Today, simply having a website isn't enough; it must be well-maintained, highly-available and user-friendly, with the right content for your customers. Here are some tips to achieve the right platform.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups have emerged as serious contenders to established corporate entities in recent years. This trend has taken the fast lane with the availability of many digital tools in enhancing how small businesses do their work. For instance, solutions such as CRMs and ERPs were once exclusively available and affordable to big firms. With the rise of scalable and affordable cloud services, however, these are becoming easier to use and available even to upstarts.
Yet the most vital tool that has proved vital in the success of SMEs is the website. Inexpensive to build, easy to deploy and instantly accessible to the customer at the other end, your website is a key ingredient in ensuring you have an adequate online presence.
If you run a business website, you will be aware of the sheer versatility of function they can offer. From being a point of sales to a feedback portal, websites help anchor a small business in the digital landscape, something increasingly important in today’s business environment.
Opportunities and challenges
If you own a small business, this year is going to bring you a lot of opportunities as well as many challenges. A whole crop of tools and platforms have leveled the playing field for all businesses, big or small. However, you need to ensure your digital assets are optimised in order to take advantage of the benefits of going digital.
Having a website, for example, is no longer enough. You must have a well-maintained, highly-available, user-friendly website with the right content for your customers.
What you need to know
Following are some aspects of maintaining a business website that will be vitally important if you are looking to grow your business.
Is your web hosting efficient and scalable? Are you paying the right price for your hosting, or are you being overcharged? This applies to cloud-based hosting as well. Typically, SMEs often end up paying higher than they should, due to a lack of scalability. The right web hosting service should be flexible enough so that you pay only a small amount while you are still receiving low traffic levels. You can then pay more as the traffic grows.
Ensuring scalability also involves taking into account the growth and expansion of your audience on a global level. Using a content delivery network allows you to offload large amounts of bandwidth usage, simply by having all of your static content served from caching servers outside of your network. Doing so can bolster your own servers’ scalability by 30 per cent or more, depending on how your website is built. More advanced CDN platforms, will also offer the ability to cache dynamic content, further improving performance and scalability, while also saving a lot of money on bandwidth charges.
Disaster recovery plan
Do you have an effective backup system? Maintaining a website comes with its risks; you may be open to attacks, suffer server downtime or run into unprecedented problems which can temporarily bring down your website. Having a backup plan means knowing what will happen in the face of such a possibility.
Ideally, your website should see no downtime since that directly results in a loss of customers. Every time a customer is unable to access your website, you risk losing him or her. To ensure business continuity, you will have to implement a capable site failover system, which switches to a secondary server at the event of downtime, thereby reducing the risk of total downtime.
If you use your website to interact with the customers, whether through sales or by crowdsourcing feedback, you are essentially dealing in user data. User data is a sensitive commodity these days. Different industry standards apply to the processing and storage of user data, and a number of regulatory bodies monitor and dictate its usage.
You should look up the relevant regulatory frameworks that apply to your business. If your business is related to health services, for instance, being well cognizant of the Health Insures Probability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is critically important for your success. Similarly, if your business involves receiving the customers’ tax information and storing it, you are required by law to adhere to the IRS Procedure 86-19. When dealing with sales and purchases, you may be required to provide the relevant data to the customer under Consumer Credit Protection Act.
If you fail to comply with the government-sanctioned industry standards, any event of failure or customer complaint can lead to penalties. A failure because of a lack of compliance can also erode consumer trust in your company.
2016 is the year of the small businesses. SMEs are in a unique position to make it big. The key to success, of course, is that you must play your cards right and leverage the available tools to optimise your business infrastructure. Optimising your website for growth and availability is a good starting point.
Further reading on websites
See also: Sunday best for small business