Who ever invented the term Internet Service Provider either had no idea just how diverse the Internet market would become, or was naive enough to think a single supplier could provide all the services necessary for businesses to do business on the net.
Today, the Internet services market, while growing rapidly, is also fragmenting into different segments of service provision.
For businesses, this means better value for money, provided you learn who does what in the Internet services market.
While there are a few ISPs offering a ‘one stop shop service’, most are beginning to specialise in a particular segment, and refer customers to preferred suppliers (or other divisions in the same company) for related Internet services.
Connecting computers to the Internet is the traditional area of ISP business, but getting your business online involves a lot more than organising a dial-up or permanent connection to the net.
What if you want a website?
Building good websites requires a totally different set of skills to connecting computers to the net.
Web developers specialise in building websites. Their core skills are based around graphic design, image manipulation and the html authoring software used to build web pages.
There are numerous website developers in the Perth market – a few have created some excellent websites.
If you’re considering using a website developer, remember that there is more to a website than great graphics.
If a site is not built properly, it can be difficult for search engines to find, difficult for visitors to navigate and slow to download.
Once you’ve built your site, you will need to host it on a server that is plugged directly into the net.
As part of your Internet access service, many ISPs will offer you between five and ten megabytes of ‘free space’, where you can store your website.
If you take up this option, make sure you get your own domain name.
If you don’t, your web address will be a sub-domain of the ISP’s hosting service, which can make your site difficult to find.
Own domain address: www.bizeplanet.com.au
ISP sub-domain: www.acme.com.au/~bizeplanet
– where acme is the ISP.
If you’re thinking of selling products from your website, ask the ISP what e-commerce facilities they offer and what costs are involved.
Hosting websites is becoming a specialist area of its own, and there are a number of on-line hosting companies you can use around the world.
WebCentral is Australia’s largest web hosting service and offer a comprehensive range of services you can purchase and manage on-line.
Web marketing companies help you build traffic (visitors) to your website by making sure it can be found easily and by promoting the site effectively.
In the US, web marketing companies are growing rapidly because thousands of companies that have invested in website development are realising they don’t have the expertise to market their site in the radically different Internet environment.
Web marketing companies will show you how to build websites that can be found easily and download quickly.
They will also plug you into a whole array of free registration, advertising and hot-link services that direct Internet users to your site.
Most important, good web marketing companies will provide a team of experts to look specifically at your business and develop strategies to help you succeed on the Internet.
Talking to a web marketing company should be the first step any business takes before venturing out onto the net.
If you’re going to get serious about selling your products and services online, your current ‘back-end’ systems such as inventory, accountancy and customer information management will probably need upgrading or possibly replacing.
There is a possibility that your existing systems would be more expensive to upgrade than simply buying a new system.
However, you may need to ask your ISP or an online system developer such as Sage IT what the best online solution may be.
The four areas defined above are segments of the Internet Services market which appear to be forming as the market matures.
They are by no means definitive. Some ISPs will still offer website development just as some website developers offer hosting.
However, it appears that by focussing on specific areas, suppliers can offer better customer service and more competitive pricing.
If you have a good ISP, they will have no difficulty directing you to a supplier that will make your website more successful.