Published October 9, 1998

Common Problems with Online Storefronts and How to Avoid Them

Problems with conducting business in online stores typically occur in one of three places: with your Internet Service Provider, with the connections to your server, and with your expectations for success.

ISP Problems

Most problems with online storefronts occur with your Internet Service Provider or hosting service. These are mainly server-related and should be kept in mind when choosing an ISP or other host for your site.

One of the most common ISP problems is server overload. If other companies have their sites stored on the same server as yours, during high traffic hours, the server may be inundated with queries, ultimately affecting the speed and service of your site. On the Web, the speed of transactions is essential to customer service - it is essential not to allow your service to be compromised by other sites.

Be sure to ask your ISP how many accounts are on the same server as yours - there should be no more than ten to twelve sites per server.

Another, and perhaps better solution is to "co-locate" your server. This means that you actually own the server, but that it is physically located at the ISP's operations center. The server is exclusive to your site, but you don't have to worry about servicing it - the ISP is responsible for the server's maintenance.

Connection Problems

The second place where problems can occur, which is largely unknown to site owners, is with the phone connection. As a business site owner, you want to make sure that the phone lines that carry the data have no interference. Interference that is otherwise indistinguishable or benign for voice communications can be detrimental to data transmissions to your Web site.

You don't want to have any interference problems when you are dealing with sensitive credit card information - this could potentially cause you to not only lose transactions but also lose consumer confidence. Have a phone company technician verify that the lines have no static and are not disturbed by possible microwave activity in the area, such as from hospitals or industrial complexes. This testing is free, and can greatly benefit your ability to conduct online transactions.

Expectation Problems

The third place where problems can occur is closer to home: your expectations for online success. Even before you build your Web site, build a clear business strategy.

Your strategy for online sales should include having enough financing to "weather any storm." One way to avoid problems is to overestimate expenses and underestimate revenues for the first few years. You're buying a position and building a customer base - keep in mind, these things take time.

Pursue your online storefront with a long-term strategy. The worst thing that you can do is to expect a quick return on investment. You need to build confidence in your business and have the patience for e-commerce to evolve. Your goal should be to build traffic for your site -not just casual, passive visits, but loyal, repeat traffic which will ultimately increase revenue.