer and entrepreneur while being your own boss.
Popular Forms of Content Writing Include:
Copywriting (ads, website copy).
Ghost Writing (content credited to other people).
Social Media content.
If you are new to content writing the internet is packed with great books and courses on this topic.
Some of our favorites resources on content writing are:
On Writing Well– a book by William Zinsser, will teach you how to write well. This book is packed with examples and will give you a clear understanding of the fundamentals of writing non-fiction.
Unlearn Essay Writing – by Julia McCoy is a great course for new writers. Julia’s course will teach you the fundamentals of online content writing. It also includes a ton of resources, templates, and tools you can use in your journey to becoming a successful content writer.
Writer’s Digest University – has everything, from writing workshops to self-paced courses, to help you boost your freelance content writing career.
Offer Consulting Services to Small Businesses
Consulting for small businesses it’s a great way to earn revenue. On top of that it gives you the ability to learn many of the ins and outs of running a successful business.
A business consultant is an expert in their field and can provide advice to companies that need some help growing or getting started. Consulting services can include a wide range of topics, including marketing, leadership, business development, product development, technology. The list can go on, it’s up to you to find what you excel at.
While traditionally a lot of the consulting services were done face to face, today this type of business can easily be done online through popular collaboration tools.
Some of our favorite collaboration and project management tools and solutions are:
Microsoft 365 (Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Planner).
Atlassian Tools (Jira, Confluence, Trello).
Clubhouse Project Management.
Become a Virtual Assistant
Working as a virtual assistant (VA) offers the perfect opportunity to start your own business. You can work from home, set your own hours, and enjoy the flexibility of working with clients all over the world.
The requests for virtual assistants have been growing at a rapid pace, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic.
A virtual assistant is the perfect solution for companies that:
Need assistance with only a specific project.
Want to save time by delegating smaller tasks.
Want an extra set of hands without having to hire another employee.
As a virtual assistant you can do anything that a personal assistant would do:
Manage a company’s calendar.
Manage their emails.
Respond to phone calls (using VoIP – Voice over IP).
Marketing and social media management.
Create & Sell Digital Products
Knowing where to start when dealing with a project outside of your area of expertise, can be overwhelming. Sure! There is a ton of information available online but research takes time and then you need to figure out how to implement what you’ve learned. That’s where experts and creative minds come in.
Digital products are becoming increasingly popular because they allow anyone with expertise in a specific process or department to share that knowledge with others who may not have the same level of experience.
If you have valuable insights to share or have a knack for creating digital assets, this is the perfect opportunity to create and sell your products online.
Start by doing a self-assessment. What are you passionate about, what do you have experience with, what are you secretly good at?
Once you have identified your top skills it’s time to start creating.
Popular Digital Products Ideas:
Templates (email, resumes, marketing, social media, brand awareness).
Calendars, planners, and organizers.
“Done for You” spreadsheets.
You can sell your digital products on popular marketplaces such as Creative Market, Etsy, Udemy, Skillshare, or, you can create your own online store.
Build an Online Store
If you would rather sell your digital products on your own website, without working with 3rd party websites, you can start your own online store.
The internet is a hotbed for business, with 7.9 million online businesses already in operation around the world! However, there is plenty more room to grow.
To build your online store:
Identify your target customers – what industry are they in, what age group, which states/countries, what is their job function, what are their pain points.
You know those cool people on social media that have tons of followers and always seem to be having a great time? They always share small tidbits of valuable tips. But did you know many of them might also be doing awesome deep dives into those topics using Patreon?
If you are an influencer or a well-known speaker you can make money by becoming a content creator on Patreon. This membership platform makes it easy for creators to get paid and offers a great way of monetizing content online. Content creators earn monthly payouts from their supporters, called “patrons.”
You can create any type of content from early releases, exclusive content, and videos, podcasts, behind-the-scenes type of content, mini and micro-courses, templates, frameworks, and more.
Patreon allows creators to set up multiple tiers based on how much people pledge per month (the more you give, the better your rewards).
Some of our favorite Patreon creators are:
Michael Laws – the creator of “Teaching Tech” shares technology-related content, tips, and tutorials to ramp up your technology skills.
Shannon Morse – the creator of “ThreatWire” provides access to news about cybersecurity, privacy, and online threats in addition to exclusive rewards.
John Bonini – creates “Some Good Content” and shares valuable insights on everything from planning, writing, and optimizing content.
To start creating content on Patreon, simply choose one of their available plans.
A Patreon University (Patreon U) is available to educate creators on how to use Patreon and run a successful business.
We hope these online business ideas inspire you to start your own company in 2021-2022. Whether you’re looking for a side hustle, or want to make the jump into full-time entrepreneurship, it all starts with an idea.
It’s no secret that IT infrastructure plays a key role in the success of any business. Can you try picturing a scenario where your IT infrastructure that hosts your business-critical application or website fails? Imagine the time it would take to restore your data and apps. You may be losing thousands of dollars or even be out of business before you have a chance to be back online.
As the digital landscape continues to evolve, businesses need to have a secure and reliable IT infrastructure in place.
Moreover, they need an IT infrastructure that is flexible enough to adapt to their ever-changing business needs, yet robust and resilient enough to withstand potential system disruptions.
What Is IT Infrastructure?
The term IT infrastructure refers to the underlying framework for how technology services are delivered. These technologies include servers, storage devices, routers, operating systems and software applications, and other tools that support business processes.
The purpose of a critical IT infrastructure is to ensure business continuity by ensuring that you can run your business smoothly without any glitches or interruptions.
What Are the Key Components of IT Infrastructure?
Every IT infrastructure has key components that need to work together. The two main groups are hardware and software:
Hardware – includes everything from facilities, data centers, servers, storage devices, network switches, routers, to the physical workstations or laptops.
Software – includes operating systems (OS), web applications such as PHP or Java applications, database systems such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) & more.
Types of IT Infrastructure
There are two primary types of IT infrastructure:
Traditional IT Infrastructure
A traditional IT infrastructure consists of physical servers and desktop computers that are typically installed on-premise for a single company or organization.
Benefits of Traditional IT Infrastructure
One of the major benefits of traditional IT infrastructure is increased security. With all hardware being set up on-premise and access being restricted, there are fewer risks for vulnerabilities. Increased data security and compliance requirements are the reasons why some organizations might still opt for this type of infrastructure.
On the other hand, it is more expensive to set up and maintain traditional IT infrastructure. It requires large upfront investments and a dedicated IT team within the organization that can maintain the infrastructure. Changes to resources or software upgrades are also not as flexible as with a cloud infrastructure.
A cloud infrastructure, also referred to as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), is an infrastructure that can be provisioned and managed over the internet from anywhere in the world! IaaS it’s one of the three main types of cloud computing service models along with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). In a cloud infrastructure, hosting providers can deliver resources that are typically bound to physical hardware, virtually, in any location around the world that is accessible via the Internet. The process that makes this possible is known as virtualization technology.
Benefits of Cloud Infrastructure
Lower Cost – A cloud infrastructure requires a lower upfront investment since the hosting provider is responsible for acquiring and maintaining the underlying hardware.
Flexible Commitments – Most hosting providers will offer flexible terms of contracts with monthly, quarterly, or annual billing options. Some services might even include a pay-as-you-go billing model.
Improved Agility and Flexibility – Thanks to the cloud, you can now have your software and application up-and-running in no time. That means small businesses and start-ups can remain agile with their IT needs while also being able to use resources at a much lower cost than if they had invested in traditional IT infrastructure. Similarly, businesses can use their time more wisely by being able to quickly set up multiple virtual machines from different locations around the world. In other words, you no longer have to deal with all the heavy lifting that comes with setting up and maintaining your own servers.
More Efficient Resource Scaling – In a cloud infrastructure, you can easily scale your business without having to worry about what type of equipment you’ll be using down the line. You can scale servers vertically (upgrade specific resources) or horizontally (add more servers) as needed. When you need more computing resources for your business, you or your hosting provider can easily upgrade/downgrade resources, typically with just a few clicks.
Minimize Downtime, Maximize Success!
Network availability, or uptime, is one of the critical features to look for when choosing a web hosting provider. A study performed by Gartner in 2014, estimated the average cost of downtime to be $5,600 per minute, well over $300K per hour.
These numbers are reinforced by a 2019 survey by Information Technology Intelligence Consulting (ITIC). In their 2019 Global Server Hardware Server OS Reliability Report, which polled over 1,000 businesses worldwide, 86% of the respondents indicated that one hour of downtime can cost their organization $300.000 or more.
Furthermore, from the 1,000 businesses polled by ITIC, almost 300 indicated the cost of one hour of downtime exceeds $1 million.
Best Practice: To maintain critical business functions or quickly recover in the event of an unplanned downtime all companies and organizations should have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP).
Why Every Business Needs An Effective Business Continuity Plan
A business continuity plan will outline the procedures that you need to follow to be up and running in the event of a major infrastructure disaster or unplanned downtime.
There is a common misconception that natural disasters are unlikely to affect a datacenter. Anyone who has ever lost data due to natural disasters knows it can happen at any time. The recent fire at the OVH datacenter in Strasbourg, France is a clear example of this.
Having a business continuity plan can save your business not only millions of dollars but years’ worth of work.
Tip: Think of a business continuity plan as a checklist that you can follow to bring your website and applications back online in the event of a major natural disaster or cyberattack.
Five Key Services to Improve Website Availability
Along with the business continuity plan you should consider the following key services when thinking of your IT infrastructure:
Service Level Agreement (SLA) – Your web hosting provider should have an SLA of at least 99.9%. Anything less than “three nines” is something to be concerned about.
Redundancy – Verify that the hardware that your IT infrastructure runs on has an additional redundant layer to eliminate single points of failure.
Uptime Monitoring – Having a monitoring system in place will help you track availability and know right away if there’s an issue. SNMP and PING are commonly used at the server or router level while advanced monitoring tools can be set up for HTTP/SMTP/SQL services.
Backup Policy – Make sure you always have at least one automated backup policy with multiple days or even weeks of backup retentions.
Best Practice: In addition to automated backups keep also an additional local copy of your critical data. You can never have too many backups!
Disaster Recovery Plans (DRP) – In a major disaster, such as the OVH datacenter fire, or unplanned downtime you will want to have a Disaster Recovery Plan in place. These can vary based on an organization’s requirements.
An effective way to implement a disaster recovery plan is by using replicated servers. With replicated servers, you have an identical copy of your primary server that can be spun up in the event of a disaster. Servers can be replicated:
In the same datacenter – which would ensure that your websites are up and running in the event in which the underlying hardware that hosts your primary server fails.
In different datacenters/locations – this adds an additional layer of uptime protection, in case of a major disaster that affects the entire datacenter, as in the case of the OVH fire.
The Disaster Recovery Plan and Business Continuity Plan are both designed with maximum availability in mind in case of a major disaster or cyberattack. The primary difference between them is WHEN they are implemented. A Business Continuity Plan will focus on keeping your business up for as long as possible DURING a major incident while a Disaster Recovery Plan is focused on bringing your website/applications up as soon as possible AFTER a major incident.
Today’s businesses need more than just an IT team, they need a reliable hosting infrastructure and the tools and means to ensure continuous data availability.
Hosting critical websites and applications can often be a burden for businesses, but it doesn’t have to be. By having a Disaster Recovery Plan and Business Continuity Plan plan in place you can ensure that your website is always up and running in the event of a disaster.
About SoftSys Hosting
At SoftSys Hosting we use 100% redundant Juniper network devices that eliminate single points of failure and can handle more packets with higher throughput.
With a team of 24×7 in-house experienced sysadmins and a 99.9% uptime guarantee, we take care of your entire IT requirements so that you can focus on growing your business.
If you are looking for high availability and disaster recovery solutions from a reliable web hosting provider, please get in touch. We’d love to learn more about your business and provide solutions that will empower your team to accelerate growth.
If there ever was a great time to launch an online business, it is now. According to etailinsights, there are now 7.9 million online retailers in the world, and 2.1 million of them are in the United States.
After 2020, online shopping is growing faster than ever before.
Why Is Online Shopping So Popular?
Traditionally people have turned to online shopping because:
They hate waiting in line at the store.
They get fast access to a larger variety of products and services, many of which were beyond reach prior to online shopping.
They get better deals online.
Today, in a world disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, online shopping is for a lot of us a necessity more so than a convenience.
In this article we’ve aimed to give business owners a step-by-step guide on how to launch an online store.
You have a great idea for a service or product. You feel it in your bones that this is going to be successful and you know that there’s a real need in the market for what you want to sell. But how do you actually start selling your products or services online?
What are all the things that you need to be aware of when selling online and where do you start?
When you are right at the beginning, things can get overwhelming fast.
But don’t worry! We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you get started with your online store.
1. Identify Your Target Market and Buyer Persona
Before you can even set up your online store you need to know who your customers are so that you can market to that niche. You may think that your product or service can appeal to everyone, however that is a difficult way to market your service.
Tips To Identify Your Target Market
Identify why a customer would buy your service or product. Start by making a list of all the pain points that your service/product can solve.
Find out who your competitors are and what markets do they target.
Create a buyer persona – this is your ideal customer. Get as specific as possible including location, age, education, financial status, industry, job, skills, interests, frustrations.
Knowing your buyer persona is the BEST way to identify your target market. It will help you optimize your website copy and marketing materials to ensure that your message reaches the right audience.
Keep in mind that you are not limited to a single buyer persona. You can have as many personas as you would like, but at a minimum, you should have at least one.
TIP – If you’re not quite sure where to start when creating your buyer personas, try this fun buyer persona generator, from HubSpot.
2. Buy a Domain Name for Your Online Store
To create your online store, you need both a domain name and an eCommerce platform.
A domain name is what users type in their browser to access your website. In other words, it’s the address of your website.
It is possible to create your online store without owning a domain name. Some web hosts or eCommerce companies will allow you to create your online shop on one of their subdomains.
But keep in mind that your domain represents your identity online and it’s a crucial part of your brand. Even if you start your online shop by using another provider’s subdomain, you will eventually want to have your own domain.
Having your own domain name will give you more control over your website and allow it to build domain authority in Google.
TIP – As a general rule try to choose a domain name that is short and easy to remember.
3. Choose the Best eCommerce Platform for Your Online Store
Now that you have identified your target market and bought your domain name, it’s time to choose the best eCommerce platform for your online store.
You don’t have to be an expert developer or designer to build an online store that looks great and works well. But there are so many different platforms out there that it can be hard to know where to start. In this article, we will look at two types of approaches for building your online store:
Using a Website Builder
Using a Hosted eCommerce Solution
Building an eCommerce Store Using a Website Builder
Website builders such as Wix or Shopify are turn-key eCommerce solutions, providing users with everything they need to set up an eCommerce store. They are popular solutions when building your first online shop, especially with users that don’t have a lot of technical skills.
However, while website builders are easy to get started with, there are also some disadvantages that might not make them the best choice for your business in the long run.
Things to be aware of when evaluating website builders as an option for your online shop:
Costs – although website builders are low budget when starting, they can get expensive fast as your online store grows.
Features – website builders are typically more limited in features compared to nopCommerce, and other eCommerce solutions.
Transaction Fees – you might incur transaction fees on payments received through website builders. Shopify charges up to 2% in transaction fees when using external payment gateways such as PayPal. Wix also charges a processing fee for every payment you receive through them.
Limited Control – website builders such as Wix host your website content exclusively. In other words, you are locked in, you cannot easily export your website code if you want to leave.
Building an eCommerce StoreUsing a Hosted eCommerce Solution
WooCommerce, NopCommerce, and Magento are some of the most popular eCommerce solutions used by many eCommerce stores today. Both nopCommerce and Magento were released in 2008. WooCommerce was released in 2011.
Let’s look at each of these eCommerce platforms and their specific advantages.
What is WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is an eCommerce plugin that transforms WordPress-based websites into powerful, fully functional online stores.
As the most popular eCommerce platform in use today, WooCommerce powers over 30% of all online stores across the web. BuiltWith reports that in April 2021 a total of 4,414,537 live websites use WooCommerce for their online store.
WordPress is a great platform for building websites, but it’s not an eCommerce solution. WooCommerce was developed specifically as an extension of WordPress so that anyone can install and run a full-fledged online store with no coding knowledge required.
Fully Integrated with Gooten, Printify, Printful, CustomCat, Facebook Shopping & more.
What is nopCommerce?
nopCommerce is a free open-source eCommerce solution running on the popular .NET Core framework.
nopCommerce it’s a robust, stable, and user-friendly solution for your online store. It has many out-of-the-box features to help you get started with your online store, including SEO features, email marketing, product review, and affiliate marketing.
Rich, modular architecture with out-of-the-box eCommerce functionality.
Magento is one of the most widely used eCommerce platforms being currently used by 0.7% of all websites worldwide. Unlike nopCommerce which is entirely open-source, Magento comes in two editions:
An open-source Community Edition.
A paid Magento Commerce Edition (former Magento Enterprise).
Robust and highly scalable Magento is a great solution for large online stores with a high volume of sales.
Very robust, can support online stores with massive traffic.
Supports transactions in multiple countries, multiple currencies and offers access to a network of global shipping carriers.
Mobile optimized shopping with an optimal experience across a variety of devices
High number of extensions available.
Large community of Magento developers.
Magento is one of the most popular eCommerce solutions today. Magento Community Edition offers all the needed functionality to get started with your online store. You can opt for quality Magento hosting, geared towards enterprise companies.
However, if you are looking for rich, out-of-the-box functionality most of it is only available through the paid Magento Commerce Edition.
4. Setup and Launch Your Online Store
Once you have decided on the best eCommerce platform, it’s time to build and launch your online store.
Regardless if you work with a web developer or build the online store yourself, you need to ensure that the website looks professional. Here are some key things to consider:
Perform an audit of all the products/services that have been created. Ensure they all have the proper name, description, price, and any relevant information.
Make sure you have all the products in inventory.
Set up your sales tax. Keep in mind, in the US, sales tax is decided at the state level. Each state can have different rules and a different sales tax.
Choose your payment gateways.
Add information about your business and contact details (About Us & Contact Us pages).
Optimize your website and product description for SEO (define your primary keywords, add meta description, use internal linking, define your site structure).
Ensure your website is optimized for mobile.
Check the website speed and performance. Users are less likely to purchase from a slow website.
Test your checkout before going into production.
Build your company’s Social Media channels and integrate them with your website.
TIP – Announce your new online store and build hype before the actual launch. A great way to do this is through Social Media networking. Another way is by building an email list. You can build your email list by using a free lead generation form, like this one from Typeform.
Once your store is live you can start driving traffic to your website. You can drive traffic by creating high-quality, educational content, using email marketing, social media, and affiliates or influencers.
You now have all the steps needed to launch your online store. Happy selling!
We’ve talked to clients, partners, developers, and more to identify the top things to look for when choosing a reliable web hosting provider.
Based on this we’ve settled on four features that are essential to any good web hosting provider:
1. Speed (Fast Servers/Website)
We’ve recently asked developers and IT professionals across several LinkedIn groups which feature was most critical to their business.
We’ve got a response from 79 users over three days. Yes, we know that number of respondents is not high enough. Nevertheless, we enjoyed seeing how everyone responded and we want to share the results with you.
These four features were ranked according to the percentage of total votes that we’ve received. More than half of the respondents said that speed is the most critical feature they were looking for.
So WHY does speed matter?
A website’s speed or load time is significant for a variety of reasons:
It affects your bounce rate – slow pages lose website users fast! In a 2019 report by Unbounce nearly 70% of the respondents admitted they are less likely to make a purchase from a slow website.
It affects conversion rate – a 1-second delay in page response can drop your conversion rate by 7%!
Has a direct impact on customer satisfaction and as a result, can affect your churn.
It affects how your website ranks in search results. In 2010 Google officially introduced speed as one of the ranking factors for desktop and in 2018 they’ve applied this to mobile searches as well. The recommended page load time is under 3 seconds, says Google.
What’s the solution?
While there are many factors that can affect a website’s speed you should verify that your web hosting provider has up to date technology and hardware to ensure that your website runs at a fast speed.
Here are three questions to ask when evaluating the server speed of a hosting provider:
SSD or HDD Storage?
HDD (hard disk drives) use platters that move and spin. Eventually, these platters will wear out and start failing. Unlike HDD, SSDs (Solid State Drives) have no moving parts that can break or fail. SSDs use flash memory-based transistors which offer faster data transfer speeds. In other words, SSDs are architecturally designed for higher performance, providing faster storage and lower latency than HDD. If you have a choice always choose a server with SSD.
What Type of RAID Is Used?
RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent (or Inexpensive) Disks. It’s a way of storing data across multiple physical disks for increased speed and performance.
There are different levels of RAID.
A RAID 10 disk is one of the most efficient and highest performing levels, combining both RAID 1 (mirroring – or writing data on two or more drives) + RAID 0 (striping – or dividing data across multiple areas).
A RAID 10 disk will deliver a fast and redundant solution.
Check out this video from Spiceworks to learn more about RAID and the different levels.
Is There a Content Delivery Network (CDN) Service?
A CDN is a highly distributed network of servers or POPs (Points of Presence) that work together to provide fast delivery of content over the Internet.
This is possible by caching the content of your website and delivering it from a server closest to your website’s users. In most cases, the content cached is only static content, but some providers, such as Cloudflare, also offer options to cache dynamic content, through their Railgun web proxy system.
There are different CDN services out there but the most popular by far is Cloudflare CDN. With POPs in over 200 cities in more than 100 countries, Cloudflare has become the CDN of choice for many website owners today.
Some hosting providers will offer a CDN service as an included or optional service because it is highly effective in increasing a website’s speed.
2. Uptime Guarantee (Availability)
One crucial thing to consider when choosing a web hosting provider is the Uptime Guarantee or service availability. Uptime is important because it ensures your website is available online to your users. Poor uptime will have a direct impact on your business.
Let me start by saying this: no web hosting provider can guarantee 100% uptime all the time! Not unless you have a complex setup with replicated servers across multiple data centers.
There are some things a hosting provider can do to ensure high uptime.
Here are three things to consider when evaluating a web hosting provider’s uptime:
Redundant Network Devices
Redundant network devices highly reduce the risk of downtime in the event of network failure by swapping network operations to the redundant device in an outage.
Something that is not often taken into account is the type of ISP connection a web hosting provider uses to connect their routers to the Internet. The ISP connections can be single-homed, dual-homed, or multi-homed.
Single-homed connection – means that you have a single connection to a single ISP. While this highly reduces costs for the hosting provider and for you, the end-user, this is the least reliable connection. If the ISP goes down or if there is any breakage in the connectivity, it will cause downtime.
Dual-homed connections – you still connect to a single ISP but with two routers, so you have two separate connections, two circuits. This approach offers some degree of redundancy, since it has two connections. However, it still poses a lot of risk if the ISP goes down, has a maintenance event, or has internal routing issues.
Multi-homed connections – also known as multihoming, means you connect to two or more ISPs. This type of connection offers the highest degree of redundancy, performance and stability. Any reliable hosting provider should offer a multi-homed connection.
Another thing to consider with multi-homed connection is the routing. You need to ensure a web hosting provider has an optimized routing process that can analyze traffic and choose the best and fastest path for your traffic.
At SoftSys Hosting we do this by using Noction Intelligent Routing Platform (IRP) to route our traffic through our multi-homed connections. By analyzing traffic at the network edge (WAN edge), Noction identifies congestions and blackouts and reroutes your traffic towards the fastest and best-performing path. This in turn reduces latency by up to 40% and increases performance.
Service Level Agreement (SLA)
A reliable hosting provider should have a documented SLA publicly available on the website. The SLA will define the level of service that you can expect from your hosting provider. It will also address financial penalties for cases in which the hosting provider fails to meet the level of service that was stated. The SLA should also include the Network SLA which states the uptime guarantee.
3. Technical Support
“It’s the level of support that makes a great host stand out! The others should really be a given.” – says Alex Wells, Website Developer at Simpsons Creative, a full-service creative agency based in the UK.
Technical support is the backbone of any reliable hosting company.
Here are some critical things to consider when evaluating a web hosting company’s support:
Support Staff Available 24/7
Issues can occur at any time, and often are beyond your control. A reliable web hosting provider should have staff available 24/7 to support your business. Response time – in a lot of cases the SLA will define the response times based on issue priority. If it’s not stated in the SLA find out what the average response times are so you are not caught off guard.
A support staff that’s available in-house and not outsourced will always provide superior technical support. In-house technicians have excellent knowledge of the company’s services and can respond immediately when issues arise.
Managed Server or Unmanaged Server
Everyone comes from different backgrounds and has different priorities. If you have an in-house IT department or prefer to manage everything yourself you might choose to have an unmanaged server.
However, if you don’t have an IT department, if you don’t have the time to manage a server, or simply prefer to have an additional layer of support you can opt to have your server fully managed by the hosting provider.
Typically, that includes at a minimum system/server administration support, server and application updates and patches, managed backups, and proactive monitoring.
4. Enhanced Security
Every day we read about a new cyberattack taking down well-established businesses. What does this tell us? Security cannot be overlooked these days!
Good security starts at the data center level and goes down up to the individual server level.
A reliable web hosting provider should take and offer a variety of security measures. We’ve got six for you:
A System and Organization Control audit (SOC) certifies that an organization protects and securely manages a customer’s information. It audits how a service provider complies with one or more of the following principles: security (required), confidentiality, processing integrity, privacy, and availability.
24/7 Network Monitoring
All network infrastructure should be monitored 24/7 to quickly identify any potential issues.
Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are growing rapidly in volume and frequency and becoming one of the most. DDoS attacks are anticipated to grow to 15.4 million by 2023. That’s nearly double the number of attacks since 2018. DDoS protection, either at the data center level or the server level is thus a critical security measure to consider when evaluating hosting providers.
A firewall keeps hackers and bad actors out of your server. An Intrusion Detection System (IDS) identifies possible security breaches or intrusions at the network or server level. An Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) creates rules to automatically block malicious access identified by the IDS. All of these are critical security solutions that the hosting provider should make available either as part of your plan or as an added service.
Malware and Ransomware Solutions
With the high increase in cyberattacks, you need to pay extra attention to server security. A good web hosting provider should be prepared to offer solutions that can protect your server from malware and ransomware attacks
Ongoing Backup Solutions
Backups are often underrated. But the truth is anything that is not properly backed up could be lost in seconds. A good web hosting provider should offer ongoing backups solutions with multiple retention options that allow for easy restores.
About SoftSys Hosting
At SoftSys Hosting we provide a complete suite of web hosting and related business services from our 4 datacenter locations: Denver, Chicago, London & Singapore.
Our primary goal is to help your business succeed. When you’re doing great, so are we!
We provide high-performance servers with pure SSD RAID 10 disk array. We use 100% redundant Juniper network devices that eliminate single points of failure and can handle more packets with higher throughput.
With a team of 24×7 in-house experienced sysadmins and a 99.9% uptime guarantee, we take care of your entire IT requirements so that you can focus on growing your business.
If you are looking for a reliable web hosting company with stellar technical support, fast SSD servers, great uptime, and enhanced security solutions please get in touch. We’d love to learn more about your business and provide solutions that will empower your team to accelerate growth.
So, you’ve decided to bite the bullet and take your business online.
Or perhaps you already have a successful online business and are looking for a reliable hosting provider to partner with as you continue to grow.
But what makes a web hosting provider reliable?
With hundreds of hosting providers out there finding the best one for your website is not an easy task. Don’t worry, we’ve got you!
We’ve rounded up some of our best tips on helping you choose a reliable hosting provider.
What Is a Web Hosting Service and How Does It Work?
For those unfamiliar, a web hosting service is a type of service that stores the files and data of your website or application and serves them, or makes them available, over the Internet. These files can be web pages (text content), images, media content, scripts, and more.
Each website needs a home where it can live.
When you get a web hosting service you basically rent a space on a server for your website. In other words, a web hosting provider is like a digital landlord. Instead of leasing or renting space in a building, it rents space on the Internet.
A web hosting provider, therefore, is a company that leases or rents the technology and resources needed to make your website accessible over the Internet.
To make your website accessible over the Internet you need to:
Own a domain name.
Purchase a hosting plan.
Upload your files into your web server.
Point your domain to the server’s IP.
When your website visitors type your website URL in their browser (Google Chrome, Safari, etc.), the browser requests the website information from the server that stores it, downloads the files, and displays the web page.
How Many Types of Web Hosting Services Are There?
There are a few different types of web hosting services. The most common types are shared hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated server hosting.
As the name indicates you are sharing your hosting with many other users, sometimes hundreds of users. So, if your web hosting provider is your landlord, shared hosting is like having a small apartment unit in a large apartment complex. You share the complex with hundreds of other tenants.
The advantage of shared hosting is that the prices are lower. The server is also maintained and managed by the hosting provider. All you have to do is upload your website and start growing your business.
The disadvantage of shared hosting is that you get a small allotment of resources and you have less control over the server. You cannot upload custom applications or access the server from the command line.
In some cases, there is not a lot of insulation between the different users. If one tenant overuses their resource allotment it could have a negative impact on your service. This can be significantly reduced if the hosting providers use an Operating System such as CloudLinux OS, which offers better isolation and increased performance.
A dedicated server is like having your own private house. It provides the highest level of privacy and you don’t share the building with anyone.
The advantage of dedicated servers is it can include a large number of resources.
The disadvantage of dedicated servers is cost. Dedicated server hosting is typically the most expensive type of hosting. Dedicated servers are also more difficult to manage and maintain.
There are VPS servers that can be just as large or powerful as a dedicated server. However, some companies might still prefer to use a dedicated server due to the higher degree of privacy offered, or due to various compliance requirements.
How To Find a Web Hosting Provider?
Ask a friend
If you have a friend, colleague, or business partner who has a website, ask for web hosting referrals. This is the BEST way to find a reliable hosting provider. You can learn from someone else’s experience.
But make sure the referrals you are getting are meeting your requirements and expectations.
Everyone has different needs.
Just because your friend/business partner is pleased with his/her Windows hosting provider, it doesn’t mean it will work for you, if you are looking for a Linux provider.
Go through your list and get specific information based on your own requirements.
Do Your Own Research
Another good way to find a good web hosting provider is through old fashion research.
Start with the obvious. Do a Google search and be as specific as possible.
Some examples of popular searches include: “managed vps hosting,” ”linux vps hosting,” “shared windows hosting”.
Check Online Reviews
Once you have identified your requirements and done your research, make a list of all the hosting providers that fit your needs.
Do your due diligence and find user reviews for the providers that match your requirements. Make sure you use reviews from reliable sources such as Trustpilot, Google Reviews, or G2.
Check Blogs and Social Channels
To a lesser extent, check which providers have a social media presence and periodic website updates. This will give you a sense of whether or not the hosting company is actively working on improving its services and communicating with its online community.
Is It Easy To Change Web Hosting Providers?
Changing web hosting providers can be a daunting task. If you use a Control Panel such as cPanel/WHM or Plesk and the destination provider uses the same Control Panel it’s a matter of copying your data from the old server to the new server using internal migration tools.
If you migrate to a different Control Panel or don’t use one at all, it’s a much more complicated task. In either case, if you’re not a developer yourself you need to make sure you have your developer on standby to test the migration and assist with any possible issues that arise.
A reliable web hosting company should offer you either a free migration or a discounted quote for assisting with the migration.
When choosing your web hosting provider, you should:
Have a monthly budget.
Estimate your monthly traffic.
Understand the different types of web hosting services (Shared, VPS, Dedicated).
Estimate your server’s resource requirements.
Define the location – where are you and your website visitors are located.
Know what application your website is built with (Java, WordPress, Magento, etc.)
Get a sense of how much support you expect to require. Do you need a fully managed server, unmanaged, or something in between?
Most of these are pretty straight forward, but identifying the resource requirements often poses a challenge.
If you are completely new to web hosting, your web developer should give you an idea about the resource requirements.
If this is an existing website you can get this information from your current web hosting provider.
Coming Up Next
You are now equipped with all the tips needed to find a reliable web hosting provider.
Would you be surprised to learn that eCommerce represents approx. 23%-25% of all commerce in the U.S.? The current state of quarantine has greatly accelerated the move towards “online first” commerce.
With so many retailers making the move to online shopping, we are bound to see innovative online and eCommerce trends emerging in 2021.
AI (Artificial Intelligence) and AR (Augmented Reality)
Artificial intelligence is one of the most transformative technologies being used today and one that will strongly influence the future of mankind. With substantial amounts of data being collected today, the machine learning algorithms improve every year. Although the concept of “artificial intelligence” has been around since antiquity, the term was brought to life at the 1956th Dartmouth Artificial Intelligence (AI) Conference, by a small group of scientists.
Today we can see AI being used everywhere from online retail to chatbots, CRM software, market forecasting, customer behavior analysis, and more. The use of artificial intelligence in the retail market is expected to reach $7.3 billion by 2022. Furthermore, Meticulous Research® estimates it will reach $19.9 billion by 2027.
Augmented Reality (AR) enhances user experience by allowing consumers to preview products online before making a purchase. Today we can see AR being used with virtual dressing rooms, interior design apps, even online marketplaces such as Etsy, which allows consumers to visualize wall art with augmented reality.
But the products that dominated the world of AR and are the most well-known to consumers are AR smart glasses. The concept first made the spotlight with Google Glasses back in 2014. Today, ABI Research estimates that over 120,000 stores around the world will be using AR smart glasses by 2022.
By implementing AI and AR online sellers can greatly enhance the eCommerce experience. This in turn could lower the return rates. Just imagine if you could see how that mid-century walnut dining table, that you had your eyes on for weeks now, fits in your living room before making the actual purchase. Pretty exciting right?
Omnichannel shopping has the customer at the center. Omnichannel refers to retailers that have both an online presence and a physical one. In addition, it involves making use of various technologies such as, AI and robotics amongst others, to provide a seamless and unified shopping experience.
That means retailers need to optimize for both an online and offline customer experience. A recent study conducted by BigCommerce on nearly 3000 consumers reveals that when it comes to online shopping, website security concerns and a website’s loading speed are at the top of the mind for most users.
Voice Search Commerce
Hands-free shopping sounds pretty tempting. With the rise of AI and the introduction of smart home assistants, we are starting to see an increase in Voice Search.
As the name implies, Voice Search is a technology that allows users to conduct online searches using their voice. Introduced by Google in 2011, Voice Search is rapidly rising to the forefront of online retail and search marketing.
The popularity of Voice Search has dramatically expanded with Amazon’s launch of its smart speaker Echo and virtual assistant Alexa.
Think about it. How many times in the past month have you used voice messages on your phone, or asked Siri or Alexa for assistance?
In a 2018 study conducted by Hubspot and Lucid, on over 3400 participants across the US, UK, and Canada, 52% of the responders have used voice assistants on either their smartphones or smart speakers. Of those that use a voice assistant, 15% use it to shop online.
Voice assistant use is predicted to continue to grow in 2021, getting to as much as 8.4 billion voice assistants being used by 2024 according to Statista.
The Rise of Total Experience (TX)
Gartner introduced us last year to the concept of multiexperience (MX) when they made their predictions for 2020. This year they go a step further in their top tech trends for 2021 by bringing up the concept of Total Experience (TX).
This new concept will combine multiexperience (MX), customer experience (CX), employee experience (EX), and user experience (UX) to optimize across all processes and create a better overall experience. Gartner says, companies that get behind the concept of Total Experience will gain a “sustainable competitive advantage.”
Directly Shoppable Media
Directly shoppable media such as live streaming, social commerce, virtual consultations, and shoppable ad formats are set to be the future of online advertising in 2021, according to a recent report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). Companies like YouTube, who earlier this year announced a direct response ad format, are already making the shift towards directly shoppable media. Facebook and Instagram have also rolled out online Shops and Live Shopping earlier this year to enable eCommerce across their apps and make it easier for consumers to shop in real-time.
“This is the biggest step that we’ve taken yet to enable commerce across our family of apps,” said Dan Levy, VP of Ads and Business Platform at Facebook.
Increased Focus on Cybersecurity
Over the past months, we have experienced a high increase in cyberattacks. Ransomware attacks are more complex every day with ransom demands that are in the millions. The number of cyberattacks increases weekly and cybercriminals are finding new ways to compromise the security of physical and digital devices.
The average consumer is becoming more aware and more educated on the several types of cyber threats and looking for ways to protect the security of critical data. As a result, 2021 will bring an increase in cybersecurity solutions and a focus on new practices such as “zero-trust.”
Gartner even goes as far as predicting a cybersecurity mesh that enables a more modular, scalable, and flexible security solution. In essence, the cybersecurity mesh will set a security perimeter around any “person or thing” ensuring thus secure access to any digital asset, regardless of one’s location.
At SoftSys Hosting we offer multiple security solutions including Acronis Cyber Protect for both local devices (laptops, PCs, smartphones) and virtual servers. Acronis Cyber Protect is a complete solution that includes integrated anti-malware, backup & recovery, vulnerability assessments, patch management, and more.
With the sudden increase in the remote workforce, brought by the effects of Covid-19, the need for a fast and reliable Internet connection has become more critical than ever. While 5G is already available in the US with large mobile carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, it is expected that the infrastructure will dramatically scale in 2021.
According to PwC, formerly PriceCoopersWaterhouse, by January 2021, almost 75% of the US population will have 5G coverage.
5G is the 5th level of Internet communications, bringing increased download speeds compared to its 4G predecessor. According to OpenSignal, 5G is five to six times faster than 4G. Not only is it faster but with all the additional cell towers and mesh stations, it will cover a lot more ground than 4G.
With everyone being stuck at home during the pandemic, we are seeing an increased shift towards eCommerce. But while offering an online shop has its many advantages, businesses need to ensure they stay competitive and offer consumers a great overall experience.
Start by building a fast, scalable, and secure eCommerce store. Then take it a step further by incorporating new advertising approaches such as live shopping or virtual consultations or optimizing for voice commerce.
If you are looking for a platform to host your eCommerce store, please get in touch. We offer fast, reliable, and secure eCommerce hosting using nopCommerce or Enterprise Magento. Both solutions are optimized for superior performance. We would love to learn more about your business and provide a solution that will accelerate your online growth.
Software Updates Gone Wrong – updating applications and software can often time break a fast website and a restore from backup will be required.
Hardware Failure – incorrect drive information, outages, the drive does not power on, file corruption, etc.
Physical Disasters – hurricane, fire, flood, etc.
Any of these situations can result in a permanent loss of data if you don’t have a backup. We have partnered with Acronis to deliver a reliable and easy-to-use backup solution and cybersecurity solution.
Protect Your Critical Data With Acronis Cyber Backup or Acronis Cyber Protect.Activate 1 Month FREE!
Imagine, hundreds of users are rushing to your website at the same time to purchase products which you actively marketed for this holiday. Your ads are now running, you are getting visitors more than you calculated or more than your server can handle. So what is going to happen with this sudden traffic spike?
Prepare for the Worst or If You Want Peace, Prepare for War
You should be always prepared for the worst (means best for your business) during this holiday shopping fest. Because the year 2020 proved to be one of the toughest years so far. But this might be the good opportunity for your online business because people will hesitate to go out in malls during this Covid-19 pandemic and you may expect getting more online traffic than ever before. In that case you should be prepared to avoid 2 major disasters. So how are you going to be prepared?
Check your Website Performance
You can check the current performance of your website easily with the online tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights. Open PageSpeed Insights, enter the URL of your website and hit the Analyze button. This test will show you result for both mobile and desktop versions of your website. And you will get the detailed audit of your website code and receive suggestions on how to optimize it. But still if you don’t have enough computing power to run your website easily during this traffic spike, you may get time-out errors and your customers will flow away without making any purchases.
Use Content Delivery Network (CDN)
The best way to cope with the traffic load on your website is not follow all traffic to your single web hosting server. CDN can do it very effectively by storing the cached content of your website on multiple CDN servers located around the globe. But you will have to implement CDN before the traffic starts hitting your website because it will be very difficult to implement the CDN once your website is under heavy traffic load.
Opt for the Scalable Hosting Solution
The most straightforward way to deal with increased traffic is to upgrade your hosting account. For example, if you are using shared hosting you can go with VPS which will give you isolated resources like RAM, CPU and storage at a more affordable price if compare to dedicated solutions. You should contact your web hosting provider before your customers start contacting you. And if you are a Softsys Hosting client then you can directly get in touch with our support team and we will provide you the most suitable VPS plans or you can choose on your own from our extensive range of cloud-based Windows VPS, Linux VPS or Special eCommerce (nopCommerce, Magento) and CMS (WordPress, Joomla, Umbraco) hosting solutions.