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And most importantly:
Is support provided 24/7? How is it provided? (i.e: phone, email, chat)
After you have a web host, use FTP programs to upload and download files to your web host.
What is a Web Server?
This section describes some of the most common hosting technologies.
Windows hosting means hosting of web services that runs on the Windows operating system.
You should choose Windows hosting if you plan to use ASP (Active Server Pages) as server scripting, or if you plan to use a database like Microsoft Access or Microsoft SQL Server. Windows hosting is also the best choice if you plan to develop your web site using Microsoft Front Page.
Unix hosting means hosting of web services that runs on the Unix operating system.
Unix was the first (original) web server operating system, and it is known for being reliable and stable. Often less expensive than Windows.
Linux hosting means hosting of web services that runs on the Linux operating system.
Web pages can be executed as CGI scripts. CGI scripts are executables that will execute on the server to produce dynamic and interactive web pages.
Most Internet service providers will offer some kind of CGI capabilities. And many will offer preinstalled, ready to run, guest-books, page-counters, and chat-forums solutions written in CGI scripts.
The use of CGI is most common on Unix or Linux servers.
ASP - Active Server Pages
Active Server Pages is a server-side scripting technology developed by Microsoft.
ASP is a standard component in Windows 95,98, 2000, and XP. It can be activated on all computers running Windows.
Many web hosting providers are offering ASP, as it is becoming a more and more popular technology.
If you want to learn more about ASP, please visit our ASP tutorial.
Microsoft's ASP technology runs only on Windows platforms.
However, Chili!Soft ASP is a software product that allows ASP to run on UNIX and some other platforms.
JSP is a server-side technology much like ASP developed by Sun.
With JSP you can create dynamic web pages by putting Java code inside your HTML pages. The code is executed by the web server before the page is returned to the browser.
Since JSP uses Java, the technology is not restricted to any server-specific platform.
FrontPage is a very common web site design tool developed by Microsoft.
FrontPage allows users to develop a web site without any deep knowledge of web development. Most Windows hosting solutions support FrontPage server extensions for users that use FrontPage to develop their web site.
If you plan to use FrontPage, you should look for a Windows hosting solution (meaning not Unix / Linux).
Just like ASP, PHP is a server-side scripting language which allows you to create dynamic web pages by putting script code inside your HTML pages. The code is executed by the web server before the page is returned to the browser.
Cold Fusion is another server-side scripting language used to develop dynamic web pages.
Cold Fusion is developed by Macromedia.
A secure server can transmit data encrypted.
If you plan to do online credit card transactions, or other types of web communication that needs to be protected against unauthorized access, your web host must provide a secure server.
SQL Server or Oracle for high traffic database-driven web sites.
Access or MySQL for low traffics database-access.
If your web site needs to update large quantities of information via the web, you will need a database to store your information.
There are many different database systems available for web hosting. The most common are MS Access, MySQL, SQL Server, and Oracle.
Using the SQL Language
SQL is the language for accessing databases.
If you want your web site to be able to store and retrieve data from a database, your web server should have access to a database-system that uses the SQL language.
If you want to learn more about SQL, please visit our SQL tutorial.
Microsoft's SQL Server is one of the most popular database software for database-driven web sites with high traffic.
SQL Server is a very powerful, robust and full featured SQL database system.
Oracle is also a very popular database software for database-driven web sites with high traffic.
Oracle is a very powerful, robust and full featured SQL database system.
When a web site requires a simple database solution, Microsoft Access is a very popular option.
Access is not well suited for very high-traffic, and not as powerful as Oracle or SQL Server.
MySQL is also a popular database software for web sites.
MySQL is an inexpensive alternative to the expensive Microsoft and Oracle solutions.
It is not a very good idea to build your own e-commerce system. Some (larger) companies might do it, but we will not recommend it if you run a smaller business. Building an e-commerce system is a complicated process, with the potential for a lot of errors.
You might buy a ready-to-use system and run it on your own server. Many systems are available on the market today, and most of them will cover your basic needs for order management and processing. But again, if you are not familiar with hosting your own web site, starting with an e-commerce site is not the right thing.
The best solution, in our opinion, is to find a hosting provider that offers an e-commerce solution.Hosting Providers
E-commerce covers a very huge range of products. With different hosting providers you will find anything from very simple to very complex solutions.
Most providers will offer a simple and inexpensive solution that allow you to run your own "virtual store".Your Checklist
Also check if the most time-consuming tasks are automated. Look for automated billing, invoice handling, accounting, and report generation.
Before you sign up a contract with any hosting provider, surf some other e-commerce sites on their servers. Find out how it works. Actually try some shopping and see if you get a good feeling. Also compare the other sites against yours, to see if it looks like you have the same needs. Contacting some of the other customers is also a valuable option.Tax Issues
Taxes is a complex issue for most on-line stores. Especially VAT (Value Added Tax).
If you are selling on-line, you will most likely be in the export business.
Trading with different countries is easy, but tax issues might be tricky. Exporting goods may not be the subject of VAT in your country, but often your customers will have to pay their local VAT when they pick up the goods.
In addition, there will be the issue of income tax for your shop, depending on how you report your income from sales.
Before starting an on-line store, be sure to consult your tax adviser.