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Herby Olschewski by Herby Olschewski

To most small medium enterprises wishing to take their company and products online, it's a daunting task to understand, evaluate and select the right web design agency and website hosting company. More often than not, the confused sales manager or company owner has to rely on the advice and guidance of an external consultant.

The dangers are many
Company X requests a quote for webdesign, webhosting, online order taking and forwarding, from Agency Y. Company X have followed the Internet security "scare stories" in the press, therefore an essential requirement is that the online order must be secured with a recognized authentication certificate. Not an unreasonable request, in fact, very sensible in order to protect the customer's credit card information, and encourage orders.

Agency Y says, "No problem, we have all that!", win the business and get on with the job. The website is implemented with liberal mention of "Secure Website", "Secure Area" etc. Company X are proud of their website and everything looks rosy for the future.

The problem is ...
In reality there is no SSL(Secure Socket Layer) on the webserver where the site is hosted! (A good authentication certificate costs money and the smaller agencies do not necessarily have the budget.) In this particular case, the public are therefore mislead into giving their credit card information in the "secure" order form.
The worst happens ...
A trusting customer orders the product.... and to their dismay, realize that the order was in fact transmitted openly on the Internet. The customer's card number is indeed "harvested" by Web bandits and used for fraudulent transactions around the globe. Much to the chagrin of the customer. He would like some answers.
What does he go after?
Agency Y? No .... he goes straight for the throat ... and sues Company X. Company X therefore finds itself with a handsome bill for lawyers fees and more hassle than the Internet adventure had promised.
Who is to blame?
Of course the unscrupulous Agency Y. But does Company X have the time, energy and resources to go after Agency Y? Probably not. Not to mention the effort of having to start all over with their Internet project. (Company X is unable to obtain a copy of the original website done by Agency Y. Files which mysteriously disappeared from the Web ;-)
The moral of the story
Investigate the background of your webhosting company. Make sure they have a reputable track record. Ask to see their SSL certificate and originators name. Request an online demonstration of their webserver SSL. Make sure to post a disclaimer on your order form stating that the customer discloses sensitive information at their own risk. Ensure that you retain ownership of your website and ask for a backup copy to keep in your possession.

The above is not fiction. It happened to one of our clients. Sadly, they are not the only ones to fall victim to the cowboys.

Take care .... it's a "jungle" out there!

Article by Herby Olschewski, President of Internet Commerce Centers - WorldWide. The ICC Concept is a complete A-Z guide towards a successful Internet commerce strategy. Not only for those who are just starting out, but for the unwary who now have to put their website wagon back onto the correct track!

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