So let's say your company is convinced and it's time to dip that toe. What follows is a guide to the technical aspects of creating an e-commerce site, from registering a domain name to accessing greater bandwidth in the event of a surge in business. By Jane Lewis
Step 1: the basics
Sit down and think about it - what is it you want to achieve? Advertising presence? Customer information? Or a fully transactional electronic shop? Will you want to be able to glean information about your customers from the site?
Given that it will be accessible globally, what languages will you need to have? Will the needs of your company change and grow over time, and if so will your electronic solution be flexible enough to keep up or is the IT department simply going to be cursing the day you were born?
Putting up a site is an invitation for people to treat it as a contact point - e-mail will be sent to that site, e-mail that may mean customer leads, or complaints, so someone has to be responsible for dealing with it, and the willing technician who built the site is unlikely to be the one.
If you create your own site how are you going to control access to it? If your company is mentioned on TV and 40,000 people try to access the site at once what will happen? Will it crash or be swamped by the number of access attempts, creating an impression of unreliability among potential customers?
Step 2: the web server
Every home page needs a home, and that home is the Web server. Because a server is a computer that feeds information to a number of "client" computers this usually means an Arnold Schwarzenegger of a machine, pumped up with as much processing power, memory and storage space as budget permits.
That machine needs to be connected to the Web, and since you are in effect inviting the whole world to your home, the doorway to the information on the server has to be big enough to take the crush. This means a simple telephone line will not be enough, so you will need greater bandwidth access - that is, able to take a far larger amount of information flow. That in turn usually translates to very fast phone lines, so if you don't have access to fast leased lines then you risk creating a bottleneck between your site and the information superhighway. If all this is sounding increasingly costly and time-consuming, go to step 6 now.
Step 3: the hardware
Having the hardware is not enough. If the