Selecting an ISP for a Small Firm
In the previous sections we have discussed the requirements of a small business and we will now look at how this is reflected in one's choice of an ISP.
We need an ISP who can register a UK .co.uk or an International .com domain for you, provide a reliable email service with the ability to have several specific email addresses and email forwarding for the rest. It is important that you can easily make changes to the email configuration when staff come and leave or your requirements change. The ISP should have good support information on his web site and telephone support to back it up.
The ISP must be able to host the web site and have the bandwidth to provide fast access. It is also important that the site provides the facilities to use Forms from the start and other interactive actions involving scripts in the future. They should also be able handle secure transactions in case you wish to take card details over the Internet although you would expect to pay extra for such facilities.
I have chosen 4 ISPs that I have personal experience of using as examples of those you might use. The descriptive pages which follow are in a common format to make comparison easier.
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- Freezone - where this site is hosted with both free services and a number of good value business hosting packages. Free virus checking of incoming and outgoing email and trapping of spam. Claims to host over 12,000 business sites. I have set up several users on Freezone.
- Fasthosts - A comprehensive, good value host - one of the biggest in the UK claiming it hosts over 100,000 business sites. I look after two sites hosted on Fasthosts. It however currently needs considerable configuration to start with - you can not have flexibility without making choices. Once the initial configuration is done and one has a model to follow it should be possible for someone to take over and keep it up and running.
- Hypermart - A very large USA host with 500,000 sites. Free hosting including SSL if you can tolerate banner adverts and an address like http://myfirm.hypermart.net. An established page with lots of information but not yet all in the standard format. I look after one site using secure forms on Hypermart.
- Freeserve - The first and arguably still the best of the Free ISPs. A good starting place and very suitable as a backup or club site - my own site is mirrored on Freeserve and I have set up a club site on Freeserve. The link is to a very well established and much visited page providing general background and information including ways to install Freeserve without your machine being customised by their CD!
- Clara.net I have done work on a two sections of a site hosted with Clara.net using CGI for forms. It seems to have excellent support and facilities but at a slightly higher cost - could be very good for a newcomer. I have yet to provide a supporting page.