Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Building Net Gain: An On-Line Presence Can Give Your Company the Bottome-Line Advantage

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Building Net Gain: An On-Line Presence Can Give Your Company the Bottome-Line Advantage

Article excerpt

An On-Line Presence Can Give Your Company the Bottom-Line Advantage.

If 1995 was the year that business got interested in the Internet, then 1996 has been the year that it got serious about it. That means 1997 is shaping up to be the year when smart companies in all industries start exploiting cyberspace aggressively to gain business advantage.

Many real estate professionals have been content to experiment on the fringes of the Internet without committing serious outlays to it. But that "grace period" is fast coming to an end, and savvy Web operators are learning how to exploit the Internet for gathering, organizing, and publishing information cheaply and effectively.

Don't panic: "serious outlays" does not mean anywhere near what it once did. In an economic development that proves Internet service is here to stay, the cost of setting up a complete online presence for a company has plummeted. You can develop a full-fledged Internet site for about $5,000 and maintain your presence for just a few hundred dollars a month-a fraction of what it cost only three years ago. Or, you can "rent" space on an established Internet provider's server even more cheaply. Whatever you choose, the time has come co to begin using the Internet to maximum advantage.

Rent or Buy

If your company is large or spread out over several offices, you'll probably want to buy your own dedicated server, connected 24 hours a day to the Net. Another solution that makes a great deal of sense for many small firms is to pay an outside Internet service provider (ISP) to maintain a corporate presence for your firm at its site.

But before dialing up a local ISP, even small firms should weigh the advantages of buying dedicated servers. Ownership gives you total control over your destiny-important to consider when you're constantly adding information to your site. For instance, if your program-heavy site is sharing an ISP server with 10 other businesseswell, no one makes performance guarantees, and slow servers cause frustration. On the other hand, if you find an ISP with a fast server reserved for its business accounts, renting may work well for you. Eventually though, if you plan to thoroughly load your Web site with the intent of becoming "the on-line source" of commercial real estate information in, say, the Southwest, it becomes more economical to buy than to rent.

If your plans are slightly less grandiose, renting may be the more logical choice. To your advantage, you have more than 2,500 ISPs from which to choose, and the number is growing rapidly. The vast majority of these companies are small businesses. Unlike nationwide providers of Internet access, local operators often can match low prices with personal attention and responsive customer service. There isn't anything that AT&T or America Online knows that these local providers don't know. Indeed, local providers usually know more because they're run by technical experts who have an entrepreneurial streak.

Renting an Internet site from a local ISP will still require you to dedicate a machine at your office as "the Internet machine." You also will need a modem to connect with the provider, as well as an interface to your local area network. Expect to pay one-time costs of $100 to $300 to a local provider for setting up the account and registering your company's domain name. (The "domain" is that portion that makes your Web address unique, like in http:l/ com.) After that, monthly maintenance costs of $100 to $200 for the site are common. In addition, if you supply employees with their own Internet mailboxes and Web browsers, you'll need to pay monthly fees of $10 or more for each user.

Should you decide to go the inhouse server route, you will still need to connect to the Internet, and again, the local ISP is your best bet. The difference is that your only cost to the provider is a dedicated, leased telephone line that connects your server to the Net. …

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