Knowledge Base

The post-pandemic world has brought dramatic changes to the business landscape. Many brick-and-mortar businesses have closed their doors for good, while others have shifted to an online presence. Starting a business is easier than ever before, and there are many opportunities for those with an entrepreneurial spirit. If you’ve been thinking about starting your own business, now is the time to take the plunge. But where do you start? We've gathered tips and tricks on how to become a business owner to get you started on the right path. 1. Define Your Niche The first step to starting any business is to identify your target market. Who are you selling to? What need does your product or service fill? Make sure to brainstorm your general goals for the business, as well as specific marketing strategies that will help you reach your target audience. Once you’ve defined your niche, it’s time to research the competition. See what businesses are already out there serving your target market. What are they doing well? What could they improve upon?  Finally, if you are interested in how to become an owner of a business, you should start by identifying the gaps in the market. In that way, you’ll create a unique selling proposition for your business.  2. Decide on a Type of Proprietorship Now that you've determined what business you'd like to start and done thorough market research, it's time to choose a career path. Do you want to be a solopreneur or build a team? Are you interested in starting a franchise or an independent business? The options are endless, and the decision should be based on your specific goals and skill set. The three main ways to kick-start your company are: Purchasing an Existing Business This is the quickest way to become a business owner, but it comes with some risks. Existing businesses come with a customer base, employees, and established systems. However, becoming a small business owner this way also means that you’ll inherit the company's debts and liabilities. If you're looking to take on an existing business, make sure to do your due diligence and understand all the financial risks involved. Starting a Franchise Franchises offer the opportunity to be your own boss while also benefiting from the support of a larger company. When you start a franchise, you're purchasing the right to use the company's name, logo, and marketing materials. You'll also receive training on how to run the business and access to the company's supplier network, in case you don’t know how to become a business franchise owner.  The downside of franchises is that you'll have less control over your business, and you'll be required to pay royalties to the franchisor. Launching a New Company From Scratch This is the most challenging way to become a business owner, but it also offers the most growth potential. If you're starting a business from scratch, you'll need to generate your own funding, build a team of employees, and create a new brand. While this option is riskier, it also gives you complete control over your business. 3. Draft a Business Plan Having a business idea isn’t enough. Before you venture into finding out how to become a successful business owner, you should first put together a business plan. This document will serve as a roadmap for your business, outlining your short- and long-term goals, strategies for marketing and growth, and details about your financial projections. Your business plan should be as specific and detailed as possible. Include information on your target market, product or service, pricing strategy, and expected profits. Don’t forget to include a detailed marketing plan, which will outline how you plan to generate awareness for your business and attract customers. 4. Find Ways to Secure Funds Unfortunately, we can’t provide you with ideas on how to become a business owner with no money. In fact, according to statistics, 20% of small businesses fail within the first year. One of the main reasons for this is a lack of capital. Before starting your business, you need to find ways to secure funding. There are a number of options available, including loans, grants, and investment capital. It is ideal for a small business owner to secure enough funds to cover three to six months of expenses before getting started on their business ownership journey. Once you start, you’ll have to find a way to keep the business afloat with operating expenses. Some of the ways you can do this include: Using your own funds Obtaining venture capital from investors Visiting crowdfunding sites Taking out a small business loan 5. Choose a Name and Location  If you’re researching how to become a legal business owner, you’ll have to choose a proper name for your business. Keep in mind that your business name should be reflective of your brand and what you do. Make sure to protect the name of your company and the domain name by trademarking it. You'll also need to choose a business location. If you're starting an online business, you can work from anywhere in the world. However, if you're starting a brick-and-mortar business, you'll need to find a physical space to rent or purchase. Consider the local regulations and zoning laws in your area to find a location compliant with all the legal requirements. 6. Choose a Business Structure Successful business owners understand the importance of choosing the right business structure. The type of business you're starting will dictate the legal structure you should choose. This will further determine the legal and financial liability of your business. The most common business structures include sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), and corporations. Sole Proprietorship A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common type of business structure. It's owned and operated by one person, and there's no legal distinction between the owner and the business. Partnership A partnership is a business structure that involves two or more people. Before we delve deeper into how to become a part-owner of a business, we should explain that partnerships can be either general or limited. In a general partnership, all partners are equally liable for the debts and obligations of the business. In a limited partnership, there is at least one partner who has unlimited liability and one or more partners who have limited liability. LLC A limited liability company (LLC) is a business structure that offers personal liability protection to its owners. LLCs can be either single-member LLCs (owned by one person) or multi-member LLCs (owned by two or more people). Choose one of the top-rated LLC services and outsource LLC formation and ongoing compliance to experienced agents.  Corporation Finally, if you’ve been wondering how to become a business owner within a corporation, you should get familiar with what a corporation is. A corporation is a business structure that offers limited liability protection to its shareholders. Corporations can be either for-profit or nonprofit. Additionally, an S corporation is a special type of corporation that offers tax benefits to its shareholders. 7. Register Your Business  Once you have a business plan in place, it's time to register your business officially. If you're not sure how to become a licensed business owner, you can consult with an attorney or accountant for help. This process will vary depending on the type of business you're starting and your location.  In most cases, you'll need to choose a legal structure for your business and obtain a business license or permit. You'll also need to open a business bank account and obtain any necessary insurance for your small business. These steps will help you get started on the right foot and ensure that your company is compliant with all local, state, and federal laws. 8. Open a Business Bank Account One of the last steps to take to become a business owner is to open a business bank account with a reliable bank that deals with small businesses. This is a separate account from your personal one and is used to track the income and expenses of your company. The most common business accounts are savings accounts, credit card accounts, merchant services accounts, and checking accounts for small business owners. Most banks will require you to have a federal employer identification number (EIN) before they open a business account for you. You should also provide them with your business's formation documents, ownership agreements, and a business license. 9. Hire Team Members  Knowing how to become a small business owner isn't enough - you also need to know how to run your business effectively. If you're starting out, chances are you won't be able to do it all on your own. You'll need to build a team of employees, contractors, or freelancers to help you with the day-to-day operations.  When hiring team members, it's essential to consider the skills and experience they bring to the table. You'll also want to ensure they're a good fit for your company culture. Once you've built your team, it's important to manage them effectively. This includes setting clear expectations, providing feedback, and offering incentives for good performance. By taking the time to build a strong team, you'll set your business up for success. 10. Develop a Marketing Plan  Being a business owner means wearing many hats. One of the most important hats you'll wear is that of a marketer. As the face of your business, it's your job to generate interest in your products or services and convert that interest into sales. The best way to do this is to develop a marketing plan. This plan should include a mix of online and marketing tactics, such as search engine optimization, content marketing, social media marketing, and traditional advertising. You can hire one of the many email marketing services to create and execute your marketing plan for you. What Do You Need to Become a Successful Business Owner? Success doesn't come overnight. It takes time, dedication, and hard work. You'll need a clear vision, a strong team, and a comprehensive marketing plan. You'll also need to constantly learn and grow, monitor your progress, and make adjustments as needed. You can acquire certain soft skills through formal education, such as leadership and communication. Also, many online resources, such as Coursera and Udemy, offer affordable business courses. For example, if you want to learn more about marketing, you can take some online courses in digital marketing. However, in most cases, you won't need a business degree to start a business; knowing how to become a business owner is more important. You can pick the knowledge you need to run a business through the work experience you have gained. Some people are born entrepreneurs, while others develop the skills over time. If you have the drive and determination to succeed, you can become a successful business owner regardless of your formal qualifications. Final Thoughts Becoming a business owner requires hard work and dedication. But with the right knowledge and tools, it can be an enriching experience. By following our tips for business owners who are just starting their entrepreneurship journey, you'll be well on your way to success. Just remember that running a business is not a sprint - it's a marathon. So take your time, build a strong foundation, and continuously learn and grow. 

By Julija A.

It's no secret that eCommerce is a huge industry. In fact, it's projected to grow to $5 trillion in 2022. That's a lot of money up for grabs! If you're looking for ways to make money online, selling products and services through an eCommerce website is still one of the most profitable options out there. So, without further ado, let's get started! We'll discuss some interesting eCommerce business ideas that you can use to start making money online.  Start an Online Store To Sell Products The easiest way to make money online with eCommerce is to start your own online store. If you have unique products that you can either create or source, or that you can get shipped from around the world, this can be a great way to earn a healthy profit. Starting an eCommerce store can be daunting because you might be at a loss as to what to sell - in all fairness, a range of eCommerce product ideas can work. This could be either vintage garments that are your finds from the local thrift shop, products that are inconvenient to get, or even regular products that you can offer at a lower price online. You'll need to invest in a good eCommerce platform and make sure your eCommerce website is optimized for search engine ranking. Once you've got everything set up, it's just a matter of driving traffic to your site and making sales. Here are some profitable eCommerce business ideas for your online store: Sell Your Art, Handmade Jewelry, Accessories, or Clothing If you're a creative type, selling handmade jewelry, accessories, or clothing on Etsy is a great way to make money online. You can start a shop and promote your products through social media and other online channels. As Etsy is the 12th largest marketplace globally, it's got a lot of eCommerce entrepreneurs. So, you'll need to compete with other sellers in terms of price, quality, and customer service. But if you can establish yourself as a top seller, selling handmade goods online can quickly turn into a profitable eCommerce business. Create a Store for Selling Your Craft If Etsy is not your thing, you can also build your online store and start selling your craft there. However, you'll likely have to spend more time creating your website by using an eCommerce website builder or hiring a developer. Plus, attracting new customers might require more dedication than you would need on Etsy. You'll also likely have to execute some part of your sales via software or rely on another person if you choose this route. However, you’ll save on fees you'd otherwise pay to Etsy or other marketplaces. Sell Your Digital Art or Your Photos Online If you're an artist or have some artistic talent, selling your digital art online could be a good eCommerce business idea. A number of marketplaces allow you to sell online, and many of them are quite reputable. This can be a great way to join the online business world if you're comfortable using your artwork to create digital products. For example, if you're a photographer, you can sell your photos through stock photography sites. This can be a great way to make money if you have a good camera and some creative talent. Finally, as with selling physical goods, you don’t have to rely on marketplaces and pay the required fees. You can set up your shop and market your wares independently. This eCommerce business idea is perfect for getting your product out there and winning over your first set of clients. It’s also great for figuring out the ropes of the eCommerce business. Once you know how it all works, you can create a website and start selling your digital artwork on your own terms.  Have You Created Your NFT Collection Yet? NFT collections are a great way to showcase your work and one of the most profitable business ideas these days. However, getting started with NFTs requires some serious know-how, plus some tech skills. Still, since they are gaining in popularity and people are becoming interested in this type of art, it’s the most profitable eCommerce business. If you’re lucky, you can become rich in the process. Write Your eBook and Sell It Online If you take pride in your writing skills, you can write an eBook and sell it online. This is a fantastic business idea if you have some expertise that you can share with others. It could be anything from writing a self-help book, a piece of fiction, or your autobiography.  As with all other eCommerce business ideas on this list - it won’t rake in instant profit. You'll need to invest some time in writing your eBook, editing it, and ultimately - promoting it. However, once it's finished, you'll be able to sell it over and over again and make a great income.  Start a Print-on-Demand Line of Products If you're looking for a business idea that doesn't require a lot of money upfront, starting a print-on-demand line of products can be your thing. For example, starting a T-shirt business is an excellent way to become a small business owner, but you don’t have to limit your offer to T-shirts.  Print on demand involves creating T-shirts, pillows, phone cases, puzzles, or mugs. It’s one of the best eCommerce stores to start since you can set up a printing process at home. Alternately, depending on your budget, you can rely on a service to have these custom printed when someone makes a purchase. If you decide to go with a print-on-demand business model, you don't have to carry any inventory, and you can start with modest upfront investment. There are a number of excellent platforms that allow you to print on demand, and many of them offer support for marketing and promoting your products. These platforms also charge commissions for their services, so you might not be able to get as much profit as you’d hope for. Luckily, this eCommerce business idea is scalable, so you can switch your initial setup into one that works better for your new online business anytime. Create Your Online Restaurant If you have been toying with the idea of setting up a food truck, why not start it online? This could include anything from homemade meals, jams, organic food, cakes, and baked goods, to handmade pet treats for our little furry friends. If you decide to go with a restaurant-type online business, make sure to find a good website builder designed for restaurants. This will allow you to create a website that includes a menu and other relevant features to help your restaurant grow into a profitable eCommerce business. Fill a Niche Food Role These days, people are looking for convenience, especially when it comes to their meals. If you can fulfill this role and provide them with easy solutions for their meal planning, you might make a big buck online.  Online grocery stores, meal-making kits, and fresh or frozen food subscription boxes are skyrocketing in popularity. After all, the online purchase of restaurant/meal kit delivery amounted to 33% of all online purchase categories in 2018, and the growth didn’t stop.  This is becoming more prominent, especially for niche products and dietary restrictions, such as vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. If you’re thinking of running a food business as someone who loves this type of food, it could be the perfect choice among our ideas for eCommerce businesses to start. Start an Online Pet Store Another great eCommerce business idea is to start an online pet store. If you love animals, this could be an awesome online business for you. You can sell pet supplies, food, toys, and more. You can also offer pet-sitting services or dog-walking services through your eCommerce business.  To get started, create a website or blog to showcase your products and services. Use social media to spread the word and attract customers. With dedication and effective marketing activities, you can build a successful online eCommerce business. Set Up a Shop To Sell Vintage Items  Do you have a passion for collecting vintage items? If so, why not join one of the most profitable eCommerce businesses ever? You can sell vintage clothes, furniture, art, and other collectibles that you've accumulated over the years. These eCommerce business ideas are a great way to make money online if you have an eye for spotting valuable items. Just be sure to do your research before listing anything for sale, as you don't want to undervalue your items. Provide Services Online Almost any service that you could provide in a brick-and-mortar venue - you can also provide through your eCommerce store. If you’re searching for eCommerce business ideas, you don’t have to sell physical products. Instead, it could be anything from digital marketing or personal shopping to expert consulting services - anything you could already be providing offline. If you have a skill or expertise that you think people or businesses would be willing to pay for, start offering your services online through your eCommerce business. You can promote your services through a website or social media and start making money. Not sure which business you should transfer online? Here are some eCommerce business ideas for services. Provide Online Classes or Tutoring Online You can make money online by providing services such as consulting, coaching, or tutoring. Online education is gaining popularity, and you should jump on the bandwagon if you have skills to share. This is a great way to monetize your skills and knowledge. Just be sure to set your prices competitively and market your services in a way that speaks to your target group. Depending on your expertise, you could consider various potentially profitable eCommerce businesses. You can provide one-on-one courses via Zoom, for example, or pre-record lessons and charge subscriptions. Make sure to find the right medium for transferring knowledge to your audience.  Translate for Others If you know a second language, not only can you offer online courses as your eCommerce business, but you can also start a freelance translation business from home.  You can start by creating a website or blog to promote your services. As with all good eCommerce ideas on our list, acquiring new clients will take some time. You can also use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to spread the word. When you get your first project, be sure to ask for the client's requirements so you can give them an accurate quote.  Once you complete the project, ask for feedback so you can improve your services and include testimonials as references. With a bit of digital marketing, you can build a successful translation eCommerce business. Become a Social Media Manager If you're good at leveraging social media, you don’t have to look for additional ideas for an eCommerce business - you can make money online by managing social media accounts for businesses or influencers.  Social media is a great opportunity for communicating with customers, finding new clients, and promoting your products and services. However, not everyone has the skill set needed to get the most out of their social media accounts. This is where you could come in and assist businesses to improve their relationship with customers on social media. If you have a knack for building followership, posting engaging content, and communicating with your audience, this might be the idea to pursue and build a profitable eCommerce business.  It’s advisable to choose businesses or influencers that are relevant to your niche. Promoting your portfolio website on social media could provide you with the metrics you need to impress potential customers. Start an Accounting/Bookkeeping Firm If numbers are your forte, you can turn it into a business by starting an accounting or bookkeeping firm. Many people struggle with paperwork come tax season or with day-to-day bookkeeping. If you can provide reliable service, your clients will come to depend on your assistance. You can also consider business accounting as one of the eCommerce business ideas for people comfortable with crunching numbers. While the niche boasts renowned bookkeeping companies and is saturated as a result, you can still claim a piece of the pie for yourself.  Consider working locally or collaborating with smaller companies that don’t need a large accounting team to manage their paperwork. These companies prefer working with someone who can provide their expertise and a bit of extra care and dedication.  Become an Online Fitness Trainer If you're a fitness enthusiast, you can make money by providing online fitness coaching. This is a great eCommerce website idea to pursue if you're able to build up a large following. This holds true for yoga and other types of physical activity that can be done online. Similar to those video tapes with exercises that were all the rage in the 80s, you can also record and sell training programs or create fitness plans, diets, and so on. Depending on the online fitness coaching type you provide, one medium might work better than the other.  Become a Freelance Writer, Designer, or Developer If you're a writer, designer, or developer, you can make money online by offering your services on your eCommerce website. The idea is that your site should serve as your portfolio and opportunity to promote yourself to new clients, but also as a store to accept payments for your work. While anyone can create a website in a manner of minutes with all the free website builders, these professions are still valued on the global market. Apart from creating your site, you can also join some of the popular freelance marketplaces or promote your services via social media. Become a Virtual Assistant On the same note, if you're good with computers and have some administrative skills, becoming a virtual assistant is among good eCommerce ideas to consider. Virtual assistants provide administrative, technical, or creative services to clients from their home offices. For this role, you’ll need excellent organizational skills and a willingness to dedicate time and effort to finding the right clients. You will also have to compete with some established virtual assistant companies, but if you focus on smaller businesses and entrepreneurs, you’ll be able to make more than a decent living with this option. Offer Event or Wedding Planning and Organization When it comes to profitable eCommerce business ideas, providing wedding and event organization is another service you can promote and book online. Not everyone has the time or creativity to organize everything for their big day, company outing, or kids’ party.  This is where your eCommerce site comes into play. You can offer services online and allow your customers to book through your eCommerce store.  For this to be successful, you'll need to create a large network of vendors, caterers, and other third parties. However, if you already have such service providers standing by, this business could be the right idea.  No Clients Needed If you are an introvert and prefer not to deal with clients or customers, you can still make money online. There are excellent online eCommerce business ideas you could pursue, so let's discuss those as well. Start With Affiliate Marketing Affiliate marketing is a type of online marketing where you promote other people's products and earn a commission on any sales that you generate. This can be a great way to make money online if you're able to drive traffic to your affiliate links. Just be sure to choose products that are relevant to your niche and audience. So, where do you start with affiliate marketing now that you’ve chosen it among other ideas for an eCommerce business on our list? You could create a blog, social media account, or YouTube channel where you review products from an array of brands. Having a niche market, you can tap into through your blog or account can be a great way to earn affiliate commissions, as well as build up your own brand and authority. You'll need to invest some time and effort into creating high-quality content, but if you can build up a large following, you'll be able to make a great living reviewing products online. Launch a Dropshipping Business Another excellent choice that belongs to the easy eCommerce business ideas category is launching a dropshipping business. When you dropship, you simply sell products sourced and fulfilled by a supplier. This can be a great way to get started in eCommerce with little or no investment. You just need to find a reputable supplier and set up your eCommerce store. Once you've got everything up and running, it's just a matter of driving traffic to your site and making sales. You'll also be responsible for customer service and ensuring that your shoppers are having the best experience. After all, 91% of customers will simply leave and never return if they have a bad experience with your store, which is something new businesses cannot afford. Bottom Line There are plenty of ideas for an eCommerce business that involve selling products or services. So, if you're looking to get started in eCommerce, be sure to choose the option that best suits your skills and interests. Moreover, take a closer look at the professional network that you’ve built up over the years and then decide which avenue to pursue. With commitment and effort, you can start making money online in no time!

By Vladana Donevski

The documents for incorporation differ by state, and the nature and type of the business looking to incorporate. In the United States, Corporations and Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) are the two main types of business entities, and require different documents to achieve that. In this article, we will learn the differences between articles of incorporation and organization, their components, the filing process, and why they’re necessary. Let’s get right into it! Articles of Incorporation: Definition The articles of incorporation - also known as a corporate charter, articles of association, or a certificate of incorporation - are legal documents filed to establish a company of a specific type as a business entity. In other words, they give the corporation its legal identity. In practical terms, for a corporation to open a bank account, issue stock or shares, operate within a state, and engage investors, it must first file articles of incorporation. In the United States, this is usually done with the Secretary of State or company registrar, depending on the state of incorporation. Delaware and Nevada are the most popular states for registering your corporation, because of their friendly regulations and minimal tax requirements. Articles of Incorporation vs. Organization Most people tend to confuse articles of incorporation with articles of organization, but they are not the same; now that we’ve defined the former, we’ll do the same for the latter. The articles of organization are filed at the point of creating an LLC. In terms of function and components, they are no different from articles of incorporation. However, the regulatory requirements are different and might be stricter, depending on the state and industry the business is in. These are the primary thing to research for prospective owners learning how to incorporate their business. The next step is filing your articles, so it’s time to learn how it works. Filing Articles of Incorporation The Required Documents The components of documents to be provided upon filing articles of incorporation vary by state, but many of them are the same everywhere. Most of these components will be on the face of the certificate of incorporation, and they include: The corporation’s name and address The name and address of the registered agent responsible for accepting legal documents on behalf of the corporation; some states may require a formal agreement of the agent’s acceptance of this responsibility. The number and type of authorized shares; more details on this can be found in the articles of incorporation and their bylaws. The type of corporate structure (e.g., profit, nonprofit, etc.) The names and addresses of the founding board members The names, signatures, and addresses of the persons handling incorporation; a corporation can have multiple incorporators who do not need to be directors or stockholders. If applicable, the lifespan of the corporation, as some corporations are made to exist for a limited time and carry out a particular function. The number and type of stocks the corporation can issue. Other components which are not required, but can be included, are: The limitation of directors’ liability Stockholder actions The assignment of authority to call stockholder meetings The purpose of incorporation, which may not need to be specific, depending on the state. The Filing Process The end goal of filing is to receive a certificate of incorporation. After preparing the documents, the incorporator should schedule an appointment with the designated filing agency of their state. Procedures differ between states, but generally begin with paying a filing fee after submitting the required paperwork. The process is completed upon acceptance of the paperwork and approval of the corporation’s registration. In most states, corporations must have both articles of incorporation and bylaws, even though bylaws are not to be filed. Bylaws only serve as internal documents setting out the rights and responsibilities of a corporation’s shareholders, directors, and other officials. Benefits of Incorporation Corporate Brand Identity Customers are more inclined to trust and do business with a brand when its corporate identity is established, as are investors. Banks are more likely to finance your venture if it’s an official business, and you’ll certainly look better in the strict due diligence checks on your business. Where no official or formal records are found, chances are that funding will disappear for lack of confidence in the safety of investing in you. Tax Advantages A corporation’s tax liability can be reduced depending on the state of incorporation. This tax reduction is often justified through operational costs like insurance, green energy investments, employee retirement benefits, production costs, employee wages, etc. Separation of Liability Filing your articles of incorporation separates the corporation's liabilities from those of its owners, in events of criminal activity, injury, or loss. The owners’ personal assets cannot be seized, auctioned, or sold if the business goes into debt. On the other hand, owners of unincorporated businesses are at risk of losing personal property in such situations. Protection of the Business Name Before an applicant is accepted, the state of incorporation will conduct a search to ensure that no other existing business or corporation has the same name. Applications for companies with an already taken business name won’t go through, because those names are protected - but only if their owners incorporated in time. Business owners also have the right to seek legal consequences for infringement of this protection. Perpetual Existence For businesses with no preset lifespan, the articles of incorporation guarantee longevity and perpetuated existence. This means that, in the event of withdrawal or death of one or all owners, the business remains in existence. By extension, a transfer of ownership is an option for incorporated entities. Unincorporated entities suffer a different fate and cease to exist in such situations.

By Vladana Donevski

In eCommerce, fast delivery is essential, because ensuring customers receive their orders on time will undoubtedly help your fledgling eCommerce business gain a good reputation, new customers, and more sales. If you are looking for a metric you can improve to appease your client base, look no further than your eCommerce’s transit times. Let’s discuss all you need to know about them and how they can be improved to gain some happy customers and stand out from the competition. What Are Transit Times in Shipping? In shipping, transit is the length of time it takes the courier to deliver the order to your customer's doorstep. It starts when they pick up the order and ends when it arrives at the final destination. ECommerce transit times vary depending on multiple factors and can take up a few hours to several months. However, according to the 2020 statistics from ShipStation's Last Touch, Lasting Impact ebook, users expect to have their packages arrive within eight days. It is safe to say that the participants were being generous about it and that they actually expected their packages to get to them within five days at most. The Benefits of Fast Transit Times It boils down to this: ECommerce success is all about convenience. For example, eCommerce statistics show that 28% of shoppers abandon their cart if the store requires them to make an account. Every eCommerce business owner should prioritize convenience when planning their business, and fast ​​delivery of products to customers plays a key role there. Being able to meet, if not top, your customers’ expectations is essential for your business. 85% of consumers will abandon the cart in search of faster shipping options, and an extra day of delivery can make or break the deal. Therefore, fast shipping leads to higher conversion rates, which every business needs. Considering the percentage of customers you could be losing, taking the time to improve the transit times in shipping will undoubtedly pay off. What Factors Play Into Transit Times? Several factors affect transit times. Some of them you can work on; others might be above your pay grade and will require a plan B. Here are some of them: Service Level Often, service levels can be the most crucial factor to consider when figuring out how to deliver ordered products. Ground shipping is usually the cheapest option and can take a few days longer to arrive than other shipping methods. However, with ground product shipping services, you can provide lower prices and even free shipping to your customers without affecting your margin. Flat-rate shipping costs the same regardless of how much you order and is a good option if you want to make it affordable for your customers to purchase a lot from the same place. Freight shipping is usually the most expensive but can be faster than ground shipping. If you want to provide next-day shipping, you might consider this option. International shipping can take even longer than ground shipping and may have additional costs like customs fees. However, this is frequently the only option for dropshippers to deliver goods crafted abroad to their customers. Destination Zone The destination zone can play a crucial role in eCommerce transit times. For example, sending something to a rural area may take longer because the infrastructure for shipping is not as developed as in more urban areas. Additionally, if you are sending something to an international destination, it will almost always take longer to arrive than if you were sending it domestically. Time of Year or Weather-Related Issues Packages sent during the holiday season may take longer to arrive because of the increased volume of mail. That’s when accurate and fast shipping times are the most important metric to your customers.  If your goods are holiday-centric, you should consider using an eCommerce shipping solution that can guarantee delivery by a certain date and have a plan B ready. Having a fallback option is essential for any business that values its customers. Providing your customers with free shipping or offering discounts for their next order to remedy a bad experience are just some of the best practices you can implement for your eCommerce business. Weather can play a role in how long it takes for a package to arrive, too. For example, if a snowstorm closes down the airport, obviously, packages won't be able to get through. However, this is not something you can influence. So, being prepared to remedy the situation will be crucial for customer retention. You can achieve this by offering free goodies or refunds - something most eCommerce website builders will let you integrate. How To Decrease Your eCommerce Transit Times Decreasing your transit times typically boils down to two things: Carefully planning your shipping strategy and paying a bit extra for faster delivery. Let’s discuss both. Shipping Strategies If your existing delivery plan isn’t bringing in the sales you’ve expected, maybe it is time to reconsider. You can employ same-day, two-day, and overnight shipping, as well as expedited delivery. All of these shipping strategies are great options for eCommerce owners who want to ensure customers receive their orders as quickly as possible. Same-day shipping is excellent because eCommerce owners who offer it can benefit from increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. Additionally, offering this option can help you compete with other eCommerce stores that do the same. However, its main drawback is that it requires significant resources from business owners and is often something only top eCommerce stores can afford. Overnight shipping is still pretty fast, but you can get it without breaking the bank. Most product shipment carriers offer these services, but their rates can differ significantly, so make sure to look into multiple options. Two-day shipping is slowly but surely becoming the norm. It’s a good option for eCommerce stores that don't have the resources to offer shorter transit times, but still want to provide their customers with a fast shipping option. Paying a Bit Extra for Your Shipping Each option above can help you speed up the delivery process, but will also likely require you to raise your prices to accommodate the higher shipping fee. It can also make a significant dent in your profits if you offer free shipping for your goods. That’s why small businesses can transfer costs for expedited eCommerce shipping options to their customers. In eCommerce, expedited shipping is a service that allows customers to receive their orders sooner than the standard delivery time. Expedited shipping is usually available for an additional fee, and the delivery time varies by shipping company and destination. This can be a valuable option for your customers who need their items quickly, such as those who are buying a gift or need the items for a special event - without requiring you to pay extra for fast shipping for every product you send out or implement other delivery solutions for eCommerce.

By Julija A.

The cybercrime spectrum is very wide, and attackers have numerous tools at their disposal when planning a system attack. A dangerous tool that’s hard to protect against is a DDoS attack.  There’s no guarantee that your small business will not be affected or that you as an individual user will not be targeted. But what is a DDoS attack, and why is it so dangerous? In this article, we’ll provide you with all the necessary information about this particular threat and will offer a few tips on how to protect yourself.  The Definition of a DDoS Attack DDoS attacks can be used for various reasons, including penetrating supposedly secure systems to make a statement or the hacker getting money to immobilize and cripple a particular website. In some cases, rogue disgruntled employees can use this attack to harm their employer. Often, the hackers just want to show off their skills or it’s part of a larger-scale attack. DDoS stands for “Distributed Denial-of-Service,” and the name explains it well: it’s an attack that overloads the website with false traffic, so the users cannot access its services. Such attacks are all too common these days, and even some of the most reputable companies have fallen victim to them. One DDoS attack took place in 2020, and it targeted Amazon Web Services. This shows that even high-profile companies with high-end security systems are not immune. The number of attacks increased after the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of remote work and Internet of Things devices.  How Does a DDoS Work?  DDoS attacks work by taking control of a network of machines that function as a botnet. The primary purpose of the botnet is to overload the target sites with traffic, so they cannot function properly.  These machines can be smartphones, Internet of Things devices, PCs, laptops, or servers. They are controlled remotely, and there can be thousands of them. The more devices get involved, the stronger the attack will be. Cybercriminals must first compromise the devices they will use for the DDoS attack.  One high-profile attack was performed in 2016, taking down popular websites such as The Guardian, Netflix, and Twitter, using malware and a botnet of IoT devices. These companies have a set of cybersecurity measures in place, so there’s no doubt that these distributed denial-of-service attacks were planned and carried out by experienced professionals.  So, let’s see how the attack is carried out. The first step is infecting the devices with malware. Once the attackers do this, the botnet is created, and each bot device gets instructions. They then send requests to the server’s address, which is how the attack overflows the targeted website or server.  How To Recognize a DDoS Attack A DDoS attack must be identified immediately so that the damage can be controlled. Protecting your website from DDoS starts by knowing how to recognize it. Unlike ransomware, where the attacker informs the victim that they’ve been hacked the moment the system is successfully penetrated, DDoS attacks can go unnoticed until it’s too late. Look for the following signs, as they could tip you off about an attack: Technical problems on the website, HTTP Error 503, Frequent ‘time to live’ times out, Slower performance, Traffic is higher than usual, Users have difficulties accessing the website, Problems with loading files. DDoS attacks can cause severe financial and reputational damage and immobilize business operations for a time. However, there are ways to protect yourself and get early notifications that something fishy is going on, so you can react in time. Types of DDoS Attacks  DDoS and DoS attacks can be divided into different types depending on the criteria we use to sort them. Three categories are most common, though, so here they are: Application Layer Attacks include GET/POST floods, Apache attacks, OpenBSD or Windows attacks, and low-and-slow attacks. Since bot use is legitimate, these attacks seem like regular requests, but they can eventually disrupt entire networks.  Protocol attacks can be fragmented packet attacks, Smurf DDoS, Ping of Death, and SYN floods. The goal of this attack type is to consume the server's resources. Volume-based attacks employ spoofed-packet floods, UDP floods, and ICMP floods to disrupt and saturate the server bandwidth.  DDOS Attack Examples Now that we’ve covered the broad types let’s talk about a few of the most common and dangerous attacks. One typical DDoS attack example is a UDP Flood. The other two include Ping of Death and HTTPS Flood. UDP Flood is a type of DDoS attack that uses User Datagram Protocols to flood the victim. This attack aims to target the remote host’s ports.  Ping of Death is an attack that works by sending malicious pings to the user’s device. The goal is to freeze or crash the system. Some of the attackers opt for this type of hacking because their identities can easily remain concealed. If the attackers decide on a distributed denial-of-service attack, they don’t need to have exceptionally detailed information about the device they’re attacking - only its IP address.  HTTP Flood is an attack that takes advantage of HTTP GET or POST requests. They are sometimes SSL-based. (SSL is a digital certificate used for authenticating a website’s identity.) Unlike some threats on this list, HTTP floods do not employ malicious packets. This attack is effective because it makes the server use a lot of its resources for each request, which typically results in a network crash.  DDoS vs. DoS Attack These two attacks can cause incredible damage and lead to astronomical financial losses. It is estimated that a successful DDoS attack can cost a company anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 per hour.  A DDoS attack is a subtype of the DoS attack. The difference lies in the way the attack is performed. With a Denial of Service or DoS attack, a single internet connection is used to flood traffic, whereas the Distributed Denial of Service or DDoS attack employs thousands of remotely controlled devices for the same purpose. In other words, it’s much more deadly and trickier to guard against. Risk Management and Damage Control  If you suspect you’re about to be exposed to a DDoS attack, there are a few things you can do to prepare and mitigate the damage.  Detecting the Attack  Early detection is paramount, as the damage can be prevented if the attack is caught in the nascent stages. With a DDoS, attacking devices cannot be stopped by legacy anti-malware tools, and it becomes almost impossible to stop the attack if it is not noticed on time.  It’s not always possible to detect the attack without the assistance of proper software, so many businesses rely on user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) which detect any unusual system behavior. These tools rely on machine learning and are usually very successful in detecting abnormalities.  Prompt Response If an attack occurs, the victim needs to respond as quickly as possible. The best way is to absorb or divert the malicious traffic from the target website with the help of CDN services. You should also look into blacklisting offending IPs so that attacking computers cannot keep flooding your servers. Filtering  What is a DDoS protection option that is easy to implement but works well? Traffic filtering. It can be very helpful because it distinguishes legitimate from malicious traffic and can be done without a significant effect on the legitimate users visiting the website.  How To Protect Yourself From a DDoS or DoS Attack You can do a few things to protect yourself from a DDoS or DoS attack. Prevention is essential because the damage can be immense even if you manage to stop an attack in its early stages.  With secured networks, you’ll guard your network against DDoS, meaning that you won’t have to go through the incredibly costly and time-consuming procedure of dealing with the attack once it happens.  Increasing Bandwidth There are steps you can take to prevent the attack from damaging your network, and they’re not expensive, nor do they require complex solutions. One simple one is increasing the available bandwidth.  By doing this, you’re making your hosting “DDoS resistant” and providing enough bandwidth in case there is a surge in traffic when the attack takes place. It’s not as good as an entirely blocked DDoS attack, but it’s still an essential layer of protection. It is usually advised that you combine this tactic with several others, as increasing bandwidth itself will usually not be enough, especially against large botnet attacks. Use a CDN Solution A content delivery network (CDN) can provide you with multiple protection features, one of which is safeguarding from DDoS attacks.  CDN also balances website traffic, so your servers are not overwhelmed and eventually crash. Combined with IP address filtering, you can really put a damper on any hacker’s plans to flood your main website server.  Expect a DDoS Attack and Prepare for It What is DDoS protection without preparation? By expecting an attack and preparing for it, you’ll be one step ahead if the attack takes place.  This process involves training your employees or coworkers to deal with the effects of a potential attack. You’ll have a chance to plan and organize the protection of sensitive data and find alternative ways of keeping essential services online. This way, your networks won’t collapse even if an attack does go through.  Choose a Cloud-based Solution This way, you’ll be provided with unlimited bandwidth. If your resources are limited, you won’t have much chance of protecting yourself from a DDoS attack, and you will likely get “DDoS-ed.” A cloud-based solution can help you avoid that scenario, and, luckily, there are many excellent cloud hosting providers to choose from these days. Bottom Line  While DDoS attacks can be extremely dangerous and sometimes hard to guard against, there are ways to prevent them and reduce the damage they can do. This threat is not limited only to large businesses, and almost anyone can fall victim to it.  Advance planning and preparation for an attack is always a good strategy, but once the attack happens, you have to act quickly. The goal of this article was not only to help you answer the question “What is a DDoS attack?” but also to give you essential information about this threat and tips on how to fight it. Good luck!

By Julija A.

Every internet user wants to find their desired content easily and have it quickly load when browsing the web. We also wish to stay secure from spam and other malicious online attacks. Moreover, content owners and service providers strive to improve the user or customer experience and increase ad revenue and client retention. CDNs help us find the page or video we are after and protect us from web-based attacks. But what is a CDN, and how does it do all that? Let’s find out. CDN Definition CDN is a group of geographically distributed and interconnected servers that provide efficient web content delivery. They transfer content from an origin server to the one nearest to the user that requested it. The internet service provider (ISP) delivers the requested content to the user the rest of the way.  Some common types of content that CDNs transfer are: Videos Images Stylesheets HTML pages JavaScript files Besides bringing the desired content close to the user, CDNs also improve the user experience (UX) and overall web security.  Before moving forward, let's see how CDNs developed and what we can expect from them in the future. History of CDNs: A Brief Overview The history of CDNs kicked off during the late 1990s when the need to deliver vast amounts of data to internet users first started becoming a problem. Thus, the Content Delivery Network, which CDN stands for, came into existence. CDNs made over 20 years ago still handle between 15% and 30% of online traffic globally. The first generation of CDNs managed both static and dynamic content, while the second generation focused on streaming audio and video material. The third generation is currently in development. We can expect it to be simple enough to be run by individuals with no tech experience. In other words -  mostly self-configured and capable of autonomic content delivery in the future. Here are some key historical events regarding the evolution of CDNs: The event that considerably accelerated the development of CDN technology was the 9/11 attack in 2001. Many people tried to access news websites at once on that day, which led to severe caching problems. Big internet service providers started creating their own CDN functionalities before 2002 started. In 2004, over 3,000 companies used CDNs. Amazon launched its own CDN in 2008.  In 2011, a newly-introduced CDN reduced delays in page loading (latency) by enabling the content to flow across its 38 data centers worldwide.  How CDNs Work: Everything You Need To Know Besides merely bringing desired content to end-users, CDNs have other equally important goals: providing that content quickly, affordably, and securely.  Content delivery networks manage that by placing linked servers strategically at the points where different networks exchange data. In other words, CDNs connect to Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), where various internet providers converge to provide traffic originating from their networks. That way, CDNs take over the content and deliver it as close as possible to the interested user.  When a user makes a request, the specialized CDN management software determines which server is the closest to the point where the request originated. Then, it delivers the desired content to such a server, which we call a CDN edge server.  This strategy allows CDNs to reduce latency – the annoying delay when the page is loading – thus preventing time-out and load errors. The wider a CDN distribution in the physical world is, the shorter loading times for the end-user will be, regardless of where they are in the world.  Since we keep mentioning servers, let's define what they are before moving forward. What Is a CDN Server? In short, servers are high-powered computers or programs capable of: Storing, Processing, Managing data we can find on a network.  CDN servers provide services to other computer programs and their users, offering scalability and efficiency at the same time. They also deliver cached content stored on a CDN when a user request appears.  Caching Caching is a temporary file storage process that CDNs perform to let us access the requested content quickly. CDNs cache content at the edge of the network; thus, we can't speak of CDN hosting since CDNs can't replace traditional web hosting, only complement it. CDNs can help websites struggling with performance issues since caching reduces hosting bandwidth. It can prevent service interruptions, making CDNs a desirable option for handling the inconveniences related to traditional web hosting. What Is a CDN Provider? A CDN provider is a business that owns data centers with servers located throughout the world. Their job is to store and load content on their servers upon user request. There are countless time-saving CDN services these days, and they make fast browsing possible by saving website copies on thousands of proxy CDN servers worldwide. Thus, website owners that struggle with their website performance find CDN hosts very useful since visitors tend to leave the page if it doesn't load in a few seconds. What Does a CDN Do? CDNs bring all sorts of content to web users in every corner of the world. This content could be pretty much anything, including: Images, Audio streams, HD-quality videos, Software such as OS, games, and applications. In short, content delivery networks deliver everything you can expect to find online.  CDN providers make the content available by: Hosting it on their server, Hiring internet service providers or network operators to host CDN servers. However, answering the question "What is a CDN about?" in more detail calls for a broader overview. So, let's dive in. Improves Load Times As we mentioned, one of the key goals for CDNs is quick loading of desired content. And they make it possible by placing servers and storing cached content as near as possible to people browsing the internet. That way, the request doesn't need to travel to the origin server and back, which could take a while.  Moreover, CDNs compress files or minimize codes and markups in script files and web pages to speed up their travel time. Furthermore, they perform software and hardware optimizations. Finally, CDNs give a performance and security boost to websites using TLS/SSL certificates that keep the internet connection secure. Reduces Data Transfer (Bandwidth) Costs CDN servers enable the origin server to provide a reduced amount of data through caching. This lowers the bandwidth costs, which is one of the most significant expenses for website owners.  Enhances Website Security CDNs also help secure sensitive information against hackers and online attackers during web transactions. They do it by providing DDoS mitigation – a set of techniques and tools that block and absorb malicious spikes in traffic.  Increases Content Availability Traffic spikes and hardware malfunctions are inevitable. They can cause various inconveniences, including disabling visitor access to the website or bringing the web server down. Yet, a well-balanced CDN system can minimize the damage thanks to the following features:  Load balancing spreads online traffic across several servers, successfully handling traffic spikes. To illustrate, think of several routes from point A to point B in the real world. When the quickest way gets congested, commuters take alternative routes, allowing everyone to get from point A to point B more quickly. Even if a server malfunctions due to technical issues, users won't notice that anything's wrong with the data distribution. That's because the intelligent failover system redistributes traffic to other available servers nearby, maintaining the service uninterrupted. Another significant CDN benefit for end-users is undisturbed internet access, even in the unlikely event of the entire data center experiencing technical issues. If it comes to that, the system routes the online traffic to another available data center.  Who Uses CDNs (and Who Probably Shouldn’t)? Almost everyone uses CDNs. When you, for instance, stream a TV show on Netflix, buy something on Amazon, or post on Facebook, you harness the power of the CDN.  However, it wasn't like that in the early days of the tech. At the turn of the 21st century, only large companies could afford to use CDNs due to their high costs. Thankfully, those times are long gone, and everyone can benefit from the content distribution network technology at affordable prices today. There are even some free options available, though they are not as good as their paid counterparts, obviously. So, which types of websites could make use of CDN? Lots, actually, but the two most common types would be: eCommerce websites that sell goods nationally and internationally, News websites because they tend to experience traffic spikes in case of breaking news and generally have large volumes of traffic, especially in the morning. On the other hand, companies that do business locally should refrain from using a CDN for two good reasons:  It can worsen the website's performance by adding an unnecessary connection between the visitor and a nearby server. There is the possibility of getting extra visitors that are highly unlikely to buy anything and will just clog up the server bandwidth. With CDN explained this way, we can conclude that content delivery networks may be the right choice for you to promote your business globally, especially if it falls into one of the following categories: Media Mobile Healthcare Advertising eCommerce Entertainment Online gaming Higher education Summary To sum things up, here’s everything you need to know about CDNs in six short bullet points: They can handle any file in a digital format, including videos, images, stylesheets, games, and many other types of software. CDNs provide efficient data transfer by compressing files and connecting internet users to a data center closer to them from an origin server.  CDN service provides uninterrupted internet access if the nearby server or the entire data center experiences technical difficulties. They decrease loading times by caching (storing) files on servers located near the end-users. CDNs improve website security by keeping malicious attackers, spammers, and bots at bay. A content delivery network can help promote your business beyond your local city and state. But it would be best to take this opportunity cautiously because some businesses are best suited to local operations, and a CDN could make things worse.

By Vladana Donevski

What is an operating budget? This is a question that many business owners ask themselves, so this blog post will discuss the operating budget definition, the importance of this document, and how to create one for your company. Defining an Operating Budget An operating budget is a plan outlining your expected expenses, revenue, and profits for a specific period. It can be helpful to think of your operating budget as your financial roadmap. Similar to a business plan, it’s meant to keep your business fund management on track. When you create and follow an adequate operating budget, you are more likely to achieve your financial goals. The Importance of Following an Operating Expense Budget There are many reasons you should have one, but the crucial incentive for developing a budget is avoiding financial difficulties. When you clearly understand your expected income and expenses, you are less likely to overspend or get into debt. How To Create an Effective Operating Budget for Your Business There is no "right" way to create an operating budget. However, there are some key elements every sensible operating budget should include. Most operating budgets include how much revenue companies expect, variable and fixed costs, non-cash and non-operating expenses, and sometimes capital costs. Variable Costs The variable costs section included in the operating budget consists of: Direct labor budget Direct selling costs Sales budget: Sales volume and sales needs Payment processing fees Raw materials fees Some aspects of marketing Other market variables Fixed Costs Some of the fixed expenses you might include in your annual operating budget are: Rent for office Insurance Telecommunication Salaries Utilities Your total operating budget should also include non-operating expenses, such as taxes, interest, gains, and losses. Non-Cash Expenses Make sure to write up non-cash expenses, like the amortization and depreciation of your assets. While these expenses won't affect your cash flow immediately, they will leave a mark on your company's income statement at the end of the reporting period. The Elements of an Operating Budget First, you will need to gather your company's financial data. The data used in your business budget, for example, can come from financial statements, tax returns, and bank records. Then, you will need to analyze them to identify your business's strengths and weaknesses, as well as its expected operating cash flow for the year, to create a budget that reflects your findings. Finally, once you have created your budget, it is essential to review it regularly. This will help you make adjustments as needed and ensure you remain on track toward your financial goals. It might seem like a hassle, but you should define your operating budget before making big financial decisions. Tips For Staying On Track With Your Operating Budget Even if you have the best intentions, it can be challenging to stick to your budget if you don’t consult it frequently. While unexpected expenses are to be, well, expected, and they might be significant, it still helps to document the things you can predict. Here are a few tips to make as much of that as possible: Make your budget realistic. If it’s too restrictive, you will likely give up on it altogether. An operating budget with room for unexpected expenses is beneficial, especially since sales and overhead figures vary greatly. Create a system for tracking your expenses. Include this in your operating budget expenditure section. This can be as simple as keeping a notebook in your purse or wallet, or using a budgeting app on your phone. Review your budget regularly. This will help you identify areas in need of adjustments.  Don't be too hard on yourself. If you occasionally make a purchase that’s not in your budget, don’t waste time on regrets. Return the item if it’s not necessary, or make it pay for itself. Both are good ways to get back on track.

By Vladana Donevski

If you're like most people, you probably don't understand what APR stands for, let alone how it applies to your finances. However, you probably know that it affects how much you pay each month for your credit card bill, and if you’re running a business, understanding APR thoroughly is crucial. So, what is APR on a credit card, and why is it important? For starters, every dollar matters when you are trying to get a new business off the ground. Even established companies with steady profits can have their cash flow messed up with poorly chosen APR; after all, credit cards should be all about saving on unnecessary expenses so that you can fund the important ones. So, without further ado, this article will explain what APR is and how it works. We'll also discuss the different types of APR and how to avoid paying high interest rates. What Does APR Stand for? The acronym "APR” stands for “Annual Percentage Rate” and refers to the total share of your principal you will be charged within a year on your credit cards, personal loans, auto loans, or other lines of credit. This figure represents the actual yearly cost of borrowing funds, including any fees or additional charges that may apply, which is why it’s a more informative number than just the interest rate. APR on a credit card can be fixed or variable, which will define how your APR is calculated. Fixed-rate APR means your credit card interest rate will remain the same for the life of your loan. Variable APR means that your rate can change over time, usually in response to changes in the market.  Both have their up-and downsides: Fixed APR allows you to make long-term plans, but it might be costlier than necessary in the long run, if the market becomes favorable. Variable APR enables you to capitalize on a favorable market rate, but can also hike your interest up much higher than initially planned. How Does APR Work on a Credit Card? You should be familiar with the factors influencing your APR when choosing a credit card for your small business to ensure it won’t eat into your profits too much. Your credit card interest rate will be based on your credit score, i.e., your credit history, amount of debt, and other factors. For example, if you have a good credit score, your card's APR will likely be low. Other factors affecting the credit card's interest rate include the card type and prime rate (if you have a card with a variable APR). The prime APR for credit cards is the rate banks charge their most creditworthy customers. The prime APR can change from time to time, depending on the federal funds rate and overall economic conditions. The prime APR tends to be higher when the economy is strong, and vice versa. The prime APR is an important benchmark for other rates, including the rates that credit card issuers charge. Credit card issuers often use the prime APR as a starting point when they set their own rates. What Is The Difference Between APR and Interest Rate? The annual percentage rate (APR) and interest rate both describe the cost of borrowing money. However, the two concepts are actually quite different. Credit card interest rates are simply the percentage of the loan amount the borrower will pay in interest charges over a year. APR, on the other hand, is a more comprehensive measure that takes into account not only the interest, but also additional associated costs, such as points, fees, and closing costs. As a result, APR is generally higher than the interest and is a better indicator of the true cost of borrowing money for your business, especially if your company has a bad credit score. How is Credit Card APR Calculated? APR is the annual interest, but if you want to know how much you’ll be paying in interest per day, simply divide your APR by 365, and you’ll get your daily periodic rate. For example, if your APR is 15%, your daily periodic rate would be 0.041%. To calculate the monthly credit card interest charge with an average daily balance of $1,000, you would multiply the daily periodic rate by 30, giving you an interest charge of $12.33. Other Types of APR - Introductory, Cash Advance, and Penalty While we are most familiar with the annual percentage rate (APR) for purchases, there are three more kinds of APR relevant for credit cards: Introductory APR This is the low- or no-interest period credit card companies often offer as a way to gain new customers. If your business is eligible for that, such a business credit card could be a good solution for covering the costs of inventory or equipment, especially in the initial phases. An integral part of intro APR’s meaning is that it doesn’t last forever: Afterwards, it will revert to the standard rate for your card. Unfortunately, cards with introductory rates often have a regular purchase APR after a significantly higher grace period. If you can pull off paying your debt in full before the grace period ends, that would be the ideal arrangement. Cash Advance APR You'll pay this interest rate on cash advances from your credit cards. These interest charges are typically much higher than the standard APR, so it's best to avoid borrowing more money than you already have. Penalty APR This is the high annual percentage rate for a credit card you'll be charged if you make a late payment on your credit card bill. How To Avoid Paying High Interest Rates There are a few things you can do to avoid paying high interest on your card balance. First, try to pay off your balance in full each month to avoid paying any interest at all. Second, if you can't pay it, at least make your payments on time, as late payments mean higher credit card interest rates. Finally, you can transfer your balance to a card with a lower APR. If the special APR for that isn’t too high, it can save you money in the long run. All in All The takeaway is that different APRs can significantly impact your finances and business cash flow, so it's essential to be aware of them. Now that you’ve had credit card APR explained, here are the key points: Avoid paying high interest by paying off your balance in full by the end of your monthly billing cycle, never miss a payment entirely, or transfer your balance to a card with a lower APR.

By Vladana Donevski

As an online business owner, you know that your website is the key to your success. It's where customers go to learn more about your brand and make purchases. If your eCommerce site is inadequate, it can erode sales and bring your growth screeching to a halt. In the age of social media, word-of-mouth travels fast, and a single customer who is unhappy with your website can undermine your reputation. Check out the 5 ways your eCommerce site is ruining your brand’s image and learn how to avoid these pitfalls.  1. Poor Website Design and Navigation Many eCommerce businesses have poorly designed websites. These can be hard to navigate, confusing for customers, and just plain ugly. It also makes your business look unprofessional and gives the impression that you simply don’t care about your online presence, or even worse, that your business is a scam. An eCommerce website builder is one of the tools that can help you avoid this mistake. You should have your customers in mind when creating your website. Navigation should be easy, and the overall design should be visually appealing to create a positive brand image. Think about the websites that you frequent when doing your shopping. What are they doing right? Use those positive aspects as inspiration to help you enhance your site. A good rule of thumb is to make it exceptionally easy for customers to find what they're looking for on your site, learn more about your brand, and make purchases. It will also give your business a professional appearance; your customers will feel appreciated and help you stand out from the competition. Having a well-designed website is important for any brand, but it's especially crucial for eCommerce businesses. If you're not sure where to start, there are plenty of resources and professionals who can help you create a stunning website that will improve your company’s brand image. Hiring a good UX design agency is an avenue worth exploring. 2. Outdated Descriptions, Images, or Out-of-Stock Items Another common mistake eCommerce businesses make is not keeping their product descriptions, images, and stock levels up to date. This can be a big turn-off for customers, as it makes your store appear unreliable or abandoned.  Keep in mind that your customers are at your store to purchase something, and you need to help them overcome all the online shopping challenges. Since they can't simply walk into your store and physically inspect the products, you need to provide the necessary amount of information in the product description sections. You need high-quality images, and the descriptions should be as accurate and as detailed as possible. Think about everything that your customers will want to know about the product you are selling and place it in the product description. Failing to provide the necessary details can result in consumers associating you with negative branding. If your customers are unhappy with what they got, they likely won't return to your store or recommend it to others. Out of Stock Items Out-of-stock items are another reason why your customer might not return. If they like what you have but can't find it in stock or the product is constantly out of stock, this will lead to frustration. Nobody wants to keep checking back only to find that the item they're looking for is still not available. This can lead to them giving up and looking elsewhere for what they want. This is one of the most common challenges of online shopping. So, here are a few things you can do to avoid it: - First, try to keep better track of your inventory levels. This way, you'll know when items are running low and can order more before they run out entirely. - Second, if an item is constantly out of stock, consider removing it from your site until you can get more. It's better to have a smaller selection of items in stock than a larger selection with many things that are frequently out of stock. - Third, make sure to update your site regularly so customers know what is and isn't available. If an item is out of stock, say so on the product page to avoid additional brand damage. If you plan to purchase more (and you should since the product is doing well), make sure to let customers know when this will happen. This way, customers won't waste their time trying to purchase something that isn't available. 3. Poor Customer Service When speaking of frustration, poor customer service is often the main culprit. According to customer service statistics, 95% of consumers think that customer service is an important factor in their brand choice. That’s a significant number of customers who will likely never come back if they have a bad experience on your site. To preserve your company's brand image, you need to make sure that your customer service is top-notch. First up, make sure customers can contact you through multiple channels, including email, phone, and live chat. You should also have a Frequently Asked Question section that is easy to find.  Another thing you need to take into account is response times. If a customer contacts you with a question or complaint, they will likely expect a quick response. The longer you take to get back to them, the more frustrated they will become. Ideally, you should aim to answer all questions within 24 hours as this will help you improve the image of your brand. If this isn't possible, make sure to let the customer know when they can expect a response. 4. Bad Reviews Bad online reviews can travel fast and do a lot of damage to your brand. A good review is your eCommerce store’s best salesman, while a set of negative ones will send your customers to your competition. If you don't have a system to deal with both of them, it can quickly get out of hand and negatively impact your brand.  To avoid being ranked among companies with bad publicity, keep an eye on all platforms where customers can leave reviews. This way, you can catch any negative reviews as soon as they are posted and address them quickly.  Another thing you need to do is respond to all negative reviews, regardless of where they are posted. This shows that you care about your customers and their experience with your brand. It also gives you a chance to defend your brand if the criticism is unwarranted. There are reputation management services you can hire to improve your brand image if you have been ignoring these for too long. But this is a short-term solution; you need to be consistent and actively communicate with unhappy customers. Ultimately, a bad review is a blessing in disguise. It allows you to talk to your unhappy customers and remedy the situation. Depending on your business processes, you can offer free products, waive shipping fees, or offer other options to turn a bad experience into a positive one. If your customers leave the conversation happy, you did your brand a big favor. Finally, make sure to take any constructive criticism from the reviews to heart. Use this feedback to make changes to your site or business processes so that future customers will have a better experience and consequently improve the brand’s public image. 5. Not Enough Promotions If you want customers to keep coming back to your site, you need to give them a reason. One way to do this is by running promotions and discounts on a regular basis. Furthermore, this could be a great way to gain new customers, as 62% of consumers tell their friends about online deals. However, there are a few things you need to keep in mind when offering these promotions. First, make sure that the promotion is relevant to your target audience. There's no point in offering a sale on items that your target market wouldn't be interested in. Second, make sure the promotion is for a significant enough discount. While calculating your margin and pricing properly is one of the biggest challenges of eCommerce for store owners, you should still work to find room for large discounts. A small percentage off isn't going to entice customers to come back to your site.  Finally, make sure the promotion is easy to find on your site. If customers have to search for it, they likely won't bother. Also, make sure to include it in any advertising you do. Failing to do this properly can negatively affect your website. Promoting the wrong things at the wrong time with the wrong price can ruin your image. All in All These are the 5 ways your eCommerce site is ruining your brand’s image and tips on how to solve them. By improving your customer service, addressing bad reviews, and running promotions effectively, you can maintain a positive image for your brand. Take the time to assess your website and find things you can improve while keeping your customers' interests in mind. A little effort goes a long way in maintaining a good image for your brand. And a good brand image can improve sales and help you grow your revenue.

By Vladana Donevski

You’ve worked hard to bring visitors to your website or product, and now it’s time to show your appreciation with a well-crafted Thank You page. A Thank You page is more than just a static page with the words “thank you” plastered across the top. It’s an opportunity to continue the conversation, nurture the relationship with your consumers, and turn a one-time visitor into a lifelong customer. These pages are a great way to show your guests that their business is valued.  We’ve compiled a list of Thank You page examples across the industry. Use them as inspiration for your own pages, and watch your conversion rate soar. What Is a Thank You Page? A Thank You page is a web section that is displayed after a visitor submits a form on your landing page or completes an action, such as making a purchase. It’s designed to show appreciation for engagement with your brand to your prospects and customers. A well-made Thank You page can show your visitors that you are grateful for their business and encourage them to continue interacting with your brand. Plus, it can provide you with valuable data about your customers’ interests and help improve your marketing strategies. But there’s more to it; a good Thank You page for a website can often lead to further actions,  such as signing up for your newsletter, increased social media engagement, or repeated purchases from a soft CTA. In short, this page is an essential element of marketing strategy that can help boost conversions, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty. How To Create an Effective Thank You Page When designing your Thank You page, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The best approach is to tailor the page’s design and content to match your brand's tone and the theme of your landing page. That being said, there are a few essential elements that all Thank You page message examples we’ve come across include: A personalized message: A Thank You page is not just a place to display a confirmation message. It’s an opportunity to connect with your visitors on a personal level and build a relationship with them. So make sure to include a personalized message that shows your appreciation for their engagement with your brand. A call-to-action (CTA): A Thank You page is the perfect opportunity to encourage your visitors to take further action, such as subscribing to your newsletter. You can offer a coupon or a CTA that is relevant to your goals and aligns with the tone of your brand. Social media icons: Most examples of good Thank You pages we’ve seen include social media icons so that the visitors can easily follow you on their favorite platforms. Your contact information: Don’t forget to put your contact information on the page so visitors can easily get in touch if they have any questions or concerns.  Examples of Thank You Pages There are several types of Thank You pages, each with a different purpose. We’ll walk you through most of them and untangle the snarls of how best to use each. 1. Thank You for Subscribing The first type of Thank You page we’ll discuss is displayed after a visitor submits their email address through a sign-up form. After filling out the contact form, all Thank You page examples we’ve come across encourage the subscriber to confirm their subscription. This will not only welcome the visitors to your website but also start the onboarding process on a positive note. Plus, it allows you to introduce your brand’s voice and personality. Confirmation Thank You pages usually have a button or link that the subscriber can click to confirm their subscription. Once they hit it, they’ll be taken to another page where they can input their contact information and preferences. This can be your one-time chance to get the visitor’s attention, so include a strong CTA that encourages them to confirm their subscription and start shopping, downloading, or reading your content. The best Thank You page examples we’ve examined ensure the whole process is as easy and frictionless as possible. The last thing you want is your visitors to get frustrated and give up before they even get to the confirmation page. 2. Thank You for Downloading If you offer an ebook, a white paper, or other downloadable product on your website, you might want to consider using a Thank You page. Studies have shown that providing value-added content on the page can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.  All the examples of download Thank You pages we’ve reviewed are displayed right after a visitor downloads a piece of content from the website. Even though the item is usually delivered to customers’ emails, pages often show a link to the downloaded content. This ensures they’ll be engaged on your site and open the material immediately.  Other than that, download Thank you pages also invite the visitor to take further action, such as signing up for your newsletter, purchasing another product or service, or following the brand’s social pages. 3. Thank You for Attending The page that expresses gratitude for attending an event is next on our list of Thank You web page examples. It’ll be shown after a visitor signs up for a webinar, class, or live seminar. Its purpose is not only to confirm the attendance but to encourage the attendee to add the event to their calendar. This page should include a message of appreciation and a CTA to encourage visitors to sign up for your next event, leave feedback, or get a coupon code. It’s also important to include all the relevant event information on this page, such as date, time, and location. Clear communication will ensure your attendees have all the information they need to plan for your next event. A well-set Thank You page will also include a link to the event photos and videos. Visual content will help create a sense of community and encourage the visitor to spread the word about your event. You might want to consider recording it and making it available on the Thank You page if it's a webinar. This will allow attendees to watch the replay if they missed anything or share it with someone who couldn’t attend. 4. Thank You for Participating Good examples of Thank You page content would be appreciation messages asking the participants to share the survey or contest with their friends. It’s best to include a link to the contest rules or the survey results so that participants can see how their input helped shape the outcome. That way, you’re building goodwill and fostering a sense of community among your customers. Most of the Thank You page text examples we reviewed came with a social media share button to make it easy for participants to share the survey or contest with their followers. This, in turn, will help you reach a larger audience and generate more leads. Let’s not forget that only 29% of brands nurture their existing customers beyond the initial purchase. Don’t be one of them! 5. Thank You for Purchasing A Thank You page for purchasing is displayed after a visitor completes a purchase on your website. These post-sales notes usually include a confirmation message, and an upsell offer to encourage customers to buy more. Aside from these examples of Thank You page upsells, another valuable CTA asks the customer to write a review or product testimonial. You could display these reviews on your website or social media platforms to build social proof and trust with potential customers. Customer reviews and ratings are important because they help build trust and credibility with potential customers. Some businesses even hire management companies to polish up their customer feedback. This type of Thank You page should also include a link to the product manual and warranty information so the customer can easily find it if they need to reference it. Thank You pages for websites may include a customer service contact in case of any questions or problems with the product. By providing this information, you’re showing that you’re available to help if needed and that you care about your customers’ satisfaction. 6. Thank You for a Donation Even though donors are technically not buying a product or service, they still appreciate being thanked for their donation. Receiving feedback about how you’ll use the money can’t hurt as it assures that their contribution will positively affect society. We’ve gone through lots of donation Thank You page examples and realized that most of them also include a CTA that encourages the donor to spread the word about their cause or make another donation. By including a CTA, you’re helping generate more donations and raising awareness about your cause. And finally, remember that many crowdfunding platforms include a form to collect the donor’s contact information. This is a neat way of keeping donors updated on campaign progress and thanking them for their continued support.  7. Thank You for Being a Patron Many podcasters, YouTubers, and influencers earn by creating Patreon pages and communities to gather support for their work. While researching Patreon Thank You page examples, we’ve often seen short videos from the creator expressing their gratitude. Followed by statistics on how patron support has helped them grow and a CTA asking patrons to share the page with their followers, it helps increase the page’s visibility and could potentially result in more sign-ups. You can utilize your Thank You page to express how grateful you are and how patron support has helped you grow. Most Patreon communities are tight-knit, so it’s important to show that the support of each patron is valuable and appreciated. Some of the Thank You page examples we’ve reviewed list patrons, with the option for them to remain anonymous. It’s a great way to show transparency and build trust with your audience. Finally, some pages offer a voucher or discount for the patron’s next purchase. Clever Ways of Using the Thank You Page Now that we’ve seen the different types of Thank You pages, let’s take a look at some of the ways you can utilize this powerful tool: Increasing Social Media Engagement A “thank you for visiting our website” message is the perfect tool to increase social media engagement. You can include buttons with links to your social media profiles. Don’t forget to use this opportunity to encourage customers to leave a review for your product or service on their favorite platform.  If you find it overwhelming dealing with social media, you can use content management tools to help you schedule and publish content and track your performance. Collecting Customer Feedback A Thank You page is an excellent opportunity to collect customer feedback by adding a survey or questionnaire to the page. It’s a valuable way to collect data you can use to improve your business. Cross-Selling Products or Services Another great way to use a thank you landing page, according to available examples, is to cross-sell products or services. The easiest way is to attach links to items related to the one the customer had purchased to your page. You can also include special offers or discounts on this page to encourage customers to make another purchase. Upselling Products or Services Try upselling products or services by including links to higher-priced items to further boost your sales. Adding special offers or discounts to this page will likely encourage customers to upgrade their purchases. Getting Referrals Word of mouth is one of the best ways to grow your business, and a Thank You page is the perfect place to ask for referrals. You can usually find Thank You page samples with a pre-set CTA asking customers to refer your business to their friends and family. If you offer an incentive for customers who make a referral, you’ll get an even better response and grow your customer network.  Offering Content Recommendations Finally, a Thank You page is a great place to provide your customers with content recommendations if you have a blog or website. Simply add some links to related articles or blog posts that would be of interest to your visitors, or offer a subscription to your newsletter or RSS feed. Common Mistakes On the Thank You Page (With Examples) Now that we’ve gone over ways to use your Thank You page let’s look at some common mistakes the website owners make. Avoiding them will help you make the most of this section of your website. 1. Not Customizing the Thank You Page Not customizing the Thank You page for each customer can be a big turn-off for some. This page is your chance to establish a personal connection with the customer and show them that you value their business. Add the human touch by including the customer’s name or a personalized message to add credibility to your website. 2. Not Including a CTA For the best Thank You pages, make sure to include a CTA. Asking customers to refer your business or subscribe to your newsletter are good actions to be taken. Without a strong CTA, you’re missing out on an opportunity to engage with your customers. Design your Thank You page with conversions in mind and make it easy for visitors to take action. You will likely see a high bounce rate if your page isn’t optimized for conversions. 3. Failing With the Design Your Thank You page should be consistent with the rest of your website, especially with the landing page. It will create a cohesive customer experience and make visitors more willing to take action on the page. Failing to grab your customers’ attention with a catchy Thank You page design can result in them leaving the site without taking any action. 4. Flooding the Page With Content Another common mistake is flooding the page with too much content. Too much information can overwhelm customers and cause them to leave the site. Adding more than four or five lines to the page can be too much for customers to digest. Also, it can result in visitors not noticing your CTA. So, keep the content on your Thank You page concise and to the point. 5. Not Tracking Performance We’ve seen many “thank you for your purchase” page examples without the necessary metrics to track performance. Without tracking, you won’t be able to determine what’s working and what isn’t. As a result, you may continue using ineffective strategies or miss out on opportunities to improve your page. Make sure to include metrics such as conversion rate and bounce rate to track the performance of your Thank You page. Bottom Line Thank You pages are a valuable tool that improves customer engagement and encourages them to take further action. By avoiding common mistakes and including a strong CTA, you can make the most of this important section on any eCommerce website. As a result,  you’ll see an increase in conversions and a decrease in shopping cart abandonment.

By Danica Djokic

Did you ever notice a small black lock at the beginning of a website’s URL? Do you know what that is? Even those who don’t know the lock represents a Security Sockets Layer (SSL), know it means you can trust the website with your personal information. But, what is an SSL certificate? How do you know if a website has one, and why are they essential for online security? This blog post will explain what they are, how they work, the types of SSL available, plus the benefits of using them. We'll also provide you with tips on how to get an SSL certificate for your website. Read on! Understanding SSL Certificates and How They Work An SSL certificate is a digital certificate that uses encryption to secure information as it travels between a website and a user's web browser. When a website has an SSL certificate, the connection between the two is said to be "secure." Any information exchanged- such as credit card numbers, passwords, or personal data - is encrypted and protected from hackers and other malicious actors. To have SSL certificates explained in full, let’s describe the verification process. It goes along the lines of: When typing in the address you would like to visit, your browser or server attempts to visit the web server the SSL-secured website is hosted on. The browser asks the web server to identify itself. The web server will provide a copy of its SSL certificate, which the browser or server will read. If it trusts the certificate, it will signal it to the web server. The web server will return the signed acknowledgment to start an encrypted session. The server and web server then share the encrypted data. This process is also known as the SSL handshake. How To Know If a Website Has SSL Encryption One way to tell if a website has an SSL certificate is to look at the URL. If the URL begins with "HTTPS" instead of "HTTP," the site has a valid SSL certificate. Also, as mentioned before, you can look for a green or a black padlock icon in the address bar, which is another indication that the site is secure. If you want to double-check the certificate yourself, all you have to do is click on the lock icon. Within the popup bar, you will see which person, organization, or device the certificate was issued to and by whom. You will also be able to see the issue and expiry date of the SSL digital certificate and the Certificate Authority’s digital signature. Why Are SSL Certificates Important for Online Security? SSL certificates protect your information from being intercepted and stolen by hackers. While it doesn’t protect you from major attacks, such as DDoS attacks, some of the sensitive information SSL certificates can safeguard is: Identity information, including names, addresses, or phone numbers Login credentials Credit card or bank account information Legal or sensitive documents uploaded on certain websites Medical records Other sensitive information sometimes required by institutions The SSL ensures your data is scrambled and unreadable as it travels from your computer to the website's server. SSL certificate encryption makes it much more difficult for hackers to steal and use your information for nefarious purposes. From a business standpoint, SSL certificates are required to obtain a web address starting with HTTPS, i.e., one your customers will trust. Nowadays, most browsers will signal to your customers that the “website is not secure” if your website starts with HTTP. This will have a detrimental effect on your credibility with your users. How To Get an SSL Certificate For Your Website You can purchase a website certificate directly from Certificate Authorities (CAs). These companies play a crucial role in maintaining the security of internet transactions by signing these digital certificates. Every browser has a list of CAs whose credentials it trusts, and most companies on those lists charge a fee for their services. You can apply for an SSL certificate by generating a Certificate Signing Request on your server. If you are unsure how to accomplish this, contact your hosting company and ask for assistance. Once the request is compiled, you or your hosting provider will submit it to the Certificate Authority to validate it. Once the CA validates it, you should install the certificate on the website’s origin server. If you are hosting the website yourself, you should be able to install the security certificate on your own. However, in most cases, you can rely on your web hosting services to handle the last step. How Much Does Getting an SSL Certificate Cost? The cost of getting an SSL certificate varies depending on the CA and type of certificate you choose. Of course, the stronger the certificate, the more expensive it will be. On average, you can purchase a certificate for $60 per year, but the prices range between $5 per year and $1,000 per year. However, not all websites require the same type of certificate. Let’s briefly cover your options below. Types of SSL Certificates There are many SSL security certificate types, with different certificate validation levels. If you are not sure which one your website needs, read on to find out. Single-Domain SSL Certificates Single-domain SSL certificates are very popular. They are ideal for small businesses and personal websites that only need to secure a single domain name, but they still use strong encryption to protect information exchanged between your website and visitors' web browsers. Unfortunately, this solution doesn’t protect subdomains. Wildcard SSL Certificates Wildcard SSL certificates got their name because they can be used to secure multiple subdomains simultaneously. Wildcard SSL certificates provide the same level of encryption as a traditional, single-domain secure sockets layer, but they offer the added benefit of convenience and flexibility and can be a cost-effective way to secure multiple connection points. Multi-Domain SSL Certificates (MDC) Multi-domain SSL Certificates (MDC), as the name suggests, are digital certificates that secure multiple domains with a single certificate. They're an excellent option for organizations with several websites, subdomains, or even different locations across the globe, since MDCs are issued to an organization's headquarters. This makes MDCs a more efficient and cost-effective solution for large organizations than several Wildcard certificates. SSL Certificate Validation Levels These are simply the steps of confirmatory due diligence a CA must perform before issuing an SSL certificate. Depending on the type of website you want to use the secure sockets layer on, there are three conventional levels of validation: Domain Validation (DV), Organization Validation (OV), and Extended Validation (EV). Domain Validation SSL Certificates The first and most commonly used validation level, Domain Validation, only requires the CA to verify that the applicant has control over the domain listed in the certificate. For example, when you visit a DV-secured website, the browser confirms that the certificate was issued to that domain by checking for a DNS record or sending an email to an address at that domain. Organization Validation SSL Certificates Organization Validation is a slightly more stringent validation of SSL certification, requiring the CA to verify that the applicant controls the domain and that it is a legitimate organization. The CA will check whether the organization is listed in a business directory and its domain is registered to a valid physical address. Extended Validation SSL Certificates The highest level of validation, Extended Validation, requires the certificate owner to be vetted by the CA to the highest standard. This process includes a thorough review of the applicant's business by the CA, which can take up to several weeks before you can use the secure sockets layer certificate. The end result is that visitors to an EV-secured site can be assured it is operated by a legitimate organization that will keep their personal information safe. The Pros And Cons Of Using an SSL Certificate There are several benefits to using an SSL certificate on your website, so let’s discuss them first: It protects your visitors' information from being intercepted and stolen by hackers. It can improve your search engine ranking, as Google now factors in whether a site has an SSL certificate when assigning rank. An SSL certificate can give your visitors confidence in your website and build trust. Now that we’ve covered the main question - What is an SSL certificate used for? - and sold you on its benefits, it’s important to mention there are also a couple of cons to keep in mind when choosing your certificate: It can be costly as not all certificates or authorities are the same. As mentioned before, it will cost you $60 per year on average.  Ensure that you’re using a reputable certificate authority, as there is a chance that your certificate could be fake and provide no security benefits whatsoever. SSL certificates do not guarantee 100% protection from all hacking attempts - they just make it much more difficult for hackers to steal your information. In Conclusion SSL website security certificates are a vital part of online safety. They help protect website information from being intercepted and stolen by hackers, improve your search engine ranking, and build trust with your visitors. While there are some potential drawbacks to using an SSL certificate, such as the cost and possibility of fake certificates, the benefits outweigh the risks. If you're in the process of building a website for your business, or even already running an unsecured one, it's well worth your time and money to invest in an SSL certificate.

By Vladana Donevski

Having a company but not having your own website, in this day and age, is professional suicide. With around 252,000 new websites springing up each day, building a great business website is easier than ever. It’s worth every penny and a must-have for any company.  So, how do you host your own website? Basically, there are two ways: the easy and the complicated.   Self-Hosting a Website and Why It’s Not Such a Good Idea To really host your own website, you need a server at your disposal. Only a couple of tech giants like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon host their own services and are actually the world’s top cloud service providers. The alternative route is to host a website on your own machine (server). The idea may look appealing at first, but there are considerable risks involved. Your server needs to be up 24/7 with backups in place if you lose power or if your hardware dies. You also need to pay someone to maintain your server and your website, which is just the tip of the iceberg. It requires time, money, and skills to operate your own server. That’s why opting for a hosting provider instead is a much wiser choice. Hosting via a Hosting Provider The best way to host a website is to use a hosting provider instead of hosting a website on your own server. These providers offer the necessary infrastructure and vital tech support that you need for running and growing your business. They ensure that your website is up and running, with some offering a 99.9% uptime guarantee, which means your website can never be down for more than nine hours during an entire year. The only thing you need to do is pick a hosting plan that suits your business needs. How to Host a Website via a Hosting Provider The process of hosting a website can be broken down into three simple steps: Buy a domain name Select a hosting provider and a hosting plan Pick a hosting type How to Host Your Own Website – Step by Step Instructions The following sections outline in some detail how you should go about finding the right home for your website.  1. Purchase a domain Each website needs to have an address. In most cases, the address is the same or at least similar to the company's name if that name is not already taken. You can dig up information on the availability of domain names at online domain registers. Just remember that domain hosting isn’t the same as website hosting. All the major hosting providers offer a plan that includes a domain as part of their package. If your web hosting provider lacks such a package, you can always purchase a domain name from another domain hosting provider.  We would advise you to look for a web hosting provider that can provide you with both because it’s cheaper and drastically simplifies the customization process.  2. Pick a hosting provider When you pick out a domain name, the next step is to pick a reliable host provider and a hosting plan. The hosting provider gives your website a home on a server. You can host your own website by sharing space on a server with other websites or having an entire server to yourself.  It’s not uncommon for hosting providers to offer domain names as well, allowing you to host your domain and your website with the same provider. Of course, you can always transfer your domain, website, or both to another host.  With more than 330,000 web hosting providers, how do you pick the right one for your website? There are several key factors to consider when choosing the host of your own website and a hosting plan:  Uptime guarantee Redundancy Backups SSL certificates Bandwidth Database type  Email service Scalability Accessibility Customer service Uptime Guarantee Websites don’t have working hours, so naturally, you want them to be accessible round-the-clock. The last thing you want is for your website to experience upgrade or downtime complications. Therefore, the host of your website must offer an uptime guarantee of 99.5% or above.  Redundancy If you don’t want your business to suffer financial losses due to server-related issues, look for a hosting provider that offers redundancies. In this case, the redundancy offer refers to compensation for financial losses caused by a server-related issue.  Backups If you ask anyone who works in cybersecurity, they’ll tell you that having a backup is the best way to prevent data loss. The same goes for your website, but you don’t have to deal with it yourself. All the major web host providers offer 24-hour backup, which means that your host backups your website once every 24 hours. In the event of a cyber attack or catastrophic hardware failure, the host can bring your website back to life.  SSL Certificates Ensuring user privacy and safety is paramount when hosting your own website. Therefore, you want a website that has an SSL certificate. The SSL certificate will improve your Search Engine Optimization or SEO standing and encrypts data sent between the user and the website, which is crucial for securing online transactions. Some hosts provide them for free, and others are part of a paid hosting plan. Bandwidth Bandwidth represents the amount of data your website traffic generates, and contrary to common misconceptions, it doesn’t have anything to do with speed.  One of the more challenging questions when hosting a site is determining the amount of bandwidth your website needs. It mostly comes down to your expected web traffic and the type of website. If you plan on storing plenty of videos and images on the site, you’ll need more bandwidth. On the other hand, if the website is mainly text-based, you’ll need less. If you run out of bandwidth, your hosting provider may charge you extra, or the website could become inaccessible.  Database Type Different types of websites use different types of databases. The most common type of database is MySQL, but the one you choose will depend exclusively on your website. From there, find a host for your own website that offers the same database type as part of their hosting plan.  Email Service One of the advantages of hosting your own website is access to an email service from your provider. No longer will your email end with @gmail.com or @yahoo.com. Instead, you’ll have an email address ending with @yourdomainame.com. Most hosting providers offer unlimited accounts.  Scalability Business owners hope to see their ventures grow and expand. When that happens, your website needs to be able to accommodate an uptick in traffic and activity. You want to be sure that your web host offers a way for you to upgrade your hosting plan when need be. Accessibility The best part about web hosting providers is that they do all the heavy lifting of hosting your own website, but you should still retain a certain degree of control. That is where accessibility comes into play. Your host provider should give you access to your website's control panel, allowing you to easily manage and monitor your website. Customer Service Like any service provider, web hosting providers should have 24/7 customer service to help you with any technical problems you may face. The availability of technical support is a crucial consideration when picking a hosting provider and a hosting plan.  3. Choose a suitable hosting plan All that is left to do now is pick a hosting plan. There are five different types of web hosting options to choose from. Types of hosting:  Shared hosting VPS hosting Cloud hosting Dedicated hosting Managed WordPress hosting  Shared Hosting If you are starting and don’t expect a lot of traffic, then shared hosting is the way to go. As the name suggests, you share the server and its resources with other websites. It’s suitable for small businesses and blogs that aren’t video or image-heavy.  Shared hosting doesn’t have enough resources to keep any medium-size or eCommerce business website running smoothly, which can lead to a bad user experience and a potential loss of customers. Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting VPS hosting is a step up from a shared server hosting plan. VPS hosting is still a shared server solution, but with far fewer websites hosted on the same server. Multiple websites share the same hardware, but each one runs on a virtual machine with its own allocated resources.  Hosting your website on a VPS is the closest thing you can have to a dedicated server. It has fewer resources than a dedicated server, but it’s also more affordable. That is why VPS hosting is perfect for medium-size or eCommerce-oriented websites.  Cloud Hosting Cloud hosting is the fastest-growing sector in the web hosting industry. It provides a reliable and scalable solution for any business. The top cloud hosting providers can keep your website online 24/7 thanks to cloud technology.  Cloud works on a decentralized principle, while other types of hosting work on a centralized principle. With the centralized approach, your website is stored in a single data center. Since the cloud hosting is decentralized, your website is shared between several data centers that don’t even have to be on the same continent. Dedicated Hosting Dedicated server hosting is the favorite choice for businesses that cannot afford slow connection speeds and service disruptions. With a dedicated server, you don’t share any resources with anyone. The server is entirely yours, and you have complete control over it.  If you are looking to get a dedicated server for your company, you have to be aware that there are two distinct types of hosting plans. One gives you complete control, and you have to manage everything. In most cases, companies hire a server administrator who handles such tasks. The second plan is a fully managed plan by the web hosting provider. Not all web hosting companies offer this type of plan, and even when they do, it costs extra.  Managed WordPress Hosting First of all, you can run WordPress on any type of hosting. But managed WordPress hosting is a specialized web hosting service for businesses that use WordPress for their content management system or CMS. The best web hosting companies offer fully managed hosting plans, which enables you to dedicate more time to growing your business. 4. Build a website and upload it to your hosting space If you’re starting from scratch, you can turn to a website builder or a web hosting provider that offers website building services. Once you have a website, you’ll have to upload it to your hosting space. You should be able to do it from the web hosting control panel, customize the website, make the necessary adjustments, and go live.  If you choose a managed hosting solution, the provider takes care of all the maintenance, security, software updates, and data backups needed to keep your website operational. With an unmanaged solution, the business behind the website is responsible for all of the configurations. The unmanaged option is only suitable for businesses with efficient IT departments and experienced web developers.    Conclusion There is a lot that needs to be considered when picking the right web hosting provider, and we aren’t talking just about the technical side and web hosting pricing plans. Now that you know how to host your own website, it’s essential to evaluate what your business needs, and only then should you look for a hosting provider.

By Julija A.