You Name It
So you've finally decided on the perfect domain name for your Web site. That's great, but nothing's going to be official--or usable--until you take the time to register and reserve that carefully selected Internet address.
Fortunately for you, when it comes to domain name registration, you've got several options right at your fingertips. Just go online: There you can register your domain name for free at InterNIC (http://www.networksolutions.com), which handles the majority of the Internet's domain name registrations. Another option is to let an ISP service do it for you for an extra fee. (The cost is usually about $10 to $20.) Or try logging on to the Web sites of Internet hosting companies such as Sage Networks (http://www.domainsforfree.com) or Internet Communications (http://www.domainsarefree.com), which also offer free registration.
What if you've got a great business idea, but you aren't quite ready to launch your company? No problem: For $119, you can use either of these services to "park" your domain name until you're ready to use it, whether you've got a business to back up the name or not. This way, you can keep someone else from beating you to the punch.
The registration process is simple: Entry forms at both sites let you check to see whether your desired domain name is available for use. If the name is still up for grabs, all you need to do is fill out some online registration forms. Once you've completed the registration, the sites automatically send your registration to InterNIC, which charges $70 to use the name for the first two years, and $35 for every year thereafter.
Shannon Kinnard (email@example.com) is president of Idea Station, an e-mail marketing agency in Atlanta, and author of Marketing With E-Mail(Maximum Press, $24.95, 800-989-6733).
Built To Last
Pressed for time? Pressed for moolah? Depressed about how hard it seems to turn your idea into a booming commerce-enabled Web site? IBM's new CustomConnections program could be just what you need to cheer yourself up.
CustomConnections is a Web-based service that helps businesses gear up for online commerce. The program links you with partners and consultants who can help you set up a new Web site, advise you on improving the look and feel of an existing Web site, suggest ways to provide better customer service and more.
As part of the program, CustomConnections lets you access HomePage Creator software (starting at $29.95 per month) so you can create a home page without any expertise. Included in the software rental are tools to build your site and a registration service to list the site in search engines.
HomePage Creator also lets you take advantage of various online support services, such as assistance with site development, hosting using IBM's secure servers, transaction processing and order-form generation. Once your Web site is up and running, IBM's small-business experts will visit the site to assess factors such as ease of use and security, then e-mail you their evaluations and suggestions for improving and promoting the site.
North Kingstown, Rhode Island, entrepreneur Elaine Land used HomePage Creator software to build an e-commerce-enabled site (at left) with secure processing. "I needed something that could be revised and expanded [as the business grows]," explains Land, who continues to rely on HomePage Creator's online support services. Her business, The New Englander (http://www.newenglander.com), sells specialty gifts from that area online.
Thanks to e-mail support features integrated into its site, The New Englander can offer excellent customer service. Says Land, 34, "Customers receive immediate order confirmations via e-mail, and any additional inquiries [receive] detailed responses via e-mail within 24 hours, but usually much sooner."