A: I find that with the changing times, everyone seems to have a dotcom address. I currently have no Internet access but would like to include a Website in my business plan. How do I get started?
–G. Truss, Centralia, Illinois

A: First, congratulations. As a savvy business owner, you’ve realized that your company needs to keep pace with technology. Including a Website in your business plan is a smart move. Your first step is to make sure you have, at the least, a 300MHz Pentium-based PC with 32MB to 64MB of RAM. Next, sign up with an Internet service provider (ISP) and log on via dial-up or broadband (for more details, see “The Promised Bandwidth” in this section). Modems are relatively inexpensive, depending on the brand and speed, but should cost no more than $150 to $200.

Most ISPs provide new users with free installation software, a step-by-step guide to using the Internet, an e-mail address, as well as a small amount of space on their server (usually 3MB to 5MB) to set up a basic informational site.

An informational Website includes facts about your company and products, and lets potential customers know how to reach you. Typically, if you set up a site on your ISP’s server, your Web address will look something like this: www.ISPaddress/yourcompany name.com. Think of it as an address in an apartment complex. The first part (ISPaddress) is the building address; the second part (yourcompanyname) is a specific apartment in that building-your location.

There are myriad other options, such as hiring a Web professional to create a site, or choosing a small-business Web host such as IBM’s Small Business Center (www.IBM.com) or Microsoft’s bCentral (www.bcentral.com). For more details, check the March 2001 issue of black enterprise, which kicks off our three-part series on doing business online. The series will guide you through the process of taking your business on the Web no matter your level of experience.