How to Build Your E-Commerce Budget

How to Build Your E-Commerce Budget

Bob started a website selling organic beard balm. The expenses to launch the site ended up 248% higher than expected – prompting him to pull funds from marketing efforts that could have made many more people aware of his offerings.

 

Ellen started a site focused on children’s apparel. Costs were 189% greater than she foresaw. At launch, the site was missing half of the features she wanted – and this lack of usefulness caused stickiness to suffer and sales to flounder.

 

Kelly and Jeremy partnered in a craft supplies e-commerce store. However, their planning was overly optimistic, and they quickly were 224% over budget. They had to cut corners on design and content, generating UX that did not pack the power to engage.

 

What do Bob, Ellen, and Kelly/Jeremy all have in common? Their e-commerce dreams all quickly became nightmares. That doesn’t have to happen, especially when you consider the rapid rate of online retail growth. Let’s look at how fast online retail is growing and how you can budget for success.

 

E-commerce growth: still turning heads after all these years

 

E-commerce may be big, but it is only getting bigger. In February, the National Retail Federation released its projection for retail growth during 2017. Leaving out the revenue from restaurants, gas stations, and automobiles, the forecast for total retail (brick and mortar combined with e-commerce) is 3.7-4.2%. That figure is similar to the 3.8% improvement in 2016, so the trajectory of this segment of the economy appears stable.

The projection for Internet sales growth is stronger, though, at 8-12% – in other words, as much as 3 times the general growth rate.

 

How can you benefit from the expanding web economy but still sleep easily and not be thrown into a real nightmare by virtual problems? Organize your business plan to smartly invest in tools that will facilitate your growth. That means creating a savvy, carefully cost-controlled budget. Let’s explore how to create a budget for your e-commerce shop so you can leverage strong technologies and services – without breaking the bank but also without simply grabbing the cheapest thing you see at the online flea market.

 

1.) Don’t splurge on your domain name.

 

The domain name can get absurdly expensive if you obsess too much over getting the exact domain you want. After all, domain brokers are always ready to sell you that one you really have to have for $1200 – nearly $1200 more expensive than one that has not yet been registered.

 

What can you do? You can still get a great .com domain by using a tagline or slogan instead of simply going with your website name, suggested seed-funding firm StartFire.

 

“[W]e helped an HR consulting service come up with the tagline and domain name: PlanPreventProtect.com,” explained the company.

 

2.) Get your own hosting, and don’t pay $5 a month.

 

Hosting is where your website sits. While it may seem that you have set aside online real estate by purchasing the domain, it is like you have the keys to the house. The building of the house is the development. The land is the hosting. You have to put the house somewhere; it can’t be floating in space. Put another way, your web hosting fee gives you access to servers, the computers that fuel your site with resources to run.

 

Whatever you do, don’t pay for bad land, or you’ll have to put your house on a truck and move it. Infrastructure just isn’t as exciting as the front end of the site, but the machinery running your system should not be low-end commodity computing. For reliable, consistent speed and security, you want to be demarcated from other users; that’s a virtual private server, or VPS. Also for speed, consider drives with no moving parts for your e-commerce site; that’s a server containing a solid state drive, or SSD.

 

You don’t have to take our word for it, though (after all, we are a hosting service). To StartFire, hosting is nothing less than a hinge on which your site can swing toward either success or failure. “Choosing the right host can produce faster page load speeds, improved search engine performance, and even support in critical situations,” noted the firm.

 

3.) Write up your specs.

 

You don’t want to get too stuck on how your site must be perhaps, but you do want to have general expectations:

 

  • Design – Think about whether you want to go with a standard WordPress theme or need some of your own code. Perhaps you want to go even farther in creating a unique experience by building the site from scratch, with no content management system such as WordPress. Think about imagery such as your logo, photos, and charts; if you don’t have them, you will need to produce them.
  • Content – Consider what you will want to do in terms of content and how quickly it will need to be added (since assumedly much of your content will be blogs consistently posted over time). Someone has to do all that writing, and you may need someone for editing and managing research, direction, and tone.
  • Functionality – Assess what you want the site to be able to do. You may want your contact form to have particular capabilities, or for customers and prospect to be able to download PDFs such as catalogs, case studies, or whitepapers. Think about your needs in terms of tracking leads from forms. Of course, you also need to look at your e-commerce platform and options for payment. You also want to be able to integrate with your own systems perhaps. Think about compliance if you are in a regulated industry. You may need a customer portal as well.

 

4.) Keep the site up and running.

 

Obviously, building an online business is about sustainability. Bob, Kelly, Ellen, and Jeremy may not have budgeted correctly prior to launch, but their overarching sin was not positioning themselves for long-term growth.

 

How can you do better? How can you budget practically to handle the ongoing maintenance costs for your e-commerce site?

 

A general range that is suggested by a 2012 Forrester report, based on survey and analysis of 150 established e-commerce companies, is 3% to 10% of your revenue. In other words, if your company makes $2 million per year, that would mean you want to put about $60K to $200K annually toward keeping everything maintained and working smoothly.

 

5.) Build in a cushion.

 

The other aspect of preparation is knowing that you will want to change direction as you go – and that requires financial padding. This truism applies to all the three basic categories listed in #3 above:

 

  • Design – High-quality images are timely, and hence costly, to create. People will often want to upgrade from low-grade to high-grade imagery, and the cost difference is substantial.
  • Content – Companies will often think that content can be simply produced by a staff member. However, like images, the types of content that will give your site competitive advantage needs money to come to life.
  • Functionality – When firms want their site to do certain things, they are often clueless as to how much those features or tools will cost. That is understandable given how complex lining up the dollars and cents for your site is; and because everything involves a range of possible prices. Don’t be sidelined by an extra $3000 or $10,000 expense.

 

Conclusion

 

As we discussed above, hosting is one of the most important decisions you can make for an e-commerce startup. And the fact is, it is not prohibitively expensive to get excellent hosting for your site. At KnownHost, with 24/7 fully managed support, you can start with a small SSD VPS and upgrade as needed with no IP change or data migration. See our cutting-edge, user-friendly plans.

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Tips to Prevent Downtime

7 Tips to Prevent Downtime

The importance of getting your downtime as low as possible is almost impossible to overstate. Look at the perspective of organizational leadership. Incredibly, 9 out of every 10 data center professionals say that management at their company is more focused on downtime than they were 12 months ago, according to the 2017 Uptime Institute Annual Survey.

 

What can you do to keep all your systems up and running consistently, ensuring business continuity? Before we get into those downtime-prevention strategies, let’s first look at the general issue: statistics on how costly downtime is and common risky ways that sensitive data is shared (an activity that increases when systems are unavailable).

 

  • Why is downtime prevention so important?
  • 7 tips to minimize your downtime
  • Take action to keep downtime low

 

Why is downtime prevention so important?

 

The expenses related to downtime have been soaring in recent years. Findings from the Aberdeen Group show that the cost rose 60% from 2014 to 2016 – ascending from $164,000 per hour to hit an average figure of $260,000 per hour, across all industries. Keep in mind, this cost is purely a financial hemorrhage; for a loss more than $1 million, you get four hours without your systems, and (of course) no benefit.

 

These costs are so incredibly high that the risks of outages should now be considered an even higher priority than it already was (as if $164k per hour were not high enough). No matter how large your firm is, it is fundamental to your stability to have business continuity and disaster recovery documents prepared and understood by your staff. Keep this in mind: if you do not know the drill and do not know what steps to take when downtime does occur, the situation could spiral into a much greater crisis.

 

While you may understand that some small amount of downtime should not be considered devastating, you also do not want to become complacent about it. You really do not want to have to put your DR plan into action.

 

Actually, there is another primary reason that you need to worry about downtime that is related to, yet separate from, the money: data loss. Over three-quarters of senior executives have experienced critical data loss caused by downtime, according to a poll from 2016. Also, a disturbing element of these scenarios is that your employees may transition to consumer platforms when the system goes down — creating security and compliance vulnerabilities. Use of these tools should actually be a concern regardless, as indicated by the extent to which information is shared in risky ways (from a 2014 poll):

 

  • Almost one-third of office workers had used a personal email account for work purposes.
  • Dropbox, Box.com, and other file storage software was used by 45% of employees.
  • Storage via USBs or other remote devices was conducted by 63% of workers.

 

As expressed by the above evidence, and regardless of the specific nature of your business, it is reasonable to conclude that downtime matters. Now, what can you do about it?

 

7 tips to minimize your downtime

 

So… what can you do about this? Here are a few trusted and relatively straightforward ways that can improve your ability to keep “all systems go” throughout the day, month, and year:

 

#1 – Review the service level agreements (SLAs) of your providers.

 

Before you get into what is actually happening, you want to know how much availability is guaranteed within the fine print of your business relationships. You will not be able to achieve the availability that you want if your software and hardware vendors offer 90% uptime SLAs. Demand high uptime, and check that those goals are met (compare our 99.9% uptime guarantee with an award we received for our actual 99.989% uptime).

 

#2 – Use highly scalable hardware architectures, along with load-balancing.

 

If you want to be speedy and productive online, it’s necessary to be able to properly scale your data processing and distribute it evenly throughout a group of servers. By using load-balancing, an alternative node will start handling requests whenever the primary node is performing various tasks on a file or is otherwise unavailable. Why is it so central to your business that you be able to quickly and seamlessly scale your infrastructure? You will be a step out in advance of your development – so that the demand for computing from your users is not exceeding your resources. It is also worth noting that downtime is negative even if it is planned because it gets in the way of your productivity. For these reasons, balancing your loads and making your backend as scalable as possible are key to avoiding downtime.

 

#3 – Deploy active-active clusters.

 

To keep downtime levels as low as possible, a typical strategy is the use of active-active or active-passive clusters. The former tactic is particularly effective: one study shows that IT departments using the latter technique lost 34% more critical messages and data than those that implemented active-active clustering.

 

#4 – Do not think that system audits have you covered.

 

Periodic system audits are standard operating procedure for IT departments — and those will help with uptime. You also want to get rid of unhelpful redundancies and to make the practices of your business more intelligent through process audits. Think about the processes that are the most pivotal if your system were to go down; safeguard those systems. Beyond boosting uptime of your mission-critical systems, you will get a better sense of how to spend money on bolstering your infrastructure when you complete your process audit.

 

#5 – Adopt systems that are strong and dynamic.

 

A key concern when you want to limit your downtime is to optimize for scalability. At the level of the hardware, you want to have load-balancing solutions in place so that you do not have a lot of problems related to downtime. What does that mean in practice? If you have to remove a machine from service to make an upgrade or replacement (as with routine maintenance), another server can take its place with no loss of key information or slowdown of your workflow.

 

#6 – Develop and refine a disaster recovery plan.

 

As indicated above, you need a DR plan if you don’t have one. Remember that the scope of disaster is broad, far beyond the notion of a weather disaster such as a flood or earthquake. In the majority of cases, human error – mistakes made by people – lead to disasters; in these situations, unplanned downtime is caused by problems with the process. It is important to know what the DR plan of your vendor is, what would take place if the data center failed, and the extent to which multiple redundancies exist.

 

#7 – Ensure that your providers use enterprise-grade monitoring tools.

 

If the service you choose, such as a managed VPS hosting company, uses the most advanced and effective monitoring tools, they are able to know when a component is going to fail before it happens. If the monitoring systems and processes that are used by the service are sound, software sends messages whenever risks exist that could hurt the business’s speed or reliability. The hosting engineers should resolve the issue immediately so that users are unaware – with all adjustments performed behind the scenes.

 

Take action to keep downtime low

 

Downtime must be avoided – whether you are looking at your own data center or an external one. Achieve excellent uptime that benefits from economies of scale with a strong infrastructure partner. At KnownHost, we have the best uptime in the industry. See our fully managed VPS hosting.

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Reselling Space on a Dedicated Server

Reselling Space on a Dedicated Server: What Are Your Options?

Every business owner, whether they’re a freelancer or the head of a team of hundreds, wants to maximize revenue without having to overextend themselves. It’s often a careful balancing act between wanting to bring in as much money as possible without wearing yourself or resources too thin. Often, people start wondering how they can start making more “passive” income.

 

Right off the bat, passive income is largely a myth and it often sounds too good to be true because it is. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t add another service to your business that won’t require a tremendous amount of time, but still bring in a decent amount of additional revenue. Make no mistake, being a hosting reseller takes work. You will have to provide customer service. But, you can turn it into a profitable addition to your business is you properly dedicate yourself to it. Many digital-based businesses have invested in dedicated servers with the goal of reselling the space on it to host clients’ sites. Many businesses have found success with this model, which is why so many hosting companies advertise their reseller deals. Here is what you need to know about reselling space on a dedicated server.

 

Who would benefit from reselling?

 

Nearly any kind of digital based business can add hosting to its portfolio of services. Naturally, you should offer some kind of web design or development service already in order to seamlessly add the hosting component to the package. You don’t have to be a full-time web designer, though. You may also be an SEO consultant, marketer, or public relations professional that includes site building as part of your list of services provided. Any situation where you’re helping a client design a site or improve their site is an ample opening to also offer hosting. You can easily add it as a line item to your monthly retainer. Or, you may now get to offer a monthly retainer.

 

Choosing the server

 

There are a good variety of high performing servers out there that can help you reach your goals. Ultimately, the question comes down to using a VPS vs a dedicated server. While a VPS costs less and may have enough horsepower to provide a sufficient hosting environment for multiple informational sites, you’re better off going with a dedicated server if you’re serious about running a hosting reselling business.

 

Dedicated servers provide more resources, which is better for scaling as you take on more clients. They are also more flexible. Additionally, if you’re looking to install any specific operating systems or software to help you more easily create a shared hosting environment, the hosting company you partner with may restrict what servers they allow this software to be installed on. A dedicated server may be the best option by default. VPSes are great to be sure, but you might as well go for the safe bet for a few extra dollars a month.

 

The next piece of software may be of particular interest to you if you’re planning on running a Linux server to support your business.

 

Why CloudLinux may interest you

 

You’ll have to choose between going with a hosting company that offers hosting on Windows servers or Linux servers. Linux does allow for a bit more flexibility and customization. Assuming you do go with a Linux host, you may be interested in installing CloudLinux on your dedicated server. CloudLinux, as a company, offers a variety of products. As a reseller, though, what you’ll primarily be interested in is CloudLinux OS as many of the other management tasks will be handled by the hosting company. Installing CloudLinux OS on your dedicated server will make it easier to create a shared hosting environment for you to manage and divide out to your clients.

 

CloudLinux offers features that improve stability, density, and security. It better isolates each client so that allocation of server resources remains “fair” and doesn’t negatively impact other clients on the server. If you’ve ever used shared hosting for your own site before, you know how other sites’ traffic can affect your performance.

 

What you need to be familiar with

 

If you already successfully manage your own site, you’ve already got the technical knowledge required to start your reselling business. You’re no doubt already familiar with how cPanel and WHM work. All you’ll need to do here is go into WHM to create a cPanel environment for each of your clients’ sites and give them the administrative access they need to manage their site. The rest is up to them. Of course, there is one big skill you’ll need in order to successfully run this hosting reseller business and isn’t so much a technical skill, but rather a customer service skill.

 

When you purchase a server with the intention of reselling space on it, it’s usually done (and should be done) under a white label agreement. That is, the original hosting company’s branding isn’t anywhere to be seen. For all intents and purposes, you are selling server space on hardware that you own. However, the downside to that is any issues your customers have aren’t going to be handled directly by the hosting company. They will be handled by you. What that means is, the hosting company you’re paying for a server won’t field your customers’ service tickets. You’ll have to accept them, then contact the hosting company in order to get things fixed. Being comfortable in that middle man role is going to be essential to running this reseller business.

 

Preparing your business

 

Depending on what you already do primarily with your business, preparing your business to take on the role of web host may be simple or it may be time-consuming to get off the ground initially. Either way, it will certainly add somewhat to your regular workload. If you’re lucky and you work strategically, it shouldn’t take up too much time and the extra income every month will far outpace the amount of time you need to spend doing any really difficult work.

 

You’ll need to set up a ticketing system to process any requests that your clients have regarding troubleshooting. This will also involve setting up some sort of help desk type interface somewhere on your business’ current site. Also, be sure to get any kind of legal paperwork prepared including proposals, agreements, and terms of service. When it comes to hosting, these things are important and you need to protect yourself. You may already have a lot of this already prepared for your current business and it’ll just take some tweaking.

 

Conclusion

 

Web hosting is much more adaptable and profitable to your business than you may realize. While many people think of their hosting solution as just a way to keep their business website online, which is important, there are many opportunities to expand your portfolio of services and make additional income. While it may not be explicitly “passive” it’s certainly a great way to make extra revenue every month as a billable item. If you’re interested in signing up for a dedicated server to divide and resell space on, contact us today. At KnownHost, we’re dedicated to providing you with the business solutions you need to grow.

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Root Access for Your Website

What is Root Access? What Can You Do With It?

Who cares about root access? Do you need it? If you do, what can you do with it? Learn about the Linux root, what it can do for you, and how a Unix-like operating system is organized as an upside-down tree.

 

  • Does it matter if you write root or Root?
  • The root user: the Linux version of Windows admin
  • What exactly is root access? (possible sources of confusion)
  • Linux as an upside-down tree
  • What can you do as root?
  • How to get root access for your website

 

Why is root lower case?

 

First, let’s get into root vs. Root. It is possible for a person to argue that this piece should have been entitled, “What is root access?” to make it clearer that the root user is in lower-case.

 

Remember that the root user is specific to Linux, BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution), and other Unix-like operating systems (see the next section regarding “Unix-like”). The bulk of Linux is written in C. Like some other computer languages (C++, Java, Ruby, XML, etc.) and in contrast to others (Pascal, SQL, Ada, etc.), C is a case-sensitive coding language. Because of that, well, it matters whether you write root or Root. Why do people choose lower-case over the capitalized version of a word? Let’s look at the discussion of why it might be used, or not used, to name a local variable – from a relatively popular post within Software Engineering Stack Exchange.

 

In the post, the user oscilatingcretin [sic] says he gets a lot of grief from other developers for capitalizing the first letter in words within his local variables. Standardly, coders will use employeeCount and firstName, as examples. Instead, oscilatingcretin would use EmployeeCount and FirstName in those instances. He uses capitalization across the board – for constants, properties, variables, return methods, void methods, etc. He notes that he even uses that same model within Javascript.

 

Why does this decision bother people? Well, because there is a certain logic to the non-use of capital letters in that context. The idea is that initial-caps of words – or “proper case” – within case-sensitive code is typically only a convention that is applied to void methods and properties; you should start with the lower case for methods that return a value and local variables, says this perspective.

 

Oscilatingcretin notes that he has too often felt that the supposed need to use this convention is perhaps more arbitrary than it is rational – although he does note that he has “never needed a casing convention to tell me whether or not something is a local variable or property” because he has “always used a very intuitive naming convention.”

 

The bottom line is that you should write root without a capital letter; and if you want, you can question whether the lack of a capital letter makes sense.

 

The root user: the Linux version of Windows admin

 

Have you worked with Windows servers? Then you are probably familiar with the administrator account. That, like root, is an example of a superuser account that is designated for system administration. The superuser name will vary depending on the operating system (OS).

 

It’s important to understand scope, so what exactly do we mean by Unix-like? According to the Linux Information Project, Unix-like is a term applied to computing operating systems to mean that it has numerous attributes that are similar to UNIX (created at Bell Labs by Ken Thompson in 1969) and the systems that followed soon after it.

 

A superuser account such as root is able to edit whatever server files they want and perform any other tasks without getting blocked due to a lack of sufficient permission. Specific tasks that you can accomplish when logged in as root are covered in the “What can you do as root?” section below.

 

What exactly is root access? (possible sources of confusion)

 

Within Linux or another Unix-like system, the root user – accessible with dedicated and some VPS servers – has overarching file access and command privileges. A term that can often be used interchangeably with root user is root account. The notion of root access can become a bit more muddled when you look at similar ways in which root is used within Linux, BSD, and similar (i.e. Unix-like) systems. Those are:

 

  • root directory (/) – The root directory is the top-level directory. To look at it from the bottom up, your files will typically be contained within subdirectories, which in turn are within directories, all of which are included in the root directory. A forward slash (this character – /), indicates the root directory.

 

  • slash root (/root) – Although this may sound like a sloppy effort at harvesting ingredients for sarsaparilla, it is actually the home directory of the root account (/root). In other words, it is the main place where the root user’s files (configuration and otherwise) are stored. Typically it is the location where a user will start when they log into Linux. Remember that the forward slash designates the root directory; that means slash root is a subdirectory of it. Any typical (non-root) home directories populate within a different default subdirectory of root, slash home (/home).

 

  • root privileges – This term refers to the capabilities that the root user has to control the system, distinct from those of other users. The root account is the king and queen of the castle, as described above. It has 100% management control, with full access to every command and file. Let’s get into these privileges in the next section.

 

  • rootkit – You may want root privileges, but you don’t want to get them through a rootkit, no matter how user-friendly its name may sound. A rootkit is applications that are clandestinely placed on a server by an unauthorized party, often for malicious reasons. The Linux Information Project notes that “well designed rootkits are able to obtain root access… and to hide most or all traces of their presence and activities.”

 

Linux as an upside-down tree

 

To better understand how the concepts in the above section interrelate, this account is called root because it has exclusive write permissions within the root directory – i.e. it can change any files contained therein.

 

The root directory is called that because the hierarchy of a Unix-like OS is designed to be similar to a tree, with everything sprouting and branching off from one directory that serves as the roots. Flip the tree over, and you see the hierarchy, with root on top.

 

What can you do as root?

 

This question could be rephrased as, “What are example root privileges?” That is essentially what we are talking about with privileges is the ability to do other stuff on your dedicated or VPS server (the latter provided you have full root access). Here are 5 broad examples of what you can do within this account:

 

  1. 1. Edit whatever files you choose
  2. 2. Change the system however you want
  3. 3. Provide and remove permissions to other accounts (which will affect whether they can read, change, or execute certain directories and files)
  4. 4. Install software server-wide (MySQL, Apache, etc.)
  5. 5. Set up configurations for software throughout the server

 

How to get root access for your website

 

You can get root access on a dedicated or virtual private server, provided this feature is available through your hosting provider. With a good service, logging in as root should be a snap. At KnownHost, support is something we pride ourselves on, so you can rest easy knowing we’ve got your back. See our full-root-access fully managed VPS plans.

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