Even the smallest business needs a website these days.
1&1, the largest business website hosting service in Europe, is updating its business deals to make that cheaper and easier by including tools for building apps into your web site – without turning it into a security risk - and creating a mobile version or a Facebook fan page. If you need more power for cloud project, it also offers dynamic cloud servers that you can scale up and down and pay for by the minute.
"More and more SMBs see the Internet as the best way to generate leads and transactions," 1&! CEO Robert Hoffman told TechRadar. "That's driven by consumers who are looking for information online. They're browsing on their tablets and mobile phones and most small business sites aren't designed to be available on mobile devices.
"And in the future, your company information won't only be on your web site; you will have to be on different marketplaces and social engagement platforms. Businesses will have to start posting content; your customers won't look at a web site that hasn't been updated in two years. And once you're using all these tools to mobilise and sync content, it will increase the demand for web sites to be powerful and reliable. Whether your webs site loads fast enough will become more and more relevant to your business."
He rattles off a list of statistics; 58% of small businesses don't have a web site and 75% don't think they could create a high quality web site themselves. But 56% of consumers don't trust a business that doesn't have a web site and 60% of them are frustrated with business sites that don't work on their phone or tablet.
Businesses who do have web sites want to get more out of them: generating leads (which often means getting a good ranking on search engines), CRM tools, getting onto social networks and communicating more with customers and partners.
Building easy-to-edit sites
The new features in 1&1's standard Shared Hosting package are designed to solve those problems. You still get free web authoring software (Dreamweaver CS 5.5 and NetObjects Fusion 2013) or you can build your site online. The Click & Build app centre lets you pick and choose from apps like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla – or Tumblr – to create your site.
These install in 'safe mode' where 1&1 manages the way the apps are set up and updates them to keep the site secure. If you want to customise your site with your own code, you can now switch into 'free mode'; you'll have to manage updates yourself, but you don't have to start from scratch ore reupload your content. 1&1 also offers a security tool that lets you can your code to check for vulnerabilites like cross-site scripting.
Another security concern 1&1 is addressing is out-of-date PHP code. Hoffman mentioned that often, when the company warns businesses who have vulnerable code on their web sites that they will be shutting it down for security reasons, "People say 'I don't know how to change my PHP code'.
They got it from a developer and they're not in touch with them any more, any they don't know what to do. So we're building up our staff to support these customers." Even if you don't have a PHP question, 1&1 is promising 24-7 support, not just from sales staff but from technical experts, over the phone or in its forums.
Using apps on your site doesn't just raise security questions; you may also need better performance to keep the site responsive. 1&1 has created its own content delivery network that caches your content in 23 locations around the world; that's included in the Unlimited and Unlimited Plus packages. Unlimited Plus accounts will also automatically scale up to 2GB of memory if the performance of the site is slowing down.
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Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.