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      The Website Owner’s Guide to DNS Propagation


      Unless you’re in the information technology field, it’s possible to go your whole life (blissfully) without hearing the words “DNS propagation”.

      That is, unless you migrate your website to a new web hosting service. Only then do you learn that the lightning-fast internet you’re accustomed to has this thing called propagation, and it moves like a turtle.

      The good news is that it’s really not that slow. DNS propagation isn’t instantaneous, but it has a lot of ground to cover. By understanding what’s involved in DNS and how propagation works, you’ll be able to use this knowledge to better secure your site and offer stronger performance for website visitors.

      In this article, we’ll explain what DNS is, how it works, and most importantly, what it means for your website. We’ll also offer some tips to help you ensure DNS security for your site. Let’s get to it!

      What Is DNS?

      DNS is an acronym for Domain Name System. It’s the directory of every domain name used to access websites across the internet. DreamHost.com, YouTube.com, Wikipedia.org, and your own website’s URL are all stored in the Domain Name System.

      It’s called a system because it involves a hierarchy of nameservers that work together. They ensure that when you type “dreamhost.com” in your browser, you’re served the content from our site and not from any other of the millions of websites out there.

      When you type a domain name in your browser, DNS gets to work. It facilitates communication between your computer (or another connected device) and the server where the website is hosted. How does this happen? DNS matches domain names with IP addresses. Let’s take a closer look at that process.

      Your Great Idea Starts with a Domain Name

      Don’t let someone else register your URL. Search DreamHost’s 400+ TLDs to find the perfect fit for your website.

      How DNS and IP Addresses Work Together

      Each device connected to the internet has a unique Internet Protocol (IP) address, expressed as a numerical value. IP addresses help to route information requests over the internet. Queries (like typing a website’s name into a browser) are returned to the sending IP address – the device you’re using.

      IP addresses are assigned by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) for each network device. IP addresses can be updated or changed too, so this makes keeping up with them an ongoing process.

      For example, if you use your laptop at home, it’s assigned an IP address by your internet provider. If you take that same laptop to work and join the network there, your laptop will be assigned a different IP address by your employer’s internet provider.

      Websites have IP addresses too, since they also are stored on computers connected to the internet. When you type in a domain name, it doesn’t know where the website is located. What you really need is the IP address for the site. Then you can send and receive information.

      Rather than having to remember numeric strings (IPs) to designate website addresses (the servers where websites are stored), we use domain names. This makes it much easier to visit the many websites that we frequent. The process is similar to looking up a contact on your phone.

      Instead of memorizing all the phone numbers listed in your contacts, you can use a series of lookups. Let’s say you wanted to find Joe’s number. To call him, you might:

      • Open your contacts.
      • Tap the letter “J” for Joe.
      • Scroll through all the “J” contacts until you find Joe.
      • Tap Joe’s name to open his contact card.
      • Tap the phone icon to call Joe.

      DNS progresses through a series of lookups as well, until it finds the one unique number (IP address) for the website you’re looking for. In other words, DNS translates every domain name into its assigned IP address through a series of queries and servers.

      DNS Lookup in Action

      DNS lookup happens behind the scenes when you type a domain name into a web browser. The request is sent through a series of queries and servers. Namely:

      • DNS recursor (recursive resolver)
      • Root nameservers
      • Top-Level Domain (TLD) nameservers
      • Authoritative nameservers

      The DNS Recursor (recursive resolver) handles the initial DNS query from the web browser. This is similar to tapping your contacts app to start your search for Joe’s phone number. You have a name, but you need a number.

      For example, the nameservers for all of the domains managed by DreamHost, including ‘dreamhost.com’, are set up using the following:

      • ns1.dreamhost.com 162.159.26.24
      • ns2.dreamhost.com 162.159.27.142
      • ns3.dreamhost.com 162.159.27.84

      Back to our phone example, if Joe’s name is saved in your Favorites, the search is over. You have his number in hand, and you don’t need to look it up in your contacts listing. The DNS resolver acts similarly.

      Before your query is sent out to servers across the web, your DNS resolver checks for a “hosts” file on your computer, an index that isn’t often used now. Next, it will search your computer’s DNS cache to see if the IP address is stored in your browser.

      When the DNS resolver exhausts its search through your computer, router cache, and internet provider’s nameservers, the query is then sent along to the appropriate root nameserver. There are 13 root zones for the global internet. Each of them has a root DNS server.

      These root servers answer queries for the records contained in their zones. The root nameserver looks up the authoritative DNS server that contains the IP address for the domain name being queried. The root server knows where to send the query based on the Top Level Domain (TLD), such as .com, .org, or .net.

      Authoritative nameservers index domain names based on TLDs. The root domain (the website name, plus the .com or other TLD extension) is located on the authoritative nameserver. Its corresponding IP address is returned to the sending IP address, your computer. Finally, you have Joe’s number.

      What DNS Propagation Means (And How Long It Really Takes)

      DNS propagation refers to the amount of time it takes for a DNS change to update across the internet. For instance, if you move your website to another host, your DNS settings will change because you’ll have a new IP address.

      Your website has several different DNS records that might be updated, and you should be aware of these records and what they do:

      • A record: lists your website’s IP address
      • CNAME records: lists your subdomain or other aliases (can be used to point one domain to another)
      • MX records: specifies which mail server will handle your domain’s email
      • TXT records: attaches information to your domain, such as verification records

      When a DNS change is made, propagation can take up to 72 hours. However, it usually takes less than a few hours. Some obstacles may delay complete propagation. Let’s look at a few of the most common factors involved.

      • Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Internet providers keep DNS information cached so they can provide faster page loads for their customers. Sometimes, they may ignore TTL settings and keep DNS information for several days.
      • Domain Name Registries. When you update your DNS information, the update is sent to your domain registrar. It then publishes your nameserver records to its root zone. Some domain registrars don’t publish DNS updates immediately.
      • Time to Live (TTL) settings. This setting determines how long DNS information is allowed to “live” on a computer or DNS server. A higher TTL saves lookup time by keeping the information cached. This helps deliver faster results to the user. The downside is that a higher TTL setting prevents the DNS resolver from getting the most up-to-date DNS information.

      If you update your DNS records, a delay in propagation means that website visitors may be getting outdated information. You can check DNS propagation progress using an online tool, such as Google Admin Toolbox or DNS Checker.

      How to Flush Your DNS Cache

      Your DNS cache speeds requests by caching information locally, rather than relaying the requests through the DNS every time. When changes are made to a website’s DNS settings, your cache is not immediately updated, so your information may be outdated.

      To solve this, you can flush your DNS cache by following the directions for your particular operating system below. If you’re using Chrome for browsing, check out these instructions to clear your cache.

      Windows 8 & 10

      Click on Start, and when the Run box appears, type in Cmd and hit Enter. At the command prompt, enter ipconfig /flushdns as shown below.

      Flushing the DNS cache in Windows.

      After the command runs and returns the prompt, type Exit and press the Enter key to close the window. Instructions are also available for earlier versions of Windows.

      MacOS X 12 (Sierra) and Later

      First, navigate to Launchpad > Terminal, then type the following:

      sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder;sudo killall mDNSResponderHelper;sudo dscacheutil -flushcache

      Flushing the DNS cache in MacOS.

      That’s all you need to do!

      OS X 11 (El Capitan)

      You can start by going to Launchpad > Terminal. Then enter:

      macbook$ sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder

      Alternately, you can find directions online for older versions of MacOS.

      Linux

      Linux currently doesn’t cache the same way as Windows and MacOS, so you’ll need to find out how your particular machine should be flushed.

      What to Know About DNS Security

      The Domain Name System is constantly assaulted by Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. These target DNS servers and try to disrupt the system so that domain requests are denied.

      There are several steps you can take to minimize your risk from these DDoS attacks. First, use a secure web host. This is your first line of defense, and your website host should proactively ensure tightened security.

      Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access to your site’s files by adding an extra layer of security. The first layer is using your secure username and password to log in. The second layer is provided by an authentication application, such as Google Authenticator. Many users also use YubiKey, a hardware authentication device.

      You can also use a third-party security service like Cloudflare, a Content Delivery Network (CDN) that helps protect against malicious traffic and attacks. Cloudflare also speeds up your website. You can enable it through your DreamHost panel by going to Manage Domains.

      A web application firewall.

      Finally, a Web Application Firewall (WAF) like Cloudflare’s can add additional security by monitoring website traffic between applications and the internet.

      Next-Generation DNS

      DNS security is a growing concern, as DDoS attacks are on the rise. Many businesses use free DNS services for their websites. Not all of these free services have the resources to enhance security. Alternatively, premium services can offer:

      • Better security measures, pointing your domain to more secure nameservers
      • DNS failover, to keep your site accessible in case of a system disruption
      • Better performance due to faster resolution times

      The Domain Name System is key to keeping internet traffic safe, secure, and accurate. As hackers and other bad actors continue their assaults against DNS, businesses and individual website owners may consider how they can help ensure security and stability for their sites.

      Next-generation domain services play an essential role in developing products and services to ensure DNS security and keep the internet safe and accessible.

      Stay in the Know

      Join our monthly newsletter for tips and tricks to build your dream website!

      Domain Registration, Demystified

      DNS propagation ensures up-to-date information throughout the internet so that when someone sits down at a computer and types in your domain name, they’re routed to your website. All of this happens behind the scenes through the Domain Name System’s queries and servers.

      You can ensure that your DNS is accurate and up to date by managing your domain names with DreamHost’s domain services. Find your new domain name and get competitive pricing on registrations. Plus, you can stay secure with free Domain Privacy Protection and optional domain locking.

      If you registered your domain name somewhere else, we’ve got you covered too. You can transfer your domains to us and manage them all in one place, right from your DreamHost panel!



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      Backups vs. Disaster Recovery: The Ultimate Guide


      Backups or disaster recovery (DR)?

      If you’re planning a data defense strategy for your company, it’s important to understand which strategy is best for your business needs—backup or disaster recovery.

      The Difference Between Backup and Disaster Recovery

      Backup refers to the process of saving data by copying it to a safe place. Data can then be recovered in the event of infrastructure or service issues. Backups can take many forms, including duplicating data on the cloud or a secondary server in the same production data center, or saving data to a remote data center, etc.

      Disaster recovery involves a set of policies, tools and procedures to enable the recovery or continuation of vital technology infrastructure and systems following a natural or human-induced disaster. Disaster recovery focuses on IT supporting critical business functions as part of business continuity, which involves keeping all essential aspects of a business functioning despite significant disruptive events.

      While both solutions can help protect your data and critical information against unplanned disruptions and outages, sometimes backups alone aren’t enough.

      Here is a breakdown of what you can expect from backups and disaster recovery solutions, so you can ensure your business keeps running even if your primary servers go down.

      Basic Backup Solutions

      Remember back in college or high school when you had to write a big term paper or thesis and you would save your work to a jump drive or CD (yes, those used to be a thing) in case your computer crashed and you lost everything?

      You were running a basic backup of your most critical files.

      How Backups Work

      Backups work by providing quick and easy access to your data in case of smaller disruptions like outages, lost equipment, accidental deletion or hard drive crashes. Backup solutions copy your existing information to a second storage environment. You could choose to simply back up a few important files or your entire database.

      The Cons of Backup Solutions

      There are a few drawbacks to relying on backup solutions as your failsafe. Consider the college term paper example: If you have a sudden inspiration and write three more pages just to have your computer crash before saving your work to your backup source, you’ll have to start from the last moment you backed up. It’s the same with your business files—your data will only be updated to your previous backup.

      Since many companies use backup for smaller-scale outages, in many instances they will keep their backups on-site or close to their primary facility. If these companies are hit by widespread natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes, there’s a chance those backups could go offline as well.

      Cloud Backup Solutions

      As a response, cloud-based backup options are becoming more popular because data center providers are able to offer near real-time data replication at off-site locations. In some cases, these cloud backup solutions are more cost-effective and reliable for business needs.


      LEARN MORE

      Disaster Recovery Solutions

      For more large-scale outages, disaster recovery is your best option.

      Disaster recovery solutions cover more than just the major natural disasters that might immediately come to mind. In fact, only about 10 percent of unplanned outages are caused by weather. That’s behind system failure, cyber incidents and human error.

      Disaster recovery solutions replicate your environment, so if there is a major disruption, an automatic failover transfers the management and operation of your infrastructure to a secondary machine and site to keep your applications and business online. Your servers will then run off your disaster recovery site until your primary facility is back online and capable of resuming system functionality.

      It’s important to note that disaster recovery options come in all shapes and sizes. Synchronous solutions replicate your data in near real-time. That makes this option one of the most comprehensive, but also generally more expensive. On the other hand, asynchronous solutions have more delayed duplication, which means some of your most recent data may not be recovered.

      Important Backup and Disaster Recovery Terms

      Understanding a few essential terms can help develop your strategic decisions and enable you to better evaluate backup and disaster recovery solutions.

      • Recovery time objective (RTO) is the amount of time it takes to recover normal business operations after an outage. As you look to set your RTO, you’ll need to consider how much time you’re willing to lose—and the impact that time will have on your bottom line. The RTO might vary greatly from one type of business to another. For example, if a public library loses its catalog system, it can likely continue to function manually for a few days while the systems are restored. But if a major online retailer loses its inventory system, even 10 minutes of downtime—and the associated loss in revenue—would be unacceptable.
      • Recovery point objective (RPO) refers to the amount of data you can afford to lose in a disaster. You might need to copy data to a remote data center continuously so that an outage will not result in any data loss. Or you might decide that losing five minutes or one hour of data would be acceptable.
      • Failover is the disaster recovery process of automatically offloading tasks to backup systems in a way that is seamless to users. You might fail over from your primary data center to a secondary site, with redundant systems that are ready to take over immediately.
      • Failback is the disaster recovery process of switching back to the original systems. Once the disaster has passed and your primary data center is back up and running, you should be able to fail back seamlessly as well.
      • Restore is the process of transferring backup data to your primary system or data center. The restore process is generally considered part of backup rather than disaster recovery.

      Backups vs. Disaster Recovery: How to Choose the Best Solution for Your Business

      In some cases, just the backup is enough to protect certain parts of your business from interruptions. For example, a complete disaster recovery plan for computers or mobile devices intended for employees generally does not require a full disaster recovery solution. If an employee’s device is lost or broken, your company is unlikely to be critically affected. You can replace the device and restore your data from a backup.

      On the other hand, disaster recovery is crucial to protecting services and infrastructure that your company depends on to operate on a day-to-day basis. For example, suppose your employees’ PCs run as “thin clients” dependent on a central server to work. In that case, an interruption on that server can critically affect the business’ entire operation as it will prevent all employees from being able to use their workstations. Such an event is much more severe than an individual workstation break.

      In most cases, the best solutions involve both backups and disaster recovery.

      A solid backup plan that keeps your data accessible is helpful for minor disruptions, but without a larger, more comprehensive strategy, can cause all sorts of problems for your company. For instance, if your business collects, stores or transmits information that requires strict PCI DSS or HIPAA compliance, you will want to make sure those files are properly backed up and accessible in the event of a disaster—which might not be possible with basic backup solutions.

      Consider incorporating your basic backup under the umbrella of a larger disaster recovery strategy to ensure you’re fully protected. Third-party providers will offer cloud-based disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) solutions that are often more cost-effective and appropriate for your business needs.

      Do your homework and determine the best strategy for your company. Because it’s not a question of if, but when you’ll need to recover from an unplanned outage.

      Explore INAP Disaster Recovery as a Service.

      LEARN MORE

      Original version published May 30, 2018

      Thiago Alcantara


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      How to Start a Business: The Complete Guide


      So, you want to start a business? To strike out into the unknown, discover new opportunities, change the world, and make some money along the way?

      The road to becoming your own boss can be a long one. But we’ve got you covered.

      In this guide, you’ll learn all the steps — from creating a basic business plan to hiring your first employee — that you need to start a successful small business. You’ll learn how to:

      So, without further ado, let’s get right to it and learn how to start a business.

      The Big Idea

      Every creative endeavor has two halves: the idea and its execution.

      Many aspiring entrepreneurs can come up with some type of idea but end up struggling with the second part.

      Need proof? First, how many friends of yours have revolutionary app ideas? Now, how many have actually developed an app, released it, and built a successful business out of it? Chances are, the answer to the second question is a lot lower.

      When you start your own business, you need to have an execution plan ready from the get-go. So, let’s start things off on the right foot and make sure that you break your big idea down into small, realistic steps.

      1. Refine Your Business Idea

      Few things kill a new business like an idea that’s way too vague. How do you even start building your business if your idea is simply to “make a new type of social network?”

      The answer? You don’t. You either refine your idea into something tangible, or you put it to the side.

      But most ideas can be saved with a dash of refinement and a bit of polish. The key to doing so is asking the right questions:

      • Why are you starting this venture?
      • Who is your target demographic?
      • What product or service are you offering?
      • When will it be available, and when would someone use this product?
      • Where will your product be available?

      By answering these questions, you can turn a vague idea like “start a new social network” into “start a new social network for US-based professionals and recent college graduates to connect and find job opportunities in their alumni networks.”

      Once you get through your first round of questions, ask more questions: Why would this target demographic use this over LinkedIn? What are the features that separate it from the competition?

      Refining your idea is like making a sculpture out of a block of marble. Start by cutting away big chunks on your first pass, and then chip at the little details once you’re further along.

      But remember that sometimes, ideas simply won’t work, and it’s often more important to know when to give up on an idea than how to refine it. There’s no shame in admitting that a business idea isn’t a good one and putting it to the side so you can focus your efforts on another one.

      2. Create a Business Plan

      The next step is to start working out the nitty-gritty by working out a detailed business plan. Besides serving as a guide, your business plan can also come in handy when looking for investors or grants.

      According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, a traditional business plan should have these elements:

      • Executive Summary: Sum up your business. Why will it be successful? What is your mission statement, and what are you offering? In short: Who are you as a business, and why should anyone care?
      • Company Description: Expand on some of the points in your executive summary. What problems does your business solve? What is your team like? What’s your competitive advantage? Your company description will likely overlap with your executive summary to some extent, but you need not only expand — you can include new information here as well.
      • Market Analysis: Explain how your product fits into the market. What are competitors doing? How can you do it better?
      • Service or Product Line: Describe the products or services you’re selling in detail. Include information about patents, the product’s lifecycle, and its benefits. This information will form the backbone of your business model.
      • Marketing and Sales: Explain how your marketing and sales strategies work. How will you get new customers? How will you keep them?
      • Funding Request: Include information about how much funding you’ll need over the next five years and what you plan to use that money for.
      • Financial Projections: Prove that your business is stable and ready for success by projecting what your finances will look like in the next few years.

      3. Decide on a Business Name

      Chances are that if you’ve made it this far, you already have some type of working name. But if you don’t, make sure you iron one out by this point.

      When coming up with your business name, keep these tips in mind:

      • Your name should be catchy and sound good when you say it out loud
      • You should be able to trademark your name
      • The name should be somewhat related to your product or service’s benefits or features
      • Make sure you can get a .com domain for it
      • Your name should be easy to spell

      Some entrepreneurs get backed up at this stage. While it’s definitely important to make sure your business name has some allure to it, don’t overthink it and hold your entire business plan up just because you can’t settle on the perfect name. Give yourself a reasonable amount of thinking time, and go with your favorite option after that time has elapsed, even if you’re not thrilled with it.

      4. Define Your Brand

      Businesses are like people — they have names and personalities.

      Once you’ve settled on a name for your business entity, start to consider what other features you want people to recognize your brand by.

      At this point, you’ll want to design a logo and set some brand guidelines. What tone will your business take in its communications? What colors represent it?

      Oatly, for example, has defined itself through its playful and irreverent copywriting, its logo, and the colors blue, brown, black, and white.

      Ideally, your branding should be recognizable enough that even if you release a new product, customers will immediately realize that it’s a new addition to your product line.

      Secure Your Space on the Web

      With COVID-19 still raging across the world and society showing no signs of retiring social distancing restrictions anytime soon, maintaining a strong digital presence has become more important than ever.

      Luckily, starting a website and building a social presence is easier than ever before. Here’s how.

      1. Register a Domain

      Your domain is the address that people will type in when they want to visit your website. It’s essentially your online calling card.

      For example, our domain is dreamhost.com. If your business were called Doug’s Donuts, your domain might be dougsdonuts.com.

      The vast majority of businesses will want to get a .com name. However, other domain extensions, like .ai, .inc, and .net, may be worth consideration in certain cases.

      Purchasing and registering a domain is a simple process. All you need to do is search for your desired domain on a reputable domain registrar’s website and purchase it. Most registrars will guide you through the process.

      Once you’ve got a domain, you’ll need to connect it to your website. Most website building platforms offer instructions on how to do this.

      Overall, the hardest part about registering a domain is finding one that isn’t already taken. In some cases, you may need to get a bit creative by adding words, i.e., Doug’s Delicious Donuts, or change your name entirely so you can get a better domain name.

      2. Secure Social Media Accounts

      It’s estimated that there are 3.6 billion social media users in 2020. To ensure your business’s survival in the modern business climate, you need to be where your potential customers are — on social media.

      But don’t be intimidated — you don’t need to actually develop your social media presence just yet; you just need to get your usernames. Like domain names, usernames on major social network sites are hot commodities and go fast, so you want to lock them down ASAP.

      Unfortunately, it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll end up finding that the same username is available across all social media platforms. Most businesses will need to edit their handles slightly or have different accounts per platform (i.e., @dougsdonuts on Twitter and @dougsdeliciousdonuts on Instagram).

      3. Create a Website

      What use would your domain name be if you had no website to go along with it? Once you have a domain ready to go, it’s time to start building your website.

      These days, there are tons of online website builders that make it easy to get a site up and running quickly.

      But if you want your website to run on a powerful, tried-and-true platform, building a WordPress site is one of your best options. WordPress powers approximately 38.4% of all websites, so there’s no lack of support, powerful features, and communities to get involved in.

      DreamHost offers a drag-and-drop WordPress website builder with shared hosting that combines the ease of a website building tool with the raw power of WordPress. This gives the business owner the best of both worlds.

      We’ll Support Your Dream

      Whatever your business goals, we’ll be right there with you, making sure your site is fast, secure, and always up. Plans start at $2.59/mo.

      Deal with Laws and Finances

      Starting a business can sometimes mean navigating a lot of red tape. Between registering your business, structuring it, and opening a bank account, many entrepreneurs quickly find themselves with their hands full.

      Here’s what you need to know to get started.

      1. Find an Accountant and an Attorney

      If you’re serious about your business’s success, it’s a good idea to start things off on the right foot and hire an accountant and an attorney. Starting a business is a complex process with lots of legal requirements, and this team will be able to guide you through it and answer the many questions you’re sure to have along the way.

      If you’re on a very tight budget or starting your business as a side hustle, you may be able to hold off on this step. But keep in mind that you’re running a risk when you don’t have a professional helping you with complex tax, financial, and legal issues.

      Plus, an attorney and accountant will help you figure out how to choose a business structure — the next step in your journey.

      2. Decide on a Business Structure

      Choosing a business structure is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. The legal structure you choose will determine how you pay taxes and how your business is viewed by government entities.

      Importantly, your business structure will determine whether your profits are taxed on a pass-through basis or not. Owners of pass-through businesses include their share of profits as individual, self-employed, taxable income. Owners of non-pass-through businesses pay themselves a salary and report their income and the business’s profits separately.

      The most common business structures in the US are:

      • Sole Proprietorship: This structure can be used by businesses without any employees. All businesses that do not formally register are automatically considered sole proprietor operations.
      • Partnership: Have a business partner? Partnerships are a simple structure for businesses with two or more owners. Profits are taxed on a pass-through basis.
      • Limited Liability Company (LLC): LLCs are among the most popular pass-through structures for small businesses. This structure separates personal and business assets so that you can’t lose your house or car if your business goes bankrupt.
      • Corporation: A corporation is a standalone legal entity. Profits are not taxed on a pass-through basis, so owners need to pay themselves a salary. There are several types, including S Corp, C Corp, and non-profits.
      • Cooperative: A cooperative is a business owned and operated by a group of people who use its products or services. These people typically own shares in the company, and profits are distributed amongst them.

      3. Register with the Government and the IRS

      Most business registration is conducted at a state level, so you’ll need to look into your local laws to see what’s required to legally form your business. An attorney can be a great help here.

      Once your business is registered, you might need to file to get a federal tax ID called an Employer Identification Number (EIN). You can think of an EIN as a Social Security Number for your business. According to the Small Business Administration, you’ll need an EIN if your business does any of the following:

      • Pays employees
      • Operates as a corporation of partnership
      • Files tax returns for employment, excise, or alcohol, tobacco, and firearms
      • Withholds taxes on income, other than wages, paid to a non-resident alien
      • Uses a Keogh Plan (a tax-deferred pension plan)
      • Works with certain types of organizations

      If you’re running a sole proprietorship or single-member LLC, you don’t need a separate tax ID — your profits are taxed as personal income.

      4. Open a Business Bank Account

      Having a bank account for your business can help you keep your personal and business finances separate, making accounting and filing taxes much easier. It also offers an extra layer of protection for your personal assets, maintains a professional image, and allows you to open a business credit card.

      You’ll need to have all your business’s formation and tax documents, along with a business license and ownership agreements to open a bank account. Your accountant will be able to help you here — especially if you’re considering applying for a business loan.

      5. Purchase Insurance

      Many business owners forget this step or simply don’t realize how important it is.

      Don’t be one of them. Purchasing liability insurance can sometimes be the only wall that protects you against bankruptcy if you get sued for some reason. Plus, if you hire employees, you’ll legally need to have worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance.

      Set Up Your Daily Operations

      A business is like a machine. To keep it running smoothly, you need to make sure all the parts fit together and stay well oiled.

      1. Accounting

      Your accounting system is the backbone of your business’s financial operations. Without a good system in place, you won’t be able to process invoices, make payments, etc.

      Your best bet here is to speak with an accountant who can help you find a solution that works for your specific needs.

      2. Project Management

      A robust project management system ensures that projects reach completion in a timely and organized way. Project managers communicate with different team members, contractors, and other external businesses to keep everyone on the same page.

      Whether you’re going to be your sole proprietorship’s own project manager or you’re hiring one for your corporation, it can be a good idea to invest in project management software like Asana or Trello.

      3. Payroll

      If you plan to hire employees, you’ll need some type of payroll system. Gusto, Intuit Payroll, and Bill.com are all good options.

      If you’re hiring contractors, a payroll platform can also help, but it’s not entirely necessary.

      4. Communications

      If you’re hiring employees or contractors, you’ll need a way to communicate with each other. While email works fine in most cases, many businesses prefer platforms like Slack, which speed up communication and are more convenient than email.

      5. Shipping

      Businesses that have an e-commerce component will need to set up a shipping system. To figure this out, you’ll need to compare options like USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL to see which one best fits your needs.

      Build Your Team

      A business is nothing without its team members. When building your team, you’ll have to mix and match three types of members.

      1. Employees

      Employees are full-time or part-time workers. Hiring employees comes with a slew of legal and tax responsibilities, such as paying payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, etc. If things don’t work out with an employee, you can’t just fire them so easily.

      However, there are benefits to hiring employees, such as having reliable team members always available at set times. You also get more control over the work produced.

      2. Contractors

      Contractors are typically independent businesses themselves, so you won’t have any legal responsibilities as their employer (outside of what’s covered in your contract). You can hire them at will without a long-term commitment.

      However, contractors are independent and not full team members, so you won’t have the same level of control over the work they produce. Plus, they may not be available when you need them — they have their own schedules and businesses to run, after all.

      Contractors are useful for businesses that need specific deliverables, like graphic design, writing, web development, etc. But businesses that need operations run around the clock, like customer service, management, etc., will likely want to hire employees.

      3. Vendors

      Some businesses choose to outsource some of their work to third-party vendors. For example, you may choose to hire a third-party call center to field all your customer service requests or for on-site security. However, this is typically only required for larger businesses, so it’s something to keep in mind as you grow.

      Grow Your Business

      Once you’ve planted your business’s seed, you’ll need to water it so that it grows into a successful startup.

      1. Develop a Marketing Strategy

      Marketing is essential. Without it, no one will even know your business exists.

      Marketing comes in many forms, from content marketing and PPC ads to email marketing. If you’re not familiar with these terms already, it’s a good idea to read up on them a bit.

      However, to really get your marketing going in the right direction, you’ll likely want to hire a professional.

      2. Set Goals and Create a Growth Plan

      Businesses rarely grow without goals. To ensure your business continues to evolve over time, it’s a good idea to set SMART goals — goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

      What does that mean? Instead of setting a goal like “grow my business,” write something like “increase sales by 25% by January.” Now, your goal fulfills the smart criteria.

      To build a growth plan, you simply outline a series of these sorts of goals for a period of one or two years. Typically, businesses divide this period into quarters, so you’ll ideally have eight goals for a two-year period.

      Ready to Grow Your Business?

      Whether you need help finding a target audience, crafting the ideal digital marketing strategy, or outlining your brand values, we can help! Subscribe to our monthly digest so you never miss an article.

      How to Start Your Own Business: Key Takeaways

      Starting a business is a long and arduous endeavor.

      But it’s also incredibly rewarding! Few things are as satisfying as seeing others enjoy your hard work and benefit from your products and services.

      Really, what could be better than running your own business?

      If you’re ready to become a small business owner, DreamHost shared hosting is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to get your idea off the ground. For just $2.59/month, we give you everything — a free domain, SSL certificate, professional email address, and privacy protection — you need to thrive online.

      While there are no certainties in business, there is one guarantee: Whatever happens, you’ll learn a lot and grow as an entrepreneur. That much is certain.



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