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Beth Page
05-12-2008, 12:47 AM
we are looking for the best(cheapest) way for us to get a website up and running for our small laser engraving business.

any suggestions on the best website hosting that we should take a look at. i would prefer to build the website myself and we must be able to take orders from the website also.

so any and all suggestions appreciated

thank you

Thad Nickoley
05-12-2008, 1:58 AM
Great question

John Noell
05-12-2008, 2:24 AM
We have used GoDaddy.com for hosting. (They are quite large.) We have not used their website development tools (preferring MS Expression Web or Adobe Dreamweaver) but have heard positive comments about them. Getting listed in search results once you have a website has changed radically and paying for a good (high) position seems to be the usual these days.

Craig Hogarth
05-12-2008, 2:53 AM
I use godaddy for my hosting and I'm quite pleased with them. I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to that stuff and they speak on my level whenever I call them.

Their web building tools are lacking though. They offer a website builder and a quick cart, but you can't use them on the same domain. Originally, I used my .com as my website and linked it to my .net for the store, but I wasn't pleased with either really and bought a web design software that I"m not too thrilled with either.

I spoke with a couple webdesigners and in order for me to have a store that allowed customer login, image uploading and all the features you'd expect to be able to make an order, it was going to be 14 to 16 grand.

so basically, I just have website with no store atm.

Lisa Griffiths
05-12-2008, 3:53 AM
I have used fluidhosting.com for about 5 years now. They are not resellers - which is a big plus. You can choose either a windows or linux account.

They are not as cheap as Go Daddy but their support is fantastic, their servers are well maintained and kept up to date with software and security patches, and they have lots of free apps including Site Builder and a couple of really good shopping cart programs that are full featured that you can install from your control panel. ZenCart is probably the best one - it has all the above mentioned features in Craig's posting. ($14 - $16 grand is totally ridiculous for a normal site with a shopping cart even if you were buying your own shopping cart software. Now if you were having everything custom coded - I could see where that could run into some $$$)

I also had a Go Daddy account at one time to try them out and I personally didn't like them. The biggest thing going for them is they offer lots of disk space and bandwidth for a cheap price. However, I found their very limited control panel confusing and frustrating since I was use to using fluidhosting's control panel and changes didn't always take effect right away on Go Daddy's server. Cheapest isn't always the best way to go in my opinion.

I have MUCH more flexibility with fluidhosting.com and have never had any problems setting anything up or getting any any web software to work on my site. Needless to say I let my Go Daddy account expire and upped my plan to a larger plan at fluidhosting to meet my needs. I am not affiliated with fluidhosting.com in anyway....just a very satisfied customer.

Bill Morrison
05-12-2008, 4:55 AM
Beth
Make a list of what you want from a hosting site and then start googling. There are hosts who will set up what you need for a fee and then after you upload your site theyíll help you with the order taking part of it.
While getting a degree in computer science I took site design classes for extra income and wound up building sites for about 3 years. SO much easier now with the software doing all of the work. But you will find out that a lot of customers will feel more at ease talking to someone on the phone. If you canít find a hosting plan that you want perhaps you could look into getting an 800 number and take orders on the phone. Just an idea. I donít know the prices anymore for the 800 numbers but it sure has to be a lot less than the 14-16K ( ludicrous) that someone wanted to build a website. Donít know if this helps, just a thought to toss around
Bill

Dennis Solomon
05-12-2008, 7:08 AM
Beth we use www.coastalwebhosting.com (http://www.coastalwebhosting.com) for our site and use zen cart to build the site it is free and includes a great shopping cart at www.zen-cart.com (http://www.zen-cart.com) they have different modules to add almost anything! if you have any question pm us and just ask.

Mike Null
05-12-2008, 7:22 AM
If you intend to make your living from this web site have a pro do it. You can shop around and find somebody capable for under $5000. Look at their portfolio of work.

If you have no web site skills it'll be a waste of your time to try to do something that will produce an income for you.

I've been using Yahoo for several years and will not change because their service is teriffic. I pay $10.95 a month for hosting a standard site. Merchant sites are in the area of $40.

Zac Altman
05-12-2008, 8:03 AM
I am a web designer and I have always used godaddy. No issues yet, and they are very cheap. You can get them cheaper by using promocodes from various podcasts.

Budd Bennett
05-12-2008, 9:12 AM
Hi,

I am the "New guy on the Block", as I just joined yesterday. I am not too familiar with posting, but will try to learn about it.

I have been using "Bizland" for my host for several years and am very happy with them. They have several packages that you can choose from, as far as hosting goes, and a nice package for e-commerce.

I have opted to us MS FP for my store, but I have been very lax in getting my forms set up to accept information from my customers.

Anybody have any short-cuts on this?

Budd

Mitchell Andrus
05-12-2008, 9:16 AM
Shop around, do your homework. I had what I thought would be a shopping cart solution 5 years ago but as I built my product line I found how poorly the platform had been designed. Many of my products just couldn't be fully explained (I use a LOT of choices in wood, size color, price, images, flash, etc). I had to start over about 2 years ago.

My current site is running fine but it took many many hours to customize the engine and then build the products. Think of a chef offering a menu in a restaurant. The building isn't the chef's design, but the food is. Same thing with cart sites. The design of the site is the restaurant and you must find the right platform and build a good looking restaurant.

Don't cheap out - you'll be sorry when you out-grow it in a few years. That said, some really great platforms can be had for under 1K, and then customized professionally for 2-3K more unless you can do it yourself.

Plan for a learning curve no matter what package you go for, and plan on many hours filling the store with your products. Two to four months is normal. 2 for the design, 2 to build the first round of products.

Make sure the platform allows "cloning" of products and choices. This is a real time saver.

Doug Griffith
05-12-2008, 9:44 AM
The best host I've found and use for all of my sites is Hurricane Electric. They are on the backbone, fully hosted, and very rarely go down. You really need to know what you're doing though because there are no control panels or other limited use tools (ie. WYSIWYG website builders). Clients are given root access to their own virtual domains.

One thing to think about is that different cart solutions and other bells and whistles are built in many different programming languages. You need to match the cart to the host to the programming knowlege of whoever is going to set it up.

Mike and Mitchel make very good points. Anybody can build a website these days (albeit limited) but a shopping cart is another story. You should consult with a pro.

Scott Shepherd
05-12-2008, 10:13 AM
Just to add to the other valid points, most free shopping carts are very good. Zen-Cart, OSCommerce, etc. are all very good and easy to use, but they are products that are constantly updated to patch security holes. Most of the time, those updates are not very user friendly. They aren't "Click here for the update to take place", but rather "take these patch files, change the permissions on your file systems, upload the new files, run this file, then change the permissions back, then update your MySQL database by running this script....etc.".

Stuff that's confusing for a person who understands it, much less for someone who's just trying to have a shopping cart. It's normally a quite involved update process and you have to do all the steps perfectly and in perfect order. Make one mistake, the update crashes and can corrupt files and you'll be down until you can talk someone into helping you fix it online on a support forum.

Point being, if you don't have the time or desire to really get into the hard core way it all works, then pick a host that maintains the shopping cart software. You'll pay for it, but in the end, it will stay updated and you can focus on your business rather than how to get your store working again.

Don't patch the security holes and you can open your server up to being exploited and used to send massive amounts of spam in your name, which will get your email server blacklisted on the world network, which will dump all your email into spam folders or delete it without ever delivering it to your customers.

Dee Gallo
05-12-2008, 10:26 AM
I went with a pro and could not be happier - it is a whole skill unto itself. There are so many tricks of the trade and updates to keep track of. My website is on iPower and when I need to make changes, a simple email to my webmaster and it's done. Key to this is finding a great webmaster who is capable and willing to make changes at YOUR convenience. She used to use godaddy but found iPower to be cheaper and more reliable.

I used to have a storefront and did a wide variety of work, but now have found a better niche in on-line sales and word of mouth, since I cater to a specialized group and locally would have zero business comparatively speaking. Plus, overhead is low, tax exemptions are good, nobody coming in to interrupt you... I rarely even give out my phone number. All conversations are "recorded" by email or snail mail, so no misunderstandings.

Business this way is steady and calmer! I make a decent income and still have time to play with other stuff.

Mike Null
05-12-2008, 11:04 AM
Even if you choose to use a pro (a wise decision) you still have a lot of work to do. Especially the writing, which is all important. You know your business, your processes and your products and services. You absolutley must take your time and write copy for your site very carefully with an eye toward search terms. Be repetitive and inclusive.

Words are more important than pictures.

Consider a productive web site as a business asset. That means it has real value and as you develop it it will grow in value as well as productivity.

Sean Bullock
05-12-2008, 12:12 PM
Both Yahoo and Microsoft have excellent software for building your own website. It is as easy to use as Word or Excel and it is free for the basic version. Hosting is also free.

Building your own website will give you free reign to make changes when you like and since there is no code to learn you can have a site up in just a few hours.

David Fairfield
05-12-2008, 3:25 PM
Also not a big fan of GoDaddy, I only stick with them because they are cheap. Their website is full of BS advertisements for their products, making it difficult to navigate.

l find it so confusing that I can't even complete a simple transaction like renewing my subscription without calling customer support. Their staff are good, but I dont like waiting to talk to somebody.

Still waiting for an easy to use, inexpensive web host with a standardized online catalog & shopping cart that I can use.

Dave

Al Popowski
05-12-2008, 4:13 PM
Try I-Power. Depending on your needs, they have cheap sites.

Troy Cooper
05-12-2008, 6:07 PM
Having spent over 18 years in IT management before starting my laser engraving business I knew that I needed to have a website to help market my business but I also knew that I didn't want to spend all of my time and money setting up and managing a website even though I have the skillset.

After a significant amount of research I came across a template-based hosting provider called CityMax (http://www.CityMax.com?domain=663841&door=5&referral) that has been unsurpassed as far as value goes and is what I use for my business site. I have also used the CityMax service to do websites for several other companies as well.

Here is a link to a site for a scrapbooking store that I am just now completing (http://www.thepinecityscrapbookingco.com). It really shows some of the capabilities of the CityMax templated pages. In this case, the monthly cost for the website runs them $20 and I charged them $2600 to do all of the graphic design work and get the site up and running for them just to give you some context. It took me about 80 hours to produce what you see there.

The nice thing about it being template-based is that you can pick a general template as a starting point and customize the template to give it your own look and feel without having to do a lot of HTML or script development. Even though I know how to develop a site from scratch, it just wasn't worth the extra time.

CityMax offers a great online commerce solution (all included in the $20/month fee) where you can have up to 500 products, an integrated shopping cart, and your choice of a variety of payment processing options such as Authorize.net and PayPal to name a couple.

For $20/month I haven't been able to find another solution that offered as much value. It's definitely a great solution for people who don't know and don't want to learn HTML. I highly recommend looking into it for someone who is looking to establish their first business website. At some point, a more robust hosting platform may be necessary but this will definitely get a person started.

Darren Null
05-12-2008, 8:54 PM
If you want cheap hosting, you can't do better than free with no adverts:
http://www.x10hosting.com HOSTING
The price you pay is you have to login to their forums every 2 weeks. Not post, just login. Been with them about 6 months now with 1 timeout when they moved servers, but otherwise no problems.
Standard LAMP setup with a couple of free databases thrown in, as well as other toys.

For more sophisticated stuff, and assuming you actually want to reach into your pocket, these guys offer some serious bang-for-buck. All the toys.
http://www.routhost.com/ HOSTING

If you're new to webdesign, then I'd farm it out if I were you- There's nothing worse than a 14-foot-long page with 12Mb of animated GIFs and an eye-searing background colour. Failing that, templates are the way to go.

Some general advice, in any event:
1) Keep your bits separate. If you get hosting with a free domain name and the company folds, your domain can go with it...taking all your promotional cash as well. Happened to me once. I use:
http://www.123-reg.co.uk./ DOMAIN REGISTRAR
...Cheapish, reliable, and has a nice bunch of forwarding tools. A separate domain also means that if you have problems with your hosting/find a cheaper one next year you can go with the new providor, copy your site, and just flick your domain over.

http://www.zoneedit.com/ DNS (DOMAIN POINTING)
DNS/forwarding tools for a couple of vintage domains that I can't transfer out of Network Solutions. Entirely my fault; I shouldn't have signed up as 'Eileen Dover', but the choice at the time was either pay loads for anonymity or lie glibly on the form. Anyway, zoneedit is free up to a certain weight of traffic. If you're getting enough traffic to trip the switch, you aren't going to be concerned about the paltry amount they charge.

http://mail.google.com EMAIL
gMail. Free. And does POP & IMAP for incoming, and SMTP for outgoing, so with a bit of tweaking, you can run emails for all your domains in and out through the service from wherever you happen to be and you can do it all from the desktop (Foxmail is a good free email client). Life's too short for webmail.
http://www.gmx.net EMAIL
is also a good freebie email service, but you have to read German.

WHY DO IT THAT WAY?
It's a little more complicated, but there's a few reasons, mostly to do with portability. With this setup, I can change ISP, email or hosting without an interruption in service. Also, I can flick round to take advantage of special deals and freebies. Most importantly of all, I am not at the mercy of any one company or service. Put not ye faith in ISPs or hosting companies. Also, you will note, apart from buying the domains, I'm not paying a penny for a pretty professional web presence...fluffy site, nice name, matching domain and email address etc. You can't tell what an unprofessional slacker I am until I actually turn up. hehehe.
As well as that, many hosting companies charge extra for email addresses, extra domains and subdomains. If you're doing your own domain forwarding, you can do all that for free, without asking anyone. That leaves you free to concentrate on the important things about hosting: speed; diskspace; monthly transfer; web toys; and the number of MySQL databases you can have with the account. Oh yeah- don't even consider a host that doesn't allow FTP access.

2) If you do farm the design out it's very important to ****GET A COPY OF ALL THE FILES, SETTINGS AND PASSWORDS USED IN YOUR SITE!!!!!!****
A frequent scenario I've seen over the years is:
-X gets cheap site done by Y (kid, cousin, neighbor, whatever). Happy.
-Updates needed. Y does them; charges.
-More updates needed; Y does them charges more.
-Eventually a threshold is reached, X & Y argue, Y stomps off, taking the keys to the site with him/her.
-X now owns a mature website with traffic and revenue that he can no longer access. And all the business cards/money spent on promotion is now wasted. In extreme cases, Y deletes the site on the way out.

It isn't necessarily arguing over money...it could be a car accident, an argument over something else, Y moving out of the area, anything.

For this reason, it's also not a good idea to go with offers of 'I've got a bit of spare space, just bung your site on my hosting' UNLESS you have the password to the (separately bought) domain name and can flick it to somewhere else at need. Even if you trust the other person with your life, something could happen to them.
Having said that, I've got a couple of 'infosites' on my space, but 1) the owners have the keys to their domain and 2) All the relevant passwords to everything are in my 'croak file'- a seriously encrypted file that my wife knows the password to.

Tim Bateson
05-12-2008, 10:19 PM
Key points:
1. You Will have to do a lot of work - the best web developers still need you to develop your own content. You're further ahead if you can build your own mock site first. Not the fancy web code, just the content.
2. Ask key questions - Who owns your web pages if down the road you decide to switch hosting companies. Believe it or not in some cases you do not own your own site. Buyer beware.

I use inmotionhosting.com and like what I'm getting. Great hosting, but their web development skills are marginal, but that's what I pay for. I'm doing a lot of the development myself.

Janet Liddiard
05-12-2008, 10:24 PM
After some research, I went with Heritage Web. A web designer builds the site based on your requirements and adds your initial list of products. Then, you have a significant amount of administrative capability to add products, change pages, etc (but in a user friendly way).

Overall, I've been happy with them. There have been a few times where we've been frustrated with having to purchase "add-on's" (flash, etc.), but all in all it's a good mix of pro's and easy updates. It's $40 + per month hosting, but the support is very good. It was under $2,000 for the whole thing.

Darren Null
05-12-2008, 10:38 PM
Oh yeah, for those of us doing our own sites:
http://www.snapfiles.com/get/sendtoftp.html
Send2FTP. Send files up to your webspace by right-clicking on them in Windows Explorer and using the 'send to' menu. This has saved me WEEKS of cumulative time just for site tweaks...you don't have to fire up a whole FTP program just for one file. And personally, I've never liked FTP built into webdesign packages.
Snapfile, because the domain of the writers is now parked. Get it while you can. Works 98-XP, don't know about vista.

@ Budd: Short-cuts for forms:
http://www.formgenics.com/
Free. Of course.

Stephen Beckham
05-12-2008, 10:47 PM
Not much difference between the names already mentioned and mine, but thought I'd throw it in there also - networksolutions.

They have template based - java driven. If you can make a website in word and save it in HTML - then you can use their 'cafe' for quick and easy website.

They also include 25 emails with your website address. I bought the first year at around $12 a month and then bought the three year plan for slightly cheaper...

Another nice thing they have is the ability to make your own site and then with a bit more $$ later own, have their professionals doctor it up - then let you manage it again after they put the 'pop' into it...

Have fun!

Doug Griffith
05-13-2008, 9:47 AM
More to think about...
If your website is a tool for generating revenue, it is important to be compatable with as many visitors as possible. It should be tested on as many platforms/browsers/versions as possible and debugged accordingly. This is hard to do unless you have access to many computers and can dig into the code with free FTP apps and text editors.

Most webmasters are concerned with how pretty it is and will even tell you to only support the latest generation browsers. They may even say "ignore Macs because they are only a small percentage". Since the laser business' target market is not the high tech industry, tell them you want to be compatable with everybody. Even if you have to lose some bells and whistles. And don't put the stupid "best viewed in IE at 1024 x 768 pixels". That is just poor design. I wouldn't blindly trust template based site builders either.

Search engine optimization(SEO) is very important and was discussed pretty heavilly in another recent SMC thread.

Anybody can build a website with a low cost WYSIWYG editor or template based online tool. It takes years of experience to take it to the next level which you will have to pay a professional for or pay the price of time. In a nutshell, you get what you pay for.

Danny Nichols
05-14-2008, 9:03 AM
Beth

A quick FREE place to get a web site is at

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/officelive/FX102036321033.aspx

This is a good deal to practise and play and get a feel for what you like. I like most of the others would say get a pro to do the web site design and work, but this is free and may help you.

Travis Gauger
05-14-2008, 9:53 AM
I really like bluehost.com. They have some reallynice tutorials and all the features like site builders, email, etc. Kind of a one stop shop for me. Cheapest I cold find for the key feaures. My $.02

Mitchell Andrus
05-14-2008, 12:12 PM
Travis, your site is not accessible at 12:15 est.

Constant Laubscher
05-14-2008, 2:37 PM
Hi Beth

Try this link http://www.ecommercetemplates.com/dreamweaverecommerce.asp
I did my website myself and do not have any regrets!
They also have a great forum to discuss and ask questions on problems you may encounter. The service is great and you can take all types of credit cards to sell on the net. There is also no limit on the amount of pages or items that you can offer on your site.
If you have any problems I would be glad to help you. I am also hosting my site at Go Daddy.com.
http://www.ecommercetemplates.com/support/default.asp

Kind regards

Constant Laubscher
www.lazerlinez.com (http://www.lazerlinez.com)

Brian Robison
05-16-2008, 11:19 AM
Anyone use prostores.com?

Bill Cunningham
05-20-2008, 9:12 PM
I use a outfit in Ontario called Hostpapa.com (http://Hostpapa.com) Every thing you could possible imagine is included in the 7.95 a month plan (I pay by the year you can also get a 5 year deal for 5.95 a month) including a HUGE amount of space, a HUGE amount of bandwidth, 3 choices of shopping carts (if you needem) 2 email programs (Horde & squirrel mail) SQL, .bin, a free domain name, unlimited email addresses, host as many websites/domain names as you like and a lot of stuff that is well beyond me!! They use the pretty common C-Panel for interface, and have online video turorials for everything ..Their extra domain names are a little expensive (24.95 yr) but you can park anywhere, and point your DNS to your website(s) I was simply amazed at the amount of stuff you get.. The tech help, is pretty well instant.. It's a GREAT change from TwoCows/domain direct that pretty well ignore anything you ask them.. I park there for 14 bucks a year, but point the dns to my other site..

Anthony Welch
05-24-2008, 8:07 PM
Does anyone know of this product http://www.webstudio.com/site/trial/VideoTour/VTindex.asp, pros and cons, for building a web site.

I don't know anything of html and don't want to learn nor have the time. It's drag and drop ability seems to be what I need and the price is resonable.

Thanks!

Bill Cunningham
05-25-2008, 9:35 PM
I still keep the old Mozilla browser on hand because of the built in html editor (called composer) They were going to offer this as a stand alone program, but have not seen it yet.. It will work by itself now, (after it's up and running, you just close the mozilla browser) Composer was also available in Netscape browsers.. Simple way to manage your website.

Darren Null
05-25-2008, 11:52 PM
I use a outfit in Ontario called Hostpapa.com
I've just signed up with them for a different project. Unlimited webspace and unlimited bandwidth, yes, but the catch is that the CPU cycles are NOT unlimited; and you can get your account kicked for using up too much processor time. 1% of CPU cycles for 60 seconds is the flag point; and there's probably 499 other accounts on that server.

Now having said that, it's a very relaxed way of setting up a site...use as many databases as you feel you need; pretty well all the toys are there (as shared hosting goes); you can set up your site the way you like it without having to worry too much about limits (and I've paid more in the past for shared hosting where you can have either X or Y feature because extra databases are more money - or even if you merge databases (risky and a complete nightmare) you're only allowed so many queries). I like the system, but it's not as unlimited as stated. Just FYI. So far, I'd recommend them. Way beyond many other hosting packages out there.

I needed to know this stuff because my current project has the potential for completely ramming the server, and it's only polite to find out where the edges are. Also, to get Plan B in place, of course.

Also, FYI, there's:
Hostpapa.com - NY
Hostpapa.ca - Oakville, Canada
Hostpapa.co.uk - UK

I went for the .ca because if we do end up stuffing their server there's a 6-hour time difference which will hopefully happen on a quiet time for them. Good business practice -keep everyone happy- but on a totally self-interested note may well add up to more leniency/more time to sort the problem out.

Bill Cunningham
05-29-2008, 8:50 PM
I've just signed up with them for a different project. Unlimited webspace and unlimited bandwidth, yes, but the catch is that the CPU cycles are NOT unlimited; and you can get your account kicked for using up too much processor time. 1% of CPU cycles for 60 seconds is the flag point; and there's probably 499 other accounts on that server.

This would not be a problem for most people.. I just use it as a page server, no databases needed, not great amount of processor time required.. When your just showing pages, at a normal level (i.e. not a porn site) it 'is' pretty well unlimited as far as most people are concerend.. And certainly the most bang for the buck i have seen...

Darren Null
05-30-2008, 2:06 AM
It's not a porn site. Or anything naughty at all. I must be getting old...

Bill Cunningham
05-31-2008, 8:46 PM
It's not a porn site. Or anything naughty at all. I must be getting old...

Ha!! I didn't mean to imply you were setting up a porn site Darren :o I meant that when your only showing 'pages' and not really doing anything else, a porn site is the probably the only type of site that would hog a lot of server time.. Like they say, I don't bother with pornography, I don't even own a Pornograph :D

Darren Null
05-31-2008, 9:32 PM
Just playing. I'm not offended in the least even if you were implying it. There's quite a lot of porn that gets filmed here on the south coast of spain- there's even a mid-ranking German starlet that comes into my local periodically. Nice lass. To me, porn -like prostitution which is legal here- is just another job. Everyone does things that they may prefer not to for money. Certainly more honourable than being a lawyer or traffic warden, anyway. In my opinion (insert several paragraphs of disclaimer here). I did a website for a fishing club once, and I'm more ashamed of that than I would ever be doing a porn site.

Porn sites tend to ram a server (Ooer!) due to sheer weight of traffic. There are other ways of getting a sudden high load of traffic including getting 'Dugg' or getting included on a high-traffic site or mailing list. Slashdot is famous for killing sites- somebody posts a link; everybody nips over to have a look and the monthly bandwidth allowance is gone in 10 minutes. This can happen to any site- could happen to any of us if we made a product that exactly fitted the 'right now' mood of the web...people bought that bloody 'crazy frog' stuff, after all. I very nearly put in an application to join another species when that was happening.

Other ways to kill your account on a shared server is to have lots of web toys. Bulletin boards, Wikis, and lots of scripts and flashing/shiny things, automated scripts, backups and other cron jobs all running from databases can use more than your share of the processor time on a shared server; and you can stuff yourself with quite light traffic if you have enough toys running.

Or there's streaming media. That's what I'm doing on this particular project, so I have to be quite careful. I only need to get posted somewhere vaguely popular and I'll be redlining the account. If it gets slashdotted, it could take out the whole server.

Si hoc legere scis, nimis eruditionis habes