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Quick Guide to e-Commerce: Getting Started

If you are thinking of starting your own on-line business, you should know that there are several basic steps involved in becoming E-Commerce Enabled. They include:

  • Getting an Internet Merchant Bank Account
  • Web Hosting
  • Obtaining a Digital Certificate
  • Finding a Provider of Online Transactions and an ISP
  • Creating or Purchasing Computer System

First, you need to choose a reliable Internet Service Provider (ISP). Not all ISPs are created equal. Before choosing an ISP or switching to a new provider, it is important to consider how the different ISPs available to you can meet your needs. Take the time to do the research to make an educated decision instead of just jumping into a service agreement with an ISP that has glittering bells and whistles. Decide how much technical support you will need, how much flexibility the ISP allows, how much data storage capacity you have, how much are you willing to pay, what kind of Internet connection you are using, whether you want "value-added" services, what connection speeds the ISP supports and what you need. Learn if there is a length-of-service contract and whether the ISP has a spam policy.

Before you start looking for a provider of on-line transactions, you should stop for a moment and consider how many transactions you expect to be completing in a month, how many products you have to put on your Website. There are a lot of online transaction providers out there, and they all have varying packages. Deciding on a provider’s package that fits your needs is perhaps the most important aspect in creating an E-Commerce Website.

Web hosting is a very important step in this process, as this is how you gain a presence on the Internet in the first place. It is important that the Web hosting company is capable of providing you with the level of service that you need to maintain your Web Store. A few things to look for are good uptime and technical support, fast connection to the Net, staff that is knowledgeable about E-Commerce, compatibility with major E-Commerce providers. It is always good to spend some time when choosing a Web hosting company, as there are many ’fly-by-night’ businesses out there. For the money you’re spending, make sure that the company is reputable.

A digital certificate, also known as a SSL Server Certificate, enables SSL (Secure Socket Layer encryption) on the Web server. SSL protects communications so you can take credit card orders securely and ensure that hackers cannot eavesdrop on you. Any E-Commerce company will require you to have SSL before you can use their services. For a minimal fee, one can usually use the certificate owned by the Web hosting company where your page resides. If you are a larger company, however, you may want to get your own digital certificate. A certificate costs about $125.00 and can be obtained from Thawte or Verisign.

In order to be able to accept credit cards over the Internet, you must apply to your bank for an Internet Merchant Bank Account. Since the vast majority of Online Transaction Providers are located in the US and are restricted in their ability to interact with banks outside their own country, international merchants have little choice. An international merchant has to find a way to get a US merchant account, embark on the equally difficult task of finding a local Online Transaction Provider, or utilize one of the few companies that services the international market. Many banks outside the US have very restrictive policies regarding Internet accounts. Luckily, the situation is improving.

Obviously, you need a computer system to manage the e-business. The size of the system depends on how much you want to do with it. However, today’s desktop personal computers (especially if they are configured as part of a client-server system) can handle many of the demands of E-Commerce. Note that you may need a different computer system to actually host your Website, conduct financial transactions with customers, etc. A computer system is only as good as its software. Experts agree that one should thoroughly investigate the software before buying, as today there is a wide variety of models and packages available. Software is not inexpensive, and its selection is perhaps the most critical decision to be made for your business. You need to decide what software you will use even before choosing hardware. Otherwise, the automation project will either fail or never live up to its full potential.

You should have a good understanding of how your business works: what information you have, what you want to see on paper, and how the information flows through the operation. The next step is to find out what packages will meet your specific needs. Most small companies initially need three major programs: word processing, spreadsheet, and low-end accounting if a considerable amount of receivables and billings are involved. Some integrated programs offer all three in one package.

The most important thing in choosing software is to know exactly what functions you want from the computer system, and to communicate that clearly. Otherwise, you can get lost in rhetoric, and end up with the wrong choice, not suitable for your business.

The chosen computer system must provide reliability and security. Parallel servers, hardware redundancy, fail-safe technology, information encryption, and firewalls can enhance this requirement. It must also provide an easy and secured way for customers to effect transactions. Credit cards are the most popular means of sending payments over the Internet, accounting for 90% of online purchases. In the past, card numbers were transferred securely between the customer and merchant through independent payment gateways. Such independent payment gateways are still used by most small and home businesses. Most merchants today process credit card transactions on site through arrangements made with banks or credit cards companies.

Express Application

Industry typeRatesIndustry typeRates
E-commercefrom 4%Nutra/Herbalsfrom 6.5%
Adultfrom 6%Forexfrom 4%
File sharing systemsfrom 10%Datingfrom 6%
Gambling from 4.5%Pharmacyfrom 8%
IT Supportfrom 10%Debt collectionfrom 7%
Travel MOTOfrom 6.5%E-cigaretesfrom 6.5%
Replica clothesfrom 8%Debt repairfrom 8%

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