Most online firms make do with one hosting server, but Hungerford, Aldrin, Nichols & Carter (HANC) has over two dozen and counting. One site is HANC’S own, but its servers store (or, as is more commonly known, “host”) the Web sites of about 28 clients — sites that HANC set up and designed. HANC has expanded its venerable information technology consulting practice into a new niche producing and keeping internet sites. Said Richard A. Hungerford, HANC shareholder in charge of computer consulting services, “IT has long been a venue for value-added consulting. Our concept is that the Internet is the way business will be transacted in the 21st century. We’re looking to make webpage creation and saving a revenue center.”
CREATING IT’S OWN SITE…
After months of planning, Hungerford, Aldrin, Nichols & Carter went real time featuring its own site in April 1996. The firm has a technology committee responsible for the content and design associated with the website, but just about everyone at the firm is tangled up in some way. The design and design are handsome and simple to utilize: your home web page links to descriptions associated with the company’s solutions, shareholders and managers; accounting and finance resources; a guest guide; and a Tip regarding the which staff members take turns writing week. (A recent subject was “Lower Capital Gains Rates Under the New Tax Law.”) HANC is practically totally self-contained, with its own servers. That is, the firm itself has computers that store its own Web site and those of its clients; it does not have to contract with an outside service to do that. Senior Network Analyst Sean Motherway, who acts as Webmaster for HANC, spends several hours a week on general website upkeep for HANCS site. He also assists HANC clients setup their websites.
In addition to promoting the firm, the site helps in delivery of services. Tax shareholder John Clark uses the site to send and receive client tax documents. He’s found the site is becoming a place that is popular individuals to publish tax concerns: “I’d prefer to set up a billable service-answering income tax concerns over the Internet. And there are more possibilities under conversation.”
… LEADS TO STARTING OTHERS’
The firm started its Web saving and design solution to offer services that are additional current clients; however, about half its Web site clients are new to the firm. “Because of the expertise we’ve developed by themselves,” said Hungerford in IT consulting, we’re able to market our Web services. The majority of its site clients have actually finalized aided by the company since January 1997.
Hungerford, Aldrin, Nichols & Carter offers a wide array of services split into two plans:
* The basic plan: 500 kilobytes of host room (sufficient for a modest-size site), an email address, registration in over 400 the search engines, a monthly report of access hits, an everyday back-up regarding the client’s information and an address that is part of the company’s (http:// www.hanc.com/yourcompany).
* The premium plan: exactly like above, but with 10 megabytes of server room (for a tremendously site that is large, 10 email addresses (therefore 10 employees, or departments, can each have a unique e-mail address) and a distinctive address (http://www.yourcompany.com).
But, Hungerford stressed that every client gets a site that is tailor-made for its needs and its market. “For each Web that is prospective site, we perform a feasibility research. We research the websites of neighborhood and national competitors. We can work with a client’s staff or its outside marketing consultant and marketing agency.” HANC’s computer staff of 10 are designed for programming that is sophisticated Java, used for high-level enhancements not readily done with HTML; file transfer protocol, to help clients add files that their own customers can download; and guest books, so potential customers can leave information about themselves. HANC can register its clients’ pages not only with big search engines such as Yahoo and Altavista but also with lesser-known search that is industry-specific. If a client wants a design beyond the skills of HANC’s staff, the firm has a list of subcontracted designers it can bring in.
Setting up a counter on an internet site is a fast and simple procedure, but in addition HANC can provide pages of exclusive data for each client, such as where hits are coming from and the days and the times when the site is most and least active. HANC posts this information on its own site; each customer has a password to view its own information.
“Our Web service has led us into another billable niche: training,” said Sandra Walraven, manager of information systems. Hungerford, Aldrin, Nichols & Carter can train key people at a client’s office to do easy uploads, to allow them to modify their site from their desks without relating to the company.
HANC’S site provides links to its customers’ pages, such as a furniture manufacturer, automobile dealerships, some nonprofits and a golf equipment supplier. This not merely promotes HANC’s solutions but in addition encourages more hits to its consumers. HANC’s web page gets 900 to 1,000 hits per month. All its stored internet sites, together, normal about 1,500 hits every day.
PULLING IT TOGETHER
Despite the firm’s technical sophistication, Motherway uses some of the same programs even novice Web designers use: Homesite (shareware), Hotdog Pro and Adobe Photoshop (for illustrations). The first two cost about $100 each; Photoshop is about $450. He also still uses Windows Notepad, a simple text editor that comes free with Windows. The company spent about $20,000 on its server equipment.
HANC’s IT staff trains other people within the company so they understand the firm’s Web practice and can discuss it with current and potential clients in relation to other firm services. “As in many firms and companies, our skills that are technological homegrown,” said Hungerford. “The IT staff keeps up with the literature and we’re looking into certification on some Microsoft services and products. But the majority of our Web knowledge is self-taught.” Hungerford, Walraven and Motherway have proceeded their technological education after college.
As time goes by, Hungerford, Aldrin, Nichols & Carter intends to assist its customers be a little more sophisticated on the internet. Hungerford said that even though the firm’s consumers were happy with the marketing abilities associated with Web, they might be looking beyond to using the online to provide services actually. HANC is working on solving security issues to make online stores and e-mail deals practical. Ultimately, the company plans to help consumers setup their servers that are own. “We see the Internet as a consulting that is huge,” said Hungerford.
Meanwhile the company is expanding into other areas also, including litigation services and fraud investigations. Many traditional companies — HANC had been launched in 1941 — found myself in IT consulting as a sideline to traditional services. But as traditional and services that are new at HANC, the firm finds it self doing a 180″ turn. Stated Walraven, “We now desire to seu more traditional accounting services to our brand new website chients.”