Have business; need website

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I speak to people on a regular basis about how they can obtain a suitable web presence for their business or startup. The overwhelming request I get is to explain exactly what they need in order to get their website up and running.

This doesn't really have a simple answer because what is required depends on the business' requirements. To make matters slightly more complicated, what the business requires now may not be what is required six months or two years down the line.

So defining the web requirements for a new business is not always an elementary job.

If you care about coming off as professional then the first thing you need is a domain name. This is the address that people type into their browser in order to visit your webpages.

A domain name can be purchased through a domain registrar or a hosting service provider. You're generally looking at about $8 per year in terms of expense for a .com domain, but it can change depending on who you're getting it from and if there are other factors involved.

Watch out for unscrupulous domain parking sites that make money by pre-emptively buying your domain and then extorting cash from you.

Domain parking is a big business and if you find that your perfect domain is already taken, then rather than encourage this worthless business by giving them cash, find something else.

Remember, you don't have to have a .com, you can have a local address (i.e. .co.uk), or go with an organization (.org), or any number of other things (.net, .gov and so on) depending on the nature of your site/business.

The next thing you need is somewhere to host your website. A hosting service provides the file system, database and connection to the Internet.

There are a huge array of these sites and services out there. Some do a great job; many do a terrible job so it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff before committing to one or the other.

As a rule of thumb, go with services that offer support and quality software like cPanel for administration - they might be a bit more expensive than the next guy, but it's worth it because it saves on hassle in the long run.

It may be that you don't have to worry about hosting services at all because there are online website and blog builders that provide hosting as part of their service. Wordpress is one such site. You can set up a blog, and put it online without ever having to find your own hosting service.

These online blog publishing tools are excellent at making the most common tasks easy to achieve, and are potentially a good option if you know your site will never need anything out of the ordinary.

Finally, you need your actual website, which will go onto the host file system so that it can be served to the public whenever they access your domain. Whether you have any Web experience or not, don't settle for having anything less than a professional looking website.

Remember, you don't have to pay a lot of money these days to get a nice site. There are well designed platforms that provide complete, professional and powerful websites without you having to lift a finger.

Of great importance to any individual or business that has a website, is getting it seen and popularized. Even if your website is meant only as a type of online business card, it can't hurt to make sure it has a bit of relevant content to give it some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) power.

Take a bit of time to make the website useful and you'll find that the Internet can benefit your business in surprising ways.

Good luck!