Why your small business needs a website in 2017

Small_Business_Website_Twitter

A 2016 survey revealed that around 50% of all small businesses still don’t have a website, even though it is easier than ever to get your business online.

This is a topic that came up in conversation while I was at a networking meeting a couple of weeks ago. (Yes, sometimes I do get out from behind my PC and go and speak to real people. I even quite enjoyed it although I was lured by cake as it was a birthday celebration for the networking group in question. I digress.)

“Do people actually still need a website with all these things available like Flickr and Instagram?”

This question came from another small business owner, who does, in fact, have a website themselves.

I was aghast for but tried not to let it show. Once I’d got over the initial shock of imagining myself completely redundant I recovered my composure and explained why a website is as important, if not more so, than it ever was to your small business. I thought I’d share some of those reasons here countering the argument that you could just have a strong presence on social media and negate the need for a website.

Social media is very important for the growth of your business but you still need a website

{tweetme }#SocialMedia is very important for the growth of your business but you still need a website{/tweetme}

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If your website got hacked, how would it affect your small business?

Hacked_Website_Recovery

Website maintenance falls into two categories:

Content updates to keep it topical and currentSoftware updates to keep it secure and stable in an ever changing environment

The first one is usually given priority by most small business website owners and current content and regular updates are important for all sorts of reasons like search engine optimisation and keeping your customers up to date. But really, keeping your hosting and site software up to date should take priority in the interest of keeping your website secure.  

Quite simply ... if it's out of date the hackers will know the vulnerabilities and will know how to get in. All they have to do is find your site. Updates and patches 'plug those holes' and it's important that they're installed regularly.

Most small business owners mistakenly think that their website is low profile and unlikely to be a target and take a 'why would they bother with my little website approach?' I liken it to a situation I experienced a few years ago where my modest and ageing hatchback was broken into while parked in between two very high end and very shiny new cars. Quite simply mine was easier to get into. The other two were secure with alarms and far more up to date and sophisticated security.

Every website is potentially a target irrespective of it's size and out of date software just increases the risk because it's an easy target. Cyber crime is big business and the reasons for hacking into a website are many. If you want to know more about why, you can read about it in an earlier post 'Why do hackers hack?'.

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Is there any such thing as a FREE website?

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'How much does a website cost?'  is usually the first question I get asked when I start talking to anyone about web design ... potential client or otherwise and I have to stop myself saying 'how long is the proverbial piece of string'.

There are a huge number of variables and one website can cost infinitely more than another one of a similar size for a whole host of reasons. Then throw into the equation that there are many free tools available for building your own website and the decision about how to move forwards with your website design and how much should it cost gets even more confusing. 

Build it yourself with a free website solution

This can be a very appealing proposition to anyone on a budget who is setting out on their own. Setting up a business can be expensive so, understandably, you want to avoid any unnecessary expenditure. But consider the following:

What are you good at? Probably, doing what you've set yourself up in business doing. Not planning, designing and building a website.How much does your time cost? In other words how much do you earn delivering the goods and services of your new venture.

Consider these two points together and balance out the advantages of getting a 'free' website against all the time you will have to invest in developing that website, quite possibly with a limited skill-set and almost definitely with no experience of web design. Time spent developing your website, is probably better spent developing your customer base and fee earning rather than spending hours on something that could be accomplished in half the time by an experienced web developer. You'll end up with a professional looking result as well!

Plus ... is it really FREE?

This is important. Many of the free options do not include many things that you will most definitely need. For example a mailbox is very often charged as an extra. My current provider allows up to 500 mail boxes, possibly excessive for a small business, within the fee for annual hosting.

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Why do hackers hack?

Why_do_hackers_hack

I've had to deal with a few hacked websites and this is the question that I get asked most frequently. Why do they do it?

All websites are potentially a target ... however small. The motivation of the hacker is fame and fortune. A hacker isn't necessarily looking for financial details. They want to access your website so that they can use it for various money making activities and also gaining notoriety among the cyber criminal community. There are various financial gains to be had from hacking a website:

sending spamadding malware to a website so that information can be stolen from the computers of visitors to your website.phishing activitiesusing your site for their own SEOusing your website to attack others on the same hosting accountpassing on the access to other hackers for financial reward

A hacker is also looking for notoriety among other hackers. They're then able to market themselves within that criminal community.

If a hacker gains access to one website of several on a hosting plan, they may not place malicious code on the original site where they gained access. They're more likely to infect one or more of the other sites on the hosting plan keeping the original point of entry open for future use and re-infection.

Once they've gained access they will install something called a back-door shell in various places on the hosting account giving them access to all the files on that hosting account and therefore access to all the hosted websites. So even if you've managed to locate and remove the original point of entry, the back-door shells provide an alternative means of access so that they can keep on re-infecting your website.

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