Gate Customer Newsletter Gate.com
Issue: March 2014

The Other Holiday Seasons: Is Your Website Ready?

Just when you thought you could breathe easy with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas behind you: The next holiday season for online retailers is right around the corner: Mother's Day, Father's Day, and graduations.

While these holidays won't come close to the traffic experienced on Black Friday – when a record 66 million shoppers spent a whopping $1.2 billion – they will spread a little mid-season cheer for online retailers who experience the majority of their sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Is your e-commerce website – and your web hosting company – ready for another spike? Let's take a look at three things you can do to get ready for your next big holiday season:

1) Be aware of your page load times and take steps to reduce them. Reducing image sizes and implementing content delivery networks (CDNs) are two of the best things websites can do to deliver pages faster. CDNs bring your content closer to your global customers by continuously pulling and caching content from your server and distributing it to secure servers around the world. The recommended page load time is three seconds or less.

2) Make sure your web hosting provider can support your need to burst. Many e-commerce websites have dedicated servers to support their traffic, but in slow or booming times those dedicated servers can be under- or over-utilized. Creating a hybrid hosting scenario can ensure you have high base capacity with fixed costs through dedicated hosting, while providing elastic traffic handling on a pay-as-you-use model through cloud hosting.

3) Ensure your data is backed up, preferably in a secondary location. Data backup is like an insurance policy: you hope you never have to use it, but when you do, you're happy you made the investment. Having your website crash is traumatic, and losing customer data in the process is catastrophic. You can rest more easily knowing that your customer data is protected and can be restored quickly in case of an outage.

It's important to know the cost to your business if your website is not ready for the masses. A recent report from the Ponemon Institute and Emerson Network Power indicates each minute of an unplanned website outage can cost companies $7,900 per minute, on average, up from $5,600 in 2010. Can your business really afford to lose out on that kind of revenue? Making sure your website is ready to go will ensure you don't miss out on a single dollar.

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In This Issue
The Other Holiday Seasons: Is Your Website Ready?
Google Fiber: Affordable Performance Never Looked Better
New Domain Names Available, but Will SMBs Bite?
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Google Fiber: Affordable Performance Never Looked Better

San Antonio, the home of one of our offices, is a crossroads for major cross-country optical fiber. An east-west route follows Interstate 10, and a north-south one follows I-35.

Still, the announcement that Google Fiber may come to San Antonio – one of nine metropolitan areas eligible for the service – is significant news; if it happens, it will provide a much-needed jolt to the local incumbent telephone and cable companies while also helping Google develop a more balanced revenue stream.

For those unfamiliar with Google Fiber, the first city to receive the new service, Kansas City, was chosen after a competitive selection process. Over 1,100 communities applied to be the first recipient of the service. Austin, Texas followed as the second city to be developed. To grasp the impact of Google Fiber, consider this: Prior to Google Fiber’s announcement, Time Warner Cable charged $65 for its fastest residential service in San Antonio, at 50 megabits per second.

Google Fiber will provide service at 1 gigabit – 1,000 megabits – per second.

To put it simply, Google Fiber starts with a connection that is up to 100 times faster than today’s average broadband speeds, providing instant downloads and crystal clear high definition TV. Interested yet?

Imagine that the following packages available to Kansas City coming to your town, and their effect on the market:

  • $120/mo Gigabit  + TV with more than 150 HD channels
  • Gigabit Internet at $70/mo
  • 5MB Internet for one-time $300 construction fee with zero recurring cost for up to seven years.

Google Fiber second-tier offering is also offering – though considerably slower – is billed as “today’s basic speeds.” The one-time start-up fee of $300 can be paid in $25 monthly installments for a year, and would help bring Internet access to a less-affluent demographic.

An advantage for San Antonio is that city-owned CPS Energy owns 86 percent of utility poles in the city. AT&T owns the remainder. This could help Google Fiber avoid lease disputes, which have slowed plans in Austin.

Perhaps most notable, this will fuel competition. With Google Fiber building a network in Austin, PCWorld reported Time Warner Cable will boost broadband speeds there while keeping prices flat. It is important to understand that in order to utilize gigabit speeds as of 2013, devices would require support for 1000BaseT – Gigabit Ethernet on copper cables, using four pairs of Category 5 unshielded twisted pair to achieve the gigabit data rate – and category 5 or greater cabling, or a 802.11ac compatible WiFi router and wireless adapter.

Also keep in mind that even if the Gigabit connection can handle any load you can muster, the Gigabit connection really only gets close to such high speeds if you have something on the other end to serve it adequately, and not throttle or otherwise slow it down.

All in all, the new Google Fiber development is an exciting phenomenon to potentially come to these cities.  Time will tell if Google will move forward with plans to build the infrastructure. Rest assured, I will be staying tuned.

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New Domain Names Available, but Will SMBs Bite?

Own a jewelry store and looking for a way to stand out among the thousands of websites that also sell jewelry? Move over .com, as .diamonds is in town.

Last month, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees Internet domains, went live with a long-drawn-out plan to massively expand the number of Internet generic top-level domains (gTLDs) available to businesses.

This is big news in the Internet world; over the past 30 years, only 14 new generic top-level domains had been created. This new plan will introduce hundreds and perhaps thousands of domains per year, and the first few – including .singles, .camera, .clothing and .bike – are already being rolled out by a company called Donuts, which has submitted more than 300 potential names to ICANN for approval. Google has also submitted for more than 100, including gTLDs to protect trademarks such as .google and those that have “interesting and creative potential,” such as .lol.

Businesses owning a trademark were allowed to submit a claim during a sunrise period before the names became available to the general public. More than 20 new gTLDs are now generally available from Donuts, with a handful of new ones coming out each week. Other domains will become available soon from other companies approved by ICANN.

Although a new name may be approved, it doesn't mean anyone can register a new domain in it. There are three phases of approval for each domain:

  • Sunrise, a 60-day period during which legal trademark owners worldwide can stake a claim.
  • Pre-registration, determined by the owner of the gTLD, where applicants can pre-register names for a price to be negotiated.
  • Open registration, where anyone can register a new domain.

So what does this mean for SMBs, and why might they be interested in these new domains? First and foremost, it gives small businesses the ability to get in on interesting and simplistic domain names because of the sheer number of possibilities becoming available and the specificity of many, such as .plumber and .limo.

It also helps visitors understand what your company does just by looking at your URL – if you’re not a limousine company, you probably haven't grabbed a .limo domain. However, a company stuck with www.jonesandsonsjewelryco.com can add in www.jones.diamonds as its URL with prices starting at $40 per year.

Still, a number of questions still need to be answered before this becomes a no-brainer for SMBs. Because they are so new, there is not yet enough information on these gTLDs to understand how search engines will view and rank them. Unless it can be proven that they are given as much SEO weight as .com addresses, small businesses will likely take a look at what's available and may invest in one or two if the price is right, but steer clear of using them until the situation crystallizes. Until then, much of the land grab of new domains might be restricted to bigger companies looking to protect their brand.

It also might require a bigger marketing spend to get customers who are set in their ways to visit the new URLs, and SMBs with minimal marketing budgets may find this an insurmountable hurdle. Until mindshare is established for the new domain, SMBs will likely have to bear the cost of maintaining two domains and employing redirects to the new domain from the old site.

Consult your web hosting provider to learn more about the pros and cons of pursuing a new gTLD for your SMB.

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