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In today’s highly digital, interconnected world, it is nearly impossible for a business to succeed without having an online presence. And we’re not talking about online, in front of a computer at a desk. We’re talking complete life connectivity thanks to the rise of tablets and smart phones and data plans to match.

With all that connection and access to the web, online sales and the growth of e-commerce has skyrocketed in recent years. Even Main Street business are out launching online stores to ensure they can reach beyond the brick and mortar of their shops and tap into the e-commerce craze.

Proof of this evolution is in the statistics. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that web sales in retail have been growing steadily over the last ten years, from $91 billion in 2005 to $341.7 billion in 2015. Last year’s e-commerce sales reflected a 14.6 percent increase over 2014’s $298.3 billion. Online sales made up 7.3 percent of total retail sales in 2015, up from 6.4 percent the previous year. E-commerce was the driving force behind growth in retail sales last year, accounting for 66.4 percent of retail sales growth.

So does that mean that all small to mid size retailers should rush to add online sales to their website?

It’s certainly something worth considering, but if you’re launching into E-commerce for the first time it’s important to do your homework first.

Cost, security and function are critical factors to consider before you start selling merchandise or services online.

Know what you’re doing

Before you dive into the e-commerce pool, you need to understand the technical elements that allow for online sales and the compliance standards for security. At the very least, you need to work with a firm that can help guide you.

For small businesses, transitioning a website from a marketing site to a platform for sales requires planning, upgrades, adding payment options online and understanding the security that’s required when you handle and transmit sensitive data on the internet.

During the planning phase, a business should ask itself what they want their online sales platform to look like, keeping in mind ease and function are critical to converting website visits to sales. Log data and analytics will help a business owner track website activity and sales so trends and consumer behavior can be used to improve online sales. Developing a privacy policy and then implementing that through the website’s technology is also critical to ensuring the security of customer data and the protection of your business’ reputation.

All of that should come after you’ve researched your consumer base, understand what they’re looking for in an e-commerce site and have refined your business model to maximize your sales online.

That’s a lot, and for businesses with no existing internet sales component weighing your options for technical support is critical. For businesses with small or no information technology staffs, it may make sense to outsource the secure hosting and support of your website to keep the site up to date, manage growth, monitor security and maintain compliance.

Shared hosting equals shared cost

Outsourcing your web hosting and security amid a shift to e-commerce sounds daunting and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.

Shared hosting is an affordable alternative to dedicated hosting and an especially good option for small to mid size businesses. It offers hosting for multiple websites on one or several servers, spreading out the cost of the technology, security and upkeep across several businesses rather than one business carrying the cost on its own. Shared hosting best serves smaller businesses with limited financial budgets but a large compliance requirement.

Of note, the ZZ Servers shared hosting option is PCI Level 1 Validated, the top end security audit that even the biggest of businesses adhere to. By maintaining PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance on the infrastructure, ZZ Servers ensures the businesses hosted on those servers will meet PCI requirements.

What exactly does that mean? Businesses utilizing shared web hosting will receive server log retention and review, file integrity scanning and intrusion detection, server level security and patches and enterprise server hardware with multiple levels of redundancy.

Shared hosting can be a great way to launch your business into the world of online sales without the burden of high costs and security concerns. It just makes sense. And cents (see what we did there).

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