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Security issues--real or imagined--are still a major barrier to consumer spending on the Internet. Many customers aren't plunking down their credit cards at virtual registers because they fear having those precious numbers float away into cyberspace, where hundreds of hackers lie in wait to defraud them.
OK, we know it's not really like that. But your customers may not. Most Internet shoppers want a guarantee that their transactions are private and secure.
Keep your customers happy with a solution like VeriSign's Secure Server ID. Used by more than 35,000 Web sites in more than 50 countries, it allows any Web site to transact purchases safely, using encryption for security.
"Having the VeriSign seal [can give an] online store the credibility it needs to impress consumers that they're shopping on a secure site," says Joe Michaels, 30, co-founder and president of Nexchange Corp., an Atlanta electronic commerce company that helps clients set up e-commerce partnerships using VeriSign's Secure Server ID.
When you register at the VeriSign site (http://digitalid.verisign.com/server/index.html), you'll receive a digital ID. The ID lets your server make a secure connection with the customer's browser, meaning:
- The customer can verify that the site does belong to the owner of the digital ID.
- Message transfers are coded with a "session key" that is used only once, during a single session with a single user, so it can't be intercepted by an unauthorized party.
- When a message is sent, a code is generated on each end. If even one character in the message is changed, the recipient is alerted.
You also receive a seal to post on your site to show it's secure. The system also provides up to $100,000 of protection against economic loss due to theft, impersonation, corruption or loss of the use of an ID. Secure Server IDs start at $349 per year.
Shannon Kinnard (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the owner of Idea Station, an editorial services company in Decatur, Georgia, that specializes in e-mail newsletters. She contributes to digitalsouth magazine, and is working on her first book, which deals with marketing via e-mail.
Chances are, bigger bandwidth would make your business more productive by allowing you to access data faster and more cheaply. One solution in the works is Sprint ION (Integrated On-Demand Network), which will use asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) to offer virtually unlimited bandwidth.
If you think of standard Internet access as transferring lots of little packets of information in a single-file line, think of Sprint ION as transferring a huge pipeline of data all at once. A Web page that takes 60 seconds to download over a 28.8 Kpbs modem might take only half a second over Sprint ION.
More than speed, Sprint ION also promises simplicity. Currently, if you've got three phone lines, two fax machines, five computers and an Internet connection, you've got nearly a dozen connections to deal with. Sprint ION will consolidate all your voice/data transfer services (Internet, fax, local and long-distance phone calls, and videoconferencing) into just one connection and one bill. Better still, you can access two or more services simultaneously through that one connection.
Now for the bad news: The service is still being tested with beta customers and won't be widely available until late this year or early 2000, according to Jeff Anderson, Sprint's senior director of strategic development.
Can't wait? Teligent offers an alternative that also promises unlimited bandwidth, available now and guaranteed to save you money. Like Sprint ION, Teligent consolidates Internet, fax, local and long-distance phone calls, and videoconferencing services into one account.
Richard J. Hanna of Teligent says the company is currently offering up to 30 percent off rates customers now pay their local and long-distance phone carriers and ISPs. To qualify for discounts, you must sign up for a minimum of one year. For more information, visit http://www.teligent.com.
Sprint, (800) 413-8365, http://www.sprint.com
VeriSign, (650) 961-7500, http://www.verisign.com