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The More Things Change, the More They Stay a Pain

Even the most unskilled businessperson knows instinctively the old adage that it is "location, location, location" that is most important when reaching one's target customer base. Why then, do so many companies ignore this concept when building their eBusiness? Fundamental business practices are strikingly similar for both bricks-and-mortar and virtual storefronts. The only difference is that an eBusiness exists on the virtual "lot" of a Web host. Choosing the wrong host for your eBusiness can be as damaging as attempting to open a baby-goods store next to a brothel.

Much has been written on the methodology of choosing the right Web host for your business. But what happens when you want to move to another - hopefully superior - hosting company? Just as a decline in local income, a rising crime rate, or limited space in the face of corporate expansion will cause a bricks-and-mortar business to move to another location, an eBusiness will sometimes need to find another virtual lot to set up shop in.

Why would you want to make such a move? As always, it's an issue of expansion of business or reduction of service. Perhaps your store has outgrown the meager resources of that small, inexpensive hosting company that was such a godsend when you were working out of your basement. Or maybe a recent merger has caused the service agreement to change in a detrimental way. The worst-case scenario - your host is going out of business - will definitely necessitate a move.

The assumption is that many eCommerce professionals are too complacent, and are unwilling to make such a large, fundamental change to their business. However, this complacency is well founded, as changing your Web hosting service can be a long and complicated process. This is especially true for an e-tail site, since the store's software, catalog, customer database and Web commerce server needs to be moved as well - all without causing an instant of disruption to the day-to-day transactions and sales of the company.

In general, however, you can make the process relatively effortless as long as you take some preemptive steps:

  1. Make sure you've already secured the services of the new host.
  2. Ensure that you have access to your existing scripts and data.
  3. Resolve any issues that may surround your domain name with the move.
    While the temptation may be to rush through the change in order to move and resecure your site as quickly as possible, if you don't take the time to choose the right provider, you could experience similar problems down the road - which will necessitate another move!

eCommerce sites in particular have some special issues to address when choosing a new host:

  • Ensure that the eCommerce package your business is using is supported by the new host, unless you wish to redo the entire architecture of your storefront.
  • If your store runs on CGI scripts, you must find a host that supports these. Even so, leave some extra time, as your scripts will probably still have to be amended to reflect the new server environment.
  • If your business is running on a single-source eCommerce solution (such as Yahoo! Store), then be prepared to leave time for a major overhaul, as you will have to select and configure a new eCommerce package.
  • The next major hurdle is the transfer of data to your new host. Obviously, in order to do this, you will need to have access to your current data and scripts. Ideally, you will be able to download these from your existing host, but issues of propriety, or your host going out of business can make this problematic. The best solution is to always maintain a local, updated copy of this info, as your most valuable asset as an eBusiness is your customer, sales, and product data.

The issue of you domain should be the easiest step. Your new host should be able to give you the nameserver information, which you then pass on to your domain name authority. It's best to do this on a Friday, as it will probably take about 72 hours to fully direct your current traffic to your new nameserver.

One obstacle you may encounter is that the naming authority will only accept change requests from the person listed as the administrative contact, so make sure your name is there and not the host's, for if you host goes out of business, this person might be impossible to track down.

Remember, the quality of your location will influence your customer's opinion. If your eBusiness is stuck in a bad neighborhood - it's time to move on!

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