When you evaluate where you are going to host your Web Site, please consider each of these factors carefully. Add the cost of each of these tools to the base price of the hosting service to determine the true cost of your hosting service. As indicated in my editorial section, I looked long and hard for the hosting services I currently use. I settled on several that I believed had everything I needed to be successful in hosting, marketing, and running my site. I now offer these services (for the same price I pay) through my Web site at <http://www.visiontm.com/web.html>. Why would I offer them for the same price? Because I make a small referral fee from the resale and I charge consulting fees to my clients that don't have the time or expertise to use these resources effectively.
The important features for effective site management and hosting are as follows:
Mailing List - I purposely put this feature on top. A mailing list for newsletters, announcements, sale items, etc is a Free (minus any setup and volume costs) way to keep in contact with your customers. Just think of the US mailing costs to send regular letters to your customers. For very small lists, that will not grow larger, simply use the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) feature of your E-Mail package. If you expect the mailing list to grow, use a professional service. Larger lists will be a lot of work with an E-Mail based solution.
Statistical Package - A good Log analyzer is critical in the on-going marketing of your site. The beauty of the Internet is your ability to market for little or no money, determine whether the marketing brought in customers and then modify/tweak this marketing to be more effective. A good package will tell you not only what visitors are looking at, but also where they came from, what they searched for, what pages were most requested, etc.
CGI - You may need CGI programs for Counters, Bulletin Boards, Link pages, Guest books, etc. Many of these features are now available in Front Page, but if you are like me, you may not like the format of all of them. Custom CGI is not for the novice user or the impatient. If you use the pre-installed CGI's offered by your WPP (Web Presence Provider) you should have little or no problems. To download, modify, install, and maintain your own is usually quite a task.
Domain Name - Having your own domain will be a personal choice. Reasons for having a Domain include establishing an identity, having the look of an established business, shorter more meaningful URL's, etc. Count on paying a registration service for 1 or more years, plus what some providers charge for setup and maintaining the domain. Typically when you get a Domain from a hosting service you also get unlimited E-Mail names.
Front Page - I use Front Page every day. It's built in functions for Web management and development are excellent. It's much more than an HTML editor. For the novice user (once you get past the setup and learning curve) it allows some advanced and powerful features.
Auto Responders - I have not yet implemented an autoresponder for my site, but I firmly believe in their application and effective advertising quality. Just think, an autoresponder sits there waiting to instantly send your text file to the users mailbox, with no action required on your part. Autoresponding features are available from some Web Browsers and PC based programs, but they can only respond when you connect to your ISP and start the program. The Browser option is better than none, but the server based solutions are the most effective for business.
E-Mail forwarding - forwarding is what you see all over the Web as an E-Mail account for life. Basically a small setup is required on the providers E-Mail server to forward any mail received for an address to any other address desired (it simply passes it on).