"Our company publishes electronic classified ads over the Internet, so our most important supplier since the beginning has been our hosting service," says Al Schneider, 57, co-owner of Englewood, New Jersey-based usedmall.com. Since 1996, he and partner Harvey Berlent have been providing electronic classified listings to companies wishing to buy or sell used and surplus equipment.
Hosting services, or Internet Service Providers (ISPs), display Web pages over the Internet. To share (or post) information on this powerful network, you typically negotiate an agreement with an ISP to access the Internet through them, paying a monthly fee so that your Web page can be viewed by others.
"We've been associated with the technology industry for 30 years, so we had a good deal of knowledge about the Internet and hosting services when we decided to launch our business," Schneider explains. "As an early implementer, the options available to us were far more limited than they are today, so it was relatively easy to select a provider. People starting a similar business today have thousands of ISPs to choose from, so they need to carefully compare factors such as price, service orientation and dependability. The goal is to find a reliable provider who is using the most up-to-date options and tools."
The other supplier Schneider and Berlent had to find was a top-quality Web site designer. The two used search engines to locate Web sites that reflected the features of the site they wanted to create. By looking at other sites, they were able to identify a list of objectives for their own site.
"We wanted to create a database-driven Web site," explains Schneider. "We were looking for a designer who could build a search engine within our Web site so that ads could be searched for easily, by name or by keyword. This was a must for our advertisers. The designer we hired had put contact information at the bottom of the home page of one of the sites that had many of the features we wanted on our own Web site."
Usedmall.com only needed a designer for the original site. Their ISP now takes care of any changes that need to be made.
Schneider says he's been happy with his ISP because it's remained competitive in the marketplace.
"We continue to review our relationship on a quarterly basis," says Schneider. "Our vendor is constantly challenged to stay competitive. Because we keep up with technology, they have to."