How can you be sure your Web site is safe from crashes? While it's impossible to be 100 percent safe, you can get as close as 95 percent if you make sure you're using a reliable hosting company prepared to handle server problems.
That's what Online Office Supplies Co. in Frederick, Maryland, did. The 80-person online superstore, founded in 1998 by Paula Jagemann, currently has more than 30,000 office supplies for sale on the site and even allows other brand-name Web sites to sell their merchandise through the Online Office Supplies Co. web site. Before going online, however, Jagemann signed on with one of the largest and most-renowned Web hosting companies in the business, UUNET Technologies, to handle all its hosting needs. "We went with UUNET because we didn't want to suffer the outages that cripple embryonic e-commerce sites," says Jagemann, 33. "At the end of the day, success can be a Web site's worst enemy if it's not planned for appropriately." Jagemann's site resides on UUNET's servers in a hosting facility in Washington, DC, and UUNET has a team of engineers dedicated to monitoring it at all times.
Jagemann says she went with the maximum service possible for her site, which receives more than one million hits per month, just to make sure service would be stellar. "I was planning on spending four figures, and I'm in five," she explains. But so far, according to Jagemann, the hefty sum of money has paid off: "We've had periodic outages, but we've compared notes with other Web sites and found our outages pale in comparison. Most of the outages have been regionally centric, caused by hurricanes or natural disasters, as opposed to just our box going out."
She also says that deciding on UUNET was important from a standpoint of scalability. "When we developed the actual software for the Web site, the parameter was that on Day One, the site would be able to take 100,000 orders per day," says Jagemann. "We worked very closely with UUNET as we were designing the software, so they knew our expectations. And we knew they would be able to handle this."
Many small businesses find their Web sites crash because they're not designed with the technology necessary to handle increases in traffic over time. UUNET, however, owns almost half the Net's backbone and recently invested $100 million in data centers. This expansion allows it to have a great amount of Internet piping, plus additional connectivity to the Internet backbone in many places-making it easier for businesses to gain entrance to the site.