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Open Source Software.
This is software you can use and it doesn't cost a dime!
This is just my opinion, but regardless of how big or small your business is, if you aren't looking into open source for ways to positively impact your business then you might as well have a bull's-eye painted on your forehead. I can almost guarantee that your competitors are looking into open source software and ways to shoot you in head with it.
To help you in your discovery process, I'd like to suggest that you visit http://www.opensourcecms.com and check out some of what is available to you in way of open source software. What you'll see at this specific site are all "web" solutions, which is appropriate since I'm talking about you building your own website.
However, there are tons of open source offerings to be had that encompass every business need you'll ever have. All you have to do is search Google for "open source" and you'll begin to see just how broad offerings are.
Anyway, to get back to task at hand, I'd like to clarify my statement above regarding time and effort. Once you've found a solution that interests you, I personally recommend you set it up to run on your own PC first. This way you can learn your way around solution before you spend money on hosting.
You'll also have a much higher comfort level once you actually go live with your site. However, in order to run these open source web solutions on your own PC you'll need to setup a few things first. I've listed them below.
1. Apache (http://www.apache.org) 2. PHP (http://www.php.net) 3. MySQL (http://www.mysql.com)
All three come in versions that will run on a Windows PC and all three are free. Apache is your web server, PHP is scripting language that allows for all powerful features that you'll see in solutions once you visit site mentioned above, and MySQL is your database software.
Even if you have no experience, you can accomplish installing and configuring these applications. However, I can almost guarantee you'll hit some frustrating snags if you've never been exposed to any of this stuff. My advice is to read "readme" files that come with each of applications very thoroughly and follow them to letter.
Once you've got foundation in place, you can start to play with different solutions on your own PC and find one that is a good fit for your needs. After all, every Internet business needs a solid foundation.
Unless you've got a huge budget, or you don't need a database driven website, then you'll need to start experimenting with open source if you want to get a big jump start on having a powerful and interactive website that your visitors will love.
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