Setting up an online presence used to be a very involved matter that entailed a hefty upfront expense in hardware and a fair amount of manual configuration. The proliferation of online services, however, has made it possible to get everything done without having to purchase any server or expensive software licenses.
Today, I highlight five steps for a new business to establish itself online. You will need nothing more than a Web browser, a valid credit card and perhaps an hour or two to sign up for the various services and to get things up and running.
Probably the most important step towards establishing an online presence entails registering a domain of choice. This can be done at an accredited domain name registrar such as GoGaddy.com or Namecheap. If you live outside of the U.S., you may need to determine the domain registrars for the country-level domain that you want. Applying for the former is pretty straightforward -- as long as it is available. Note that additional conditions may apply for country-level domains.
Many domain registrars do offer the ability to host your DNS configuration with them. However, there may be situations where greater flexibility is needed, necessitating for DNS hosting by a third party. On this front, DynaDNS is a highly reputable company that offers reliable DNS hosting services starting from $29.95 per year.
The most popular blogging system in the world today is undoubtedly WordPress. Even businesses not looking to make use of its blogging feature will benefit from its highly polished framework, as well as large number of available themes and plug-ins. To get WordPress installed, one option would be to download the free software and roll it on your own hosting service of choice. The alternative would be to rely on the WordPress.com service that is run by the team that created WordPress.
Wordpress.com offers both free and paid services; get a paid account, though, as the free version does not allow you to use your newly acquired business domain. The Pro bundle costs $99 per year and offers 13GB of storage space, while the Business bundle costs $299 per year.
SMBs looking to make use of Exchange will be glad to know that a hosted version has been available as part of Microsoft’s Office 365 offering for sometime now.
Called Exchange Online, an email account can cost as low as $4 per user per month, and comes with 25GB of storage, capabilities such as shared calendar, and spam and malware filtering. Other providers such as Intermedia also offer hosted Exchange at a good price, though it does require a minimum of three users.
Do note that Office 365 does offer DNS hosting and a website, though the latter is only available on the more-pricey Small Business and Enterprise plans. Unless you require the other features in your Office 365 plan of choice, businesses consisting of more than 10 users will find it more affordable to host their website separately.
The last step entails registering the appropriate accounts on the various social media networks. It may be a good idea to register a handle for all the main networks, though it may not be practical to actively manage more than two or three for a fledging business. Also, it probably makes more sense to engage on the main platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – instead of spreading your efforts too broadly and diluting it.