What is the best web hosting for small businesses?

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Help! I'm usually the technologically savvy one, but when a friend of
mine asked me what web hosting company would be best for their
business, I had no idea. I have tried searching online, but I have no
idea what most of the technological terms mean (such as PERL, VPS,
SSL) The following is their requirement (they have a small business
that sells less than ten products / services):

# They need access of certain parts of the Electronic shop (e-shop) to
be restricted to certain members
# Unlimited Disc Space
# Unlimited Data Transfer
# At least 250 email addresses with unlimited storage and at least
10MB of attachments; catch all; free aliases; mailing list
# Free Site Building/ Design Tools
# Hosting of the Web Site & ability to accept payment through pay pal,
Visa, Mastercard, and Discover plus Free Shopping Cart
# The ability for customers to create usernames and passwords to log
# Interactive chatting between customers and support
# Site Statistics
# Online Gift Certificates and Coupons

Thank you !!!!


Re: What is the best web hosting for small businesses?

In article
 laptop.cheap@gmail.com wrote:

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Their expectations need to be reset on what they'll get for those
services.  Some of their requirements are gonna cost.

- Access to certain parts of the e-commerce portion to restrict members

That shouldn't be a problem.  Usually, there's a shopping cart module
and an order processing module.  In order the create a shopping cart,
new users can create a new account or have the account "reviewed" prior
to allowing someone to place an order.  Or allow unrestricted new users
(with spam filtering with a CAPTCHA) and review orders before they're

- Unlimited Disk space
- Unlimited data transfer


Seriously, I've not found any web host that offers this.  They usually
offer tiers with different levels of service and cost.  The only
"unlimited" service I've seen is where the company owns the box and
co-locates it at a facility where it's fed electricity and air
conditioning for a monthly fee but the network usage is still metered.  
They need to take a hard look at what they're actually using now and
what they project they might need and plan for that.  

Some businesses have seasonal demands such as the Christmas holidays.  
This are very hard to plan capacity for and most of the time a company
has to decide if they want to build to handle this maximum size or
design an environment that's adaptive like Amazon's eshops.

Or you can "buy a virtual machine" where you have space on a large box
with your own system that you setup and and run.  Bring your own

- 250 email addresses with unlimited storage, 10MB attachments,
catch-all delivery, aliases, mailing lists

This is a full email system.  Either the small company is going to buy
and maintain the system with a part-time person to run it.  Or they're
going to hire a company to do that for them.  The mailing lists will be
a problem if they don't do opt-in.  Many small ISPs ban mailing lists so
they don't have to deal with blowback from "customers" who complain
they've been spammed.  I'm sure your customer would never do anything
unethical like that but ISPs are very tetchy about such things.  They
may end of having to do this themselves.

- Site Building/Design Tools/Web Hosting/e-commerce/secure payment

Now we get into the "open source" or closed-vendor solution territory.  
There are open CMS solutions that could be used for this as well
Microsoft-only platforms.  Expect to pay for the expertise to buy and
setup these up.  Lots of web hosts offer these sorts of packages, some
as part of a business hosting tier along with e-commence and a secure
server certificate extra.  They should process any orders through
whatever payment processor the hosting site offers.  If you use the
processor the web host recommends, you'll have few problems integrating
their shopping cart/processing modules than if you have to custom code a
module to have the cart accept your processor.  

It shouldn't be a problem but it will cost.  A Microsoft-only solution
may have added yearly licensing costs as well.

- Interactive chat

I've not seen a web host offer this.  The company may have to use
support forums or find a separate company that does chat forums.

- On-line gift certificates and coupons

Buying a gift certificate would be a function of the e-commerce system.  
Accepting coupons would be function of the payment system.  I've seen
this in some e-commerce systems.

Over all, this is going to require someone with e-commerce experience to
find and setup.  You say yourself it's a lot of acronyms to you.  Maybe
it's time to hire someone to help them sift through their requirements,
which are rather large for a "small business".  They're going to be in
shock when they see the cost of some of these things.

DeeDee, don't press that button!  DeeDee!  NO!  Dee...
[I filter all Goggle Groups posts, so any reply may be automatically by ignored]

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