If you’re looking to set up a blog for your Australian business and you’ve decided on your editorial style (see our previous article about blog setup for information about this) then it’s time for you to physically set up your blog. We recommend WordPress for your blog as this is robust software with an admin interface that is very easy-to-use, fast and convenient. And this might seem like a little thing, but WordPress keeps you logged in for a long time in admin and autosaves versions of your article when you’re inactive as well, which saves you a lot of time and frustration in the long run. We’ve used other blog software that logs you out if you don’t use it, and loses the article you were working on… and when that happens it’s very much a case of “grrr…..#$@**!!!”
Purists will tell you it’s always better to start any installation with a clean hosting folder and to then manually install any script. This involves downloading it from the author’s site and then running the install program script. But the one-click installers available from your cPanel web control panel in your Geekz website install up-to-date versions that can be easily updated. For WordPress, you can do this from WordPress’ own automated updater in admin.
The developers of the one click installers available in your cPanel (Fantastico and QuickInstall) frequently update the versions that are installed based on the latest released versions of these software applications. They also include upgrade scripts in their applications so that your one-click-install can be updated via their applications if you haven’t manually modified any of the programming code files.
This takes the worry of out-of-date software out of the equation when using them: as soon as a new version of these software applications is included in Fantastico or QuickInstall our automatic script updaters ensure that the latest files and upgrade script are added to the version that you can see in your cPanel.
Essential WordPress Plugins
Once you have your installation of WordPress up and running, and have your design sorted, then it’s time to think about what things you will want to install to extend WordPress’ functionality. Plugins are these software components that allow functionality extensions, and WordPress has been designed so most can be installed automatically without any programming knowledge at all. You just click on “Plugins > Add New” from your side menu and then search for the types of plugins you are interested in. You can view the author’s description and screenshots of the plugin in a popup window before deciding whether to install it or not.
So what plugins should you use for your blog? The exact mix you’ll need depends on the type of blog that you are running. If it will be highly graphical then you’ll want gallery or video plugins for example. But the most basic plugins that your business can really benefit from are the following:
- Google XML Sitemaps – this is essential for telling Google about the structure of your website so it indexes as many pages of your site as possible
- JF3 Maintenance Redirect – this allows you to temporarily put your blog down for maintenance if you are working on something specific or experimenting with a look that you don’t want the world to see until it’s ready. For example, if you’ve developed a page for a product launch and want to test it just prior to it being released to the world
- Secure WordPress – cleans up a lot of pages and script in WordPress that need tidying
- AVH Anti Spam Defence – checks automated visitors to your site against known blacklists of spammers and automatically blocks them. Highly recommended.
- SEO Ultimate or the All in one SEO Pack – allows you to take advantage of a number of features that enhance the content of your page when viewed by search engines. This won’t guarantee better rankings but will help make it easier for the search engines to find the content you want them to, and interpret it the way you want it interpreted. There’s nothing worse than ranking in Google on topics completely different from what your business is about.
- Page Links To – this allows you to create a dummy page to redirect people to the right content you want on your site. For example, many people will add “/blog” after a url even if the entire site is a blog. You can then create a page called “Blog” and point it to your default blog category. This way people who don’t realise your entire site is a blog still find the content they want to read. It’s also very useful for linking a page to a page outside of wordpress (e.g. on another related domain or a sub page that has been manually created using HTML). Good for contest pages, manually created landing pages or if you are running a different script on your site in addition to your blog (e.g. a shopping cart)
- If you need a gallery for your blog posts/pages, then take a look at NexGEN gallery – it’s reasonably sophisticated and well supported
There are many more useful plugins particularly in the areas of marketing, anti-spam and security, but the above is just a primer for some plugins that we have found very useful in WordPress installations we have set up ourselves.
If you have visited our Business Web Hosting Features page, you will have seen the technical specs of our hosting servers and the feature-rich nature of our hosting packages. But what does this all mean for you as a business? Can these server specifications be compared to the specs you see advertised for home or business PCs, for example? All will be answered below.
Difference between Web Servers and Home PCs
Web servers are more than just a powerful PC. The web server is what allows you to access your email, view your website and manage your online business. They work very differently from home PCs which typically allocate the vast majority of their processor and memory to desktop applications like Microsoft Windows. Because of the user interface requirements they typically have heavy demands on memory and have one application running in the foreground with others running in the background – the operating system cycles between these very quickly to give the end user the impression that there are a lot of applications running at once. A Linux web server on the other hand, typically has very little in terms of graphical interface and is mostly managed by command line or browser based applications.
The web server software is configured to manage multiple users accessing the same content in parallel, so the peformance of serving up html and processing script software files is the component that matters. The web server software (on Geekz servers this is called “Apache”) receives the vast majority of the server’s resources as this is what the server exists to do. A local network PC computer may have many more resources devoted to components like Wireless Networking, Printing, USB inputs, high resolution graphics whereas a high performance Linux web server may not have these components at all.
Linux web servers allocate their memory to networking components and file caches rather than glitzy graphical interfaces and application switching.
Let’s look at some of the specific features of all Geekz Business Hosting accounts and what they mean for you as a business.
Dual Xeon Quadcore CPUs
In any computer the CPU is like the CEO of a company – managing all of the other components and ultimately responsible for everything that is done. The latest desktop PCs include computer chips like Intel’s i5 and i7 Central Processor Units (CPUs) that include multiple “cores” within a single processor. This means an individual computer chip contains multiple processing units within it. If you’ve bought a PC recently or seen computer advertising you would have seen terminology like “Dual Core”, “Quad Core” or “Multi Core” referred to – this multi-processing capability is what these terms mean. Having multiple cores turns an individual computer into the equivalent of a board of executive directors – a management team to do all of the number crunching that is required to get the user’s tasks done.
Intel Xeon processors: the next step up from multi-processing
Intel’s Xeon line of processors are significantly higher performance than their standard line of processors for desktop computers. The Xeon CPUs are designed specifically for use in servers, and the tasks that servers perform all the time. For this reason Xeon processors have significantly more cache for repeated commands than standard processors, which is ideal in a web environment where multiple visitors request the same page. At the time of writing, we are currently using Dual Xeon E5520 CPUs in our data centre servers.
It’s hard to compare standard processors to server processors because of the types of tasks are so different. For example, a desktop computer is focussed on doing a single task at a time – like opening a file dialog, drawing an image on the screen, browsing a single website, calculating a spreadsheet. A web server will be doing the same task many times in parallel – like adding or removing items from a shopping cart or showing your business website home page. Tasks done in parallel are much better done by a dual processing system like the Xeon with web server software designed to take advantage of that processor. Tasks done graphically in the foreground will be better handled by a single desktop processor like the i5 or i7. This said, we’ve read on technology forums that at the time of writing the Xeon processors outperform an unmodified i7 or i5 on a raw drag race across the board. Newer iterations of the technology may change this conclusion however.
Geekz websites are housed on servers that have multiple multi-core processors. As “dual quadcore” means 2 quad-core processors, this means that the web server software has a minimum of 8 processors at its disposal to respond to browsers and email clients requesting web content from it. As these processors are high end Intel Xeon processors and not just regular desktop PC processors, this takes processing to the next level and means outstanding response times for the web server when people type the domain name of the site into a browser.
MySQL Databases (MySQL 5.1)
The database is essential to any software that is interactive – like a content management system, blog or shopping cart. The type of database system used by Geekz web hosting accounts is the popular MySQL system and the 5.1 refers just to the latest version. Version 5 dramatically changed the way MySQL databases processed queries improving the performance but placing extra demands on older software scripts that referred to them.
Apache 2.2 with mod_rewrite
Apache 2.2 is the latest version of the web server software that handles actual web requests to the server’s hardware. Mod_rewrite is the component of the server software that allows websites to use search engine friendly URLs (if the software itself supports them).
PHP5 is the latest version of the popular PHP programming language and is the standard for web applications since 2008. All shopping cart software should be configured to use servers with PHP5 enabled as this is a minimum requirement by Visa and MasterCard’s security standards.
Server Memory (RAM)
As with all computers the more memory a computer has the more requests that can be handled per second without overloading the server and crashing the computer. Every time a visitor comes to the website, the web server allocates a small amount of memory for that visitor and if the server runs out of memory, then this slows down the server in processing all websites on that server. Geekz business web hosting packages are configured on servers with a minimum of 12GB of RAM – which is sufficient for a large number of sites and visitors per server. Some of our more specialised packages may run on different configurations, depending on the requirements of that type of application and the number of sites/visitors expected to that server.
There are many other features of our business hosting features that we could cover, and we may do in future articles depending on the questions and feedback we receive. If you’d like to know more about our affordable web hosting packages, why don’t you ask us a question or give them a try with our 7 day free hosting trial.
If you’re running a business, what matters to you when it comes to email is most likely to be does your email download when you click on “Send and Receive” in your email program, and can you send out your marketing newsletters or order emails without issue. Do you really need to know what techie jargon like POP3, IMAP, SMTP means and how it’s relevant to your business? You’ll probably be saying no to that, but the reality is that you can rarely get through an instruction manual on an email software program, or an article about protecting yourself against email spam without coming across some of these acronyms. A basic understanding of email and how it works with respect to your business web hosting account does come in very handy.
Webmail is a secure method of viewing your email if you don’t have an email program installed on the computer that you are using. It its a webpage that allows you to view your email inbox, send emails and depending on the program do other things that desktop email applications typically do. All Geekz Business Web Hosting accounts include webmail in all packages and it can be accessed by going to your domain name with the extension /webmail on the end.
Alternatively you can log in to your cPanel on your domain and choose “Webmail” from the menus in there. There are three different webmail user interfaces that you’ll be able to choose when you log in: Horde, SquirrelMail and Roundcube.
We encourage our customers to try each of the three so that they can see which one they prefer themselves.
Whenever email is mentioned, you’ll often hear about ports. Ports are like a set of PO Box numbers on a web server, and different components of the web server listen to them for activity. There’s one for the http:// connection of your web server that displays web pages, and other ones for incoming and outgoing parts of your email server. Some firewall block all ports by default and then enable ones for the functions that they know about. So sometimes you’ll hear techies talk about “opening ports” which basically means telling the firewall to allow incoming or outgoing activity in that location. In this article, ports are relevant to our discussion about anti-spam techniques in the section on outgoing email.
There are two commonly used methods for retrieving email from your web server after it is delivered. POP stands for Post Office Protocol and is the most popular method used by email programs. The 3 you see in POP3 is a version number. POP works the same way that a real PO Box works: the box is opened using the key (your username and password) and if there’s any mail waiting in the box it’s taken out. If you have multiple computers checking the same inbox then as soon as its downloaded by one computer then it’s not there to be downloaded by another. Although you can set up your email program not to delete the emails once they’re downloaded. If you do that you’ll need to log in to your web mail periodically and clear out your inbox – otherwise it will fill up and you’ll use your web hosting disk space allocation.
An alternative to POP3 for businesses where multiple people need to access the same inbox is IMAP (also known as IMAP4, where 4 is the version number). IMAP stands for Internet Message Access Protocol. It’s an email communication method (protocol) which keeps the connection to the mail server alive (instead of connecting, reading and disconnecting periodically) which means emails can be received by end users as soon as they get to the server. What’s more, messages remain on the server until they are deleted which makes it a useful setup for businesses with multiple people needing to read emails from the same inbox: for example, a Sales team.
If you receive a lot of attachments and don’t want to wait to see the attachment before downloading other emails, then IMAP has a lot of advantages for you too. This is because IMAP downloads emails in a different way from POP3 so that the text portion of the email can be retrieved for a number of emails before the attachments download. If you get an email with a big attachment for example this makes accessing your inbox a little easier to manage as you don’t have to wait for that one to download to see the other emails.
Hosting accounts on Geekz support both IMAP and POP3 email without changing any of the other email settings.
Outgoing email – SMTP
Email is sent via a communication method called SMTP. This stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. STMP is made up of a number of software components on the mail server on your domain that interact together, along with the recipient components on the destination mail server across the Internet. The specifics of how this works are outside the scope of this article about explaining email jargon but it’s worth noting that at Geekz we have changed the default port for SMTP from its default setting. This is due to the anti-spam mechanisms in place at most ISPs in Australia.
Changing default SMTP port from 25 to 26: an anti-spam mechanism
Why? Traditionally the outgoing SMTP servers did not check the authenticity of emails that they received and just listened for activity on the assigned port (port #25 for those of you technically minded). Spambots started taking advantage of this, using the SMTP facility of email servers to relay spam. Internet Service Providers have cracked down on these anonymous (usually foreign) spambots by locking activity on the default port to the email accounts on their own domain. For example, if you’re with iiNet, you could only send email from your @iinet.net.au account on port 25, if you’re with Netspace you could only send email from your @netspace.net.au account on port 25, if you’re with Bigpond you could only send email from your @bigpond.com account on port 25 etc. This would block legitimate email from your own business domain so as a method to allow this, we have changed the default port for outgoing SMTP from 25 to 26 on all Geekz hosting accounts. You can set the port number for outgoing emails in the advanced settings feature of most email programs.
There is a lot written about blogging for business, but most of these articles focus on what technology you should use for your blog (a free blogging system versus a script on your own website like WordPress or Joomla) or the physical steps you should follow when setting one up. For example, how should you set up your categories, what tags should you define, how you can monetise the blog to earn more for your business. These articles are a great source of useful information about creating a blog website, but they don’t touch on the spirit of point of a blog: to cover topics of interest to you, and relevant to you at a point in time. Your web-log. That’s what this article is about. Blogging about what is passionate to you, and what is topical to your business, which is why you have your business after all isn’t it?
As a business the spirit of the web log is often lost in businesses that are writing posts designed purely for their search engine ranking benefits. Blogs you wouldn’t want to read as they are close to meaningless to humans. In these articles, you’ll find if you analyse them that they near perfectly profile a particular keyword or search engine phrase in the text, mentioning that keyword or specific synonyms of that keyword phrase in an approximate ratio of 3% to the total word count of the article. That’s the conventional wisdom about how to make an article’s content appear relevant to the search engines. But how readable is it and how useful is it?
We take a different approach to our blog at Geekz. We write about the things we are passionate about: topical issues in web hosting, issues that we have come across in our day-to-day interactions with customers, things we are interested in, or things that we feel are generally useful. We’re passionate about helping Australian businesses succeed online, so if you’ve been reading our blog you’ve probably come across articles about useful retail topics in overcoming slow sales, promoting your business (without unethical “SEO” tricks), and descriptions of how to set up a business (this is an ongoing series that is still in progress). Whenever we write a blog topic, we don’t just rewrite someone else’s post or look at keyword phrases we want to rank on and write meaningless babble that search engines will find relevant.
We write in Australian english, for Australians, articles that Australian business owners will find useful. We are firm believers that web hosting is all about earning trust, respecting your customers and proving your offering is worth it in the long run. We are therefore not afraid to tackle controversial topics in our blog, confidently share our opinions on topics, and provide a wide range of useful information that will help you make the right hosting decision.
Try a similar approach for your blog:
- What are the key topics of interest to you in your every day business? You are the expert in your business so demonstrate it to your customers
- Don’t leave company announcements just to Twitter and Press Releases. These are useful vehicles, but you’ll gain high readership of your blog if you make announcements in your blog in and around the same time as those press releases – especially if they’re buried in the body of your posts and not in the headline.
- Feature specific products or services as individual posts.
- Write from your heart not via a foreign non native English writer. Your customers will be able to tell if your blog posts sound fake or robotic even if the search engines can’t. Search engines monitor clicks and if customers are not fooled for long, nor will the search engines.
If you want our opinion on the other things we mentioned at the start of the article? We suggest you go with WordPress, get a professionally designed and customised theme and install plenty of relevant plugins for search engine optimisation, marketing and tracking your website. Whatever you do, write passionately about what you know.
If you’re starting an online business, what stands between where you are now and having your business website live and online? This guide contains some of main things that you will need to cover off before you can go live. It’s intended as a reference guide for starting an online business in Australia, or taking your existing business online.
Part one of the guide deals with what type of business you should set up? A partnership, sole trader or company.
Business Types: What type of business will you operate?
Regardless of the industry you will be operating in, you will need to decide the type of legal entity that you will be setting up. There are pros and cons of each type. There are a number of financial structures that you may choose but your main options are:
- Where there’s a single owner of a business, a sole trader is the simplest structure to set up. Your business tax is declared as a component of your personal tax.
- A sole trader is not legally separated from the business, so the business owner is wholly responsible for every aspect of the business
- Easy and cost effective to set up
- You are in control of your entire business – nobody else can tell you what to do
- One way you can look at it is that with sole responsibility and unlimited liability comes a unique form of personal guarantee of your business. Your customers will know that you are committed to your business because your own personal assets depend on it. This effectively makes a personal connection with your customers no matter what the size of your business, and is something that can potentially be marketed.
- Compared to some of the other forms of business, reporting requirements for taxation can be less demanding. This includes exemption from the payment of business expenses such as superannuation for your own time and effort, as you are not considered an employee of your own business
- If the business incurs debts it cannot repay, your personal assets can be claimed to repay those debts. This is known as unlimited liability.
- As the business owner you are solely responsible for the actions of your employees, including any debts incurred on the business’ behalf
- A partnership structure is appropriate for group business ownership of between 2-20 people
- A partnership gives each partner joint ownership of the business and as such you will need to create a partnership agreement to define the role of each owner in the business, their ownership stake and how disputes will be handled. Like a sole trader, a partnership has unlimited liability for each of the owners.
- Simple and cost effective management structure for multiple owners
- Partners can share knowledge and skills to make the business more robust in terms of inputs and decision making
- Although its not a separate legal entity, a partnership does have logical separation and can be perceived by some customers as a more professional and credible legal arrangement for your business than a sole trader.
- Like a sole trader, reporting requirements are minimal and partners are not considered employees of the business: so there is no requirement for accounting for and paying superannuation to the partners.
- Although it’s still relatively easy to do, there is more paperwork required to set up a partnership than establishing a sole trader. A partnership has its own Tax File Number separate from the numbers of the individual owners, and in many cases you will need to register a business name as well. You will need to have a clearly defined partnership agreement drawn up by a solicitor to clearly define the scope and boundaries of each partner’s contributions.
- Your own personal assets are at stake if another partner draws the business into a contractual arrangement where it forms debts it can’t pay. So only form a partnership with someone you trust
- There are two types of company: A proprietary (private) company or a public company.
- All companies are separate legal entities (registered with the Companies Office with an Australian Company Number ACN). This means a company is treated like a separate person, so if the company becomes unable to pay its debts the company’s directors are not held personally liable.
- Company owners are called shareholders and the total amount of money invested into the business by the owners (equity) is divided up in to shares of equal value.
- The main difference between a public company and a private company is that a private company is not listed on the stock exchange (ASX).
- A proprietary company can have the letters Pty Ltd as part of their business name. e.g. XYZ Traders Pty Ltd. Pty stands for Proprietary and Ltd stands for Limited Liability.
- A proprietary company can have a maximum of 50 non employee shareholders. There are no such limits for public companies.
- Limited liability means that ownership can change hands easily (by buying or selling share stakes) and that in the event that the company becomes unable to pay its debts, the other shareholders are not personally responsible
- There’s a lot of documentation required for either form of company and you will generally need both a solicitor and accountant. As the company is a separate legal entity, you will need to separately keep bank accounts, financial records and report tax.
Here is a checklist of things to look for when selecting a business web hosting provider in Australia.
We’ve put this together as we know that any sensible business will shop around for a web hosting provider before making a final business decision. This checklist will help you weigh up your options and make the right decision. We’re confident that Geekz Business Web Hosting will be one of your shortlist options, and indeed your final choice because we are serious, tech-focussed, helpful, fair and understand the language and environment of Australian business.
Server Operating System: Windows or Linux?
- Do you need Microsoft based databases for the software you will be running? Or will you be using Microsoft based web technology on your website (e.g. .NET or ASP – .asp or .aspx)? If so, you’ll need Windows based hosting. Otherwise, you’re likely to find that Linux based hosting using the php script language and Apache web server software provides better value for money and performance.
- What is their stated reliability figures for uptime? Geekz for example has a 99.9% uptime rate, which demonstrates our hosting services are very reliable for your business
- Does the hosting provider have a free trial or money back guarantee so you can try it out for yourself? No-one is better suited to determining your business’ needs than you
- Does the hosting provider have 7 days a week support?
- What is the normal turnaround time on support tickets?
- Does the provider have emergency support out of hours if your site goes down?
- Does the provider have a knowledgebase/videos? Even if you can’t read the content of the articles, look at the topics and see how comprehensive they are.
- Will the hosting provider have the capability to assist you as your business grows?
- What extra charges might you have to pay for certain types of support? Do they help you install an SSL Certificate for free, for example?
- Can you read any reviews or testimonials from other customers about this provider? If you can, read them and see if they sound like they were written by one disgruntled customer or someone genuinely aggrieved. Why not ask the provider a question about the situation described and see how they would handle the situation again?
Disk Space Allowance
- Is there enough space for your initial requirements?
Think about the photos you will post as well as the software’s requirements or the content you will write. If you have a shopping cart you’ll most likely have optimised product images that are reasonably small in size. But if you are operating a photography or design website and providing higher quality images, then you’ll need much more space. Don’t forget that your email inbox may use up disk space, as well as your images. If your software has an image cache, this will use up additional space as well – as your images will all be saved twice in your web hosting space.
- If the amount of space seems ridiculously high for the price, are you sure that the provider is not overselling their space? There’s no fullproof way of knowing this except to take the word of the provider. It’s worth asking them though and seeing if their response seems credible to you.
Bandwidth (Monthly Traffic Allowance)
- Bandwidth is the amount of traffic allowance that you get every month. Does it seem enough for the number of visitors you expect to receive?
- What happens if you run out of bandwidth space? Can you get more and at what cost?
- Be wary of companies offering unlimited bandwidth. In many cases they may be overselling the space on their servers, or overcharging customers in other areas to subsidise this. Would you expect a company to give you great support to you if you were paying $9 a month for your hosting account and draining their servers by having 1,000,000 visitors a month?
Control Panel Ease of Management
- What control panel is being used? The most common options are cPanel and Plesk. We have used both and in our opinion cPanel hosting control panel software is easier to use and more versatile for end users as your main hosting control panel option. Geekz servers use cPanel as the main hosting control panel software.
Value for Money
- Price is always important, but should not be the most important factor. This is because a cheap hosting provider may offer low quality hosting in terms of technology used behind the scenes, poorly managed, or the firm itself may be unable to keep up with support enquiries
- Divide the number of megabytes or gigabytes you get in diskspace and bandwidth to give you an indication of the cost per megabyte of the hosting account. Does it make sense to you? Extremely high costs or extremely low costs should be checked carefully as the deal may be overpriced or too good to be true. Always read the fine print of a hosting provider, and ask questions if you are unsure about anything. Providers have to disclaim a lot of things in a world dominated by spammers, but for the average, everyday business user, the conditions shouldn’t be very onerous at all.
Server Capabilities and Location
- Is your server located in a data centre that is carbon neutral? If not, your business is not helping the carbon footprint of the world and your business could be a net polluter
- Is the server located in a data centre or is it self managed by the provider? If the hosting provier touts self management of the server hardware, it’s worth looking more in to the capabilities of the server’s location: does it have power backups? Is it earthquake/weatherproof? Is it monitored? What is the security like? How quickly can hardware changes be made in the event of an unexpected event? How long has the data centre been operating? How we see it is that the experts should look after the server hardware, and let our support staff support our end customers with hosting their business websites.
- If you have technical knowledge look at the server specs. Do the servers have genuine multiprocessor systems (e.g. Intel Xeon CPUs) or are they single machines with multiple cores (like your desktop PC probably is if it was made after 2008). What is the server throughput? How much memory do their servers have? Web servers need at least 4GB of memory to be effective, and like with any computer in general, the more the better.
Server and Website Security
- Security is important for any website. What spam protection does the provider offer? What options do they have for blocking rogue IP addresses that are trying to steal information from your site? Do they have a firewall on their servers?
- Does the provider also offer domain names? If so this would allow you to have the billing for your website and domain names all in one place, which for most businesses is more convenient management-wise.
Value Added Services
- Does the hosting provider also offer other value added services like assistance with website marketing and promotion (SEO), shopping cart software, sitebuilding capabilities or instant software installation (using tools like Fantastico or Quick Install)?
If you’ll be using your website hosting to open an online shop, you’ll need to understand the basics of how you’ll get paid. You don’t have to understand the technical ins and outs of payment gateway mechanisms to do this, but understanding them at least a little will help you make the right business decisions when it comes to choosing a shopping cart provider, or building your own shop.
There are the following basic parts to an online payment mechanism:
- The shopping cart software, which is what the customer sees in the website. This piece of software gives customers the ability to add products to their cart, collects information about the customer (their billing and shipping addresses for example), applies discounts and confirms shipping options. It calculates the total amount that they have to pay. In the physical world, the shopping cart is the shop itself, the cash register and the checkout staff.
- The secure communication between the cash register/shop and the payment processor. In the physical world, this would be the eftpos machine and the phone line that connects it to the bank’s payment processing software. The eftpos machine will have security built in at the bank’s end and at the machine’s end to keep the data passed secure.
- The bank’s payment processing software that processes the transaction and advises the shopping cart software (or the eftpos machine in the physical world) whether to display an “approved” or “declined” message
Regardless of what shopping cart software that you use, or how you process payments this basic setup applies.
So what is SSL and how does that fit into the picture? SSL stands for “secure sockets layer”. It’s an encryption technology that protects credit card data as it passes from the shopping cart provider to the payment processor. When a checkout is encrypted by SSL, you will see “https://” in the address bar of the page you are on and a locked padlock will be shown in your browser as well. How this is displayed depends on your web browser.
So do you need it for your website? Whether you need it on your website depends on two things:
- If your shopping cart collects credit card information on the website and then passes it to the payment processor for payment then SSL will be a mandatory requirement of the bank. Anywhere that credit card data is collected this must be stored as securely as possible and encrypted whenever it is transmitted.
- If your shopping cart collects customer information but redirects the customer to the payment processor’s website to enter their credit card details and process the payment, then SSL is not mandatory. BUT you may want to have it installed anyway because your end customers may wrongly assume that your online shop is not secure if they don’t see the “padlock” as they go through checkout. Few customers would know the technical ins and outs of whether SSL is mandatory. Consumers are merely told to look for the padlock on checkout. If your site doesn’t have it, you may be perceived as being insecure even when you meet every single security requirement that you need to abide by.
So what is a payment gateway? A payment gateway is a specific type of payment processor for online payments that allow you to process credit card transactions in your website in real time and have the processed payment paid into your business bank account. This is in contrast to payment processors that have their own accounts to hold processed payments like Paypal, Paymate and Paymex. To transfer money out of a Paypal account, you log into the Paypal website and perform a manual transaction to transfer funds out of the account and have them paid to your bank account in Australia. Fees may apply to the transfer, and it will take time for the processing to be completed.
The extra convenience of having money paid directly into your business bank account usually comes with additional fees compared to the payment processors like Paypal and Paymate. You will also need to set up an “internet merchant account” with your bank in order to have this facility.
So if you want money paid by customers to be paid directly to your business bank account you will want to use a payment gateway provider. If you want something easy to set up and low cost, then Paypal or Paymate might suit you better.
Whichever you choose you will need to ensure that the shopping cart software you are using supports secure communications with that gateway or payment provider and understand their fees structure. It pays to shop around.
Examples of payment processors in australia include: Paypal, Paymate.
Examples of payment gateway providers with merchant bank accounts included are: NAB Transact, ANZ eGate, Commonwealth Bank CommWeb, Suncorp, Bendigo Bank, Westpac Payway.
Examples of payment gateway providers that work with all the major Australian banks include: e-path, eWay, St George Hosted Payment Pages, Camtech, DirectOne.
Ask your shopping cart provider for more information about any of these.
Many businesses starting out online will set up an email address at hotmail, yahoo, gmail or on their ISP’s account. We get a lot of enquiries from businesses with addresses like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. While this is an easy way to get started, in the long run it will hurt you for the following reasons:
- If you change ISPs and you have an ISP based email address, then you’ll lose it and need to set up another one
- If you are using free email accounts, some services you cannot sign up for using those accounts. What’s more, it does not look as professional as an email address on your own domain.
- Free email addresses have automatically added advertising on their footers and often have little control over the formatting of the email. This advertising usually promotes the free email provider, but some free email services include promotion for other busineses in your email
- When you set up your own email address then you will need to keep your old email address open for quite some time, as you won’t know how many people have the old one. This could potentially lose you sales as people may email you quite some time after you have changed to your own domain name and the email goes nowhere. You could set up an autoforward on the old email address or keep it open, but this is not very efficient and not always possible.
Your own domain name e.g. www.yourbusinessname.com.au is an essential business tool to promote your website and email address. You can Register a .com.au or .net.au domain name through Geekz for $59.95 for a two year registration – and we also offer business web hosting plans which include an unlimited number of email addresses and webmail access for as little as $9 per month.
Once you have created your website and you are ready to launch it to the world, how can you get others to link to you? If you read any of the hundreds of articles about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or talk to the experts (or so-called experts) in this area, there is one thing they will all agree on – relevant, quality links are absolutely essential if you wish for your website to get noticed in the search engines on the search terms that matter. Links (also called backlinks in search-engine-speak) are considered popularlity votes by the search engines. The links that are most relevant to your website in terms of topic and site content are weighted the heaviest in determining where you stand in the rankings. This means an irrelevant link from a highly-popular site may not be as significant to your search-engine efforts as a relevant link from a less-popular site.
Ultimately, search engine optimisation is less about optimisation and more about being a giant popularity contest.
If you buy a SEO package from a search engine optimisation company, they will often start by focussing on the things you can change on your existing site. For one, that’s becasue it’s easier to do this, but for another, it’s important that you get your own website in order before you try to promote it to the world: a lot of effort will be wasted or duplicated otherwise. Regardless of whether you start working on them earlier or later in your search engine marketing efforts, you will need them. So where can you start?
Directories are a great place to get links to your website. But you have to choose them carefully. More is not always better. There are plenty of US based directories, and you’ll find plenty of foreign companies from countries like India jumping at the chance to take your money to submit your website to thousands of little known directories that may or may not be relevant to your industry. The best thing to do is to do your homework. List your website in the web’s top tier directories, in Australia’s broadest and highest traffic directories, and then other industry specific ones.
Some Australian examples include:
Supplier’s Recommended Retaillers
If you are a distributor for a product, the manufacturer or importer may have a section on their website where
Social Networking Sites
If you create good quality, informative content about your topic area or products, then others may wish to link to it as reference on sites like Facebook, or social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us where people keep publicly indexed links to their favourite websites and pages. In recent years spam bots have hijacked these sites to generate traffic and backlinks to their spam websites, so generally links from social bookmarking sites have special tags added to them so they won’t be indexed by search engines. They’re still useful as a measure of your sites popularlity and generating awareness and buzz for your products. If people are talking about you, then more people have the chance of finding out about you.
Let’s face it: people are always looking for free stuff. So why not create a competition with your own products or services as the prize? You can then list your site on competition websites which are frequently visited and therefore weighted positively by the search engines. Even though this is generally a short term strategy (unless your marketing strategy heavily uses competitions as a marketing tool), it can create buzz and may get you links on people’s blogs, from Twitter.
At Geekz, we are a proudly Australian web hosting provider and equally proud of our business decision to offer Australian support and physically host our websites in a world-class United States data centre.
We are surprised about the misinformation that is spread in Australia about US based hosting, as much of it seems to stem from stories about the early days of the Internet and is over a decade out-of-date. The truth about American web hosting is that it’s fast and you benefit from the huge economies-of-scale that US providers can offer. This gives us more to pass on to you: more CPU per dollar, more memory per dollar, better hardware per dollar, better security per dollar, and better behind-the-scenes server maintenance per dollar. As we can pass it on to our customers, (you and your business) that gives us confidence that we are offering you the very best we can in business web hosting reliability and performance per dollar.
Australian hosting support, International technology
US Hosting backed by Australian support gives you the best of both worlds: powerful server performance, with high reliability (99.9% or better) and Australian support staff who actually care whether your business succeeds and understand the unique challenges that are faced by Australian businesses.
You’re viewing a US hosted site at the moment, and many of the big international websites you visit every day are often hosted out of America. The part that needs to be Australian is the financial accountability and support – so you know who you are paying and can get help when you need it, from someone who can understand you and communicate with you. In the days of a ubiqutous Internet, virtual business, mobile technology and innovations like cloud computing and crowd-sourcing, where a server is physically located should not matter so long as the performance meets your needs as a business.
There’s another myth that’s often stated that having your website on a US-based server will affect your rankings in Google. But that’s not true. Google is much smarter than that! By having a .com.au or .net.au domain name (which are restricted to Australian business and trademark holders only) you are indicating to Google already that you are an Australian website. If you have a .com address and believe there’s any ambiguity for search engines, most have the option of logging in to their Webmaster tools and defining your local region manually. In our experience, search engines have figured it out for themselves.
If you’re not convinced, try signing up for our 7 day free hosting trial and see for your self. Setup is instant and free, and there’s no obligation. We won’t spam you every day for those seven days, we’ll let you evaluate just how good our hosting packages are so you can form your own opinions. See for yourself.