How to Accept Online Payments on Your Small Business Website

There are many options for collecting payment online for your products or services.

You will need three puzzle pieces working together to sell online:
* your website
* a secure shopping cart
* a payment processor (this may include both a gateway and merchant account)

Note: Many solutions and providers offer several of these things bundled together. For example, PayPal can be your shopping cart, gateway and merchant account. It enables you to setup an account and send and receive secure payments easily online and is a very common way for small businesses to accept payments.

First, you’ll need a website so you can put up your sales page with info about your product. Weebly and WordPress are two easy ways to create a website or sales page. This post is more focused on parts 2 & 3 to accept payments.

Second, you need a secure shopping cart to collect the order information. This is like a shopping cart in the store, it’s what lets your website visitor “grab” that item from your website and indicate that they want to purchase it. The cart will collect the items the visitor wants to purchase, total them, add shipping, and gather the shopper’s contact information.

Consider these options for a shopping cart:
* Mal’s E-Commerce (free and premium versions, recommended for physical products)
* E-Junkie (small monthly fee, fantastic for virtual/downloadable products)
* PayPal Buttons (this option combines your cart and payment processor in one, good if you’re only planning to accept PayPal)
* ClickBank (requires setup fee, but allows you to reach a wide market of affiliate sellers)
* 1ShoppingCart (more expensive for full functionality but includes cart, affiliate program, and newsletter options)
* Infusion Soft (complete contact management, online sales, etc – great for bigger online businesses)

Depending on your planned business model you may also check into an option like AMember or WishList for sales if you’re doing a mix of products that includes a monthly membership option.

Third, you need a payment processor for the shopping cart to send the shopper to so they can submit payment securely to you.

Option 1: Online Payment Services – the easiest way to get started and keep it simple

Popular online payment services like PayPal, Google checkout, and RME combine a gateway and payment processor into one and allow you to link to their website where the payment details are entered by your shopper, then the payment service credits your account with their payment. The customer’s billing statement will show the name of the online processor (sometimes in combination with your business name) and you do have to comply with the payment service’s additional rules.

The simplest way to securely accept payment is through PayPal.com. You’ll need a premier or business account and it will charge a small fee for each sale it processes but it allows you a simple way to accept Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express, e-checks, and PayPal funds online. The funds are credited to your “PayPal Account” when a customer purchases and then you can either transfer the funds to your bank, use the funds to shop online, or request a debit card from PayPal that allows you easy access to the funds.

Another option is Google checkout which is similar and allows you to accept credit cards through their system. Google checkout deposits into a checking account (instead of holding your payments in an online account like PayPal).

Option 2: Merchant Account and Gateway – a good option for a growing business

The other option is to accept credit cards through your own merchant account. This process is more involved because it requires an application process, and then once approved you need to setup a gateway to connect your store to your merchant account and you’ll have additional security requirements for your website. It’s not the best way to “get started” because the fees are significantly higher and only make sense when you’re processing a good volume of transactions.

* Authorize.net is a popular gateway and also offers options to make security requirements easier to fulfill.
* Quantum Gateway is another popular option and is included free with merchant accounts through CDG Commerce.
* ProPay is popular with small business online and allows you to process the customer’s card number yourself.

You might also check with your shopping cart for recommendations on gateways and merchant accounts. Not all shopping carts work with all gateways and not all merchant accounts work with all gateways. So it’s one of those situations where you want to be sure you do your research.

Learn to Invest Your Money the Right Way

Are you interested in investing your money but are unsure as to where to start or how to begin? Well if you want to learn how to invest your money you should be aware that there are several ways to invest, with each yielding a different result.

First… what is investing? Investing in a monetary since is your ability to place or position your money or assets in a way that you receive more money in return. With that said investing can be a powerful means to provide a significant income for you and your family for years to come.

By stepping into the realm of investing to provide for your future you are now a step ahead of those who do not consider investing. You can now position yourself to retire five to ten years earlier, or even pay off mounting debt. While the benefits of investing are plentiful, one still must learn how to properly invest to receive those rewards.

Learning how to invest your money while not difficult can be confusing, that primarily stemming from the many different methods with which to invest. The method you choose will depend on two deciding factors; #1 how much money you want to make and #2 how soon would you like to make that money?

One common method used by those who have made that decision is investing in the stock market. Stocks can give you a great return on your investment but most recently the recession has begun to greatly influence the Stock Market. Many are losing money or making no money at all and are now looking for ulterior income methods.

A second investment method being used that is quite uncommon but very rewarding is investing in a work from home business. Investing in a work from home business differentiates from stocks in that not only are you paying a onetime investment but work from home businesses are recession proof and unaffected by the economy.

Another reward that many are enjoying with work from home businesses is that they can make a huge amount of money in a relatively short time. There are average people making $1000 a day with these businesses. There is no learning curve, the business is already set up for you and can even run itself via automation.

You can also retire early since the income potential with a home business can create a six figure income for you within two years or less. There are people right now below the age of 35 living debt free and will never have to work another day of their life. Regardless of the method you chose learning to invest is a smart method for providing for your financial future, live well and God Bless.

The Evolution of Business Service Management (BSM)

Looking back, the emergence of business service management (BSM) seems inevitable. This new generation of tools helps IT organizations manage technology infrastructures within the context of the key services they provide for their customers. BSM tools are critical enablers for the increasingly popular process-focused IT Service Management (ITSM) approach.

What’s driving this evolution to BSM and its related IT management paradigms? Executive Consultant Troy DuMoulin of Pink Elephant, an ITIL events and consulting firm, explains, “The interest in ITIL, the evolution of legislation like SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002), and the interest in standards is symptomatic of something much more rudimentary. At the base of this growing focus on formalization and legislation is a growing awareness of exposure and dependency that the business has on IT. Before, IT was seen as an enabler, supportive but yet somehow separated from the business processes themselves. But now there is a realization that there is no true separation between the business process and the underlying IT services and systems.”

Information technology has become so vital to business today – so ubiquitous in every aspect – that most businesses literally cannot function without it anymore. Even simple manual tasks like filling a car with gas or cashing a check now require the support of an IT system.

This heightened reliance on IT has placed companies at a crossroads. They are compelled to address this new dependency by putting processes and technology in place to ensure IT does its job serving the business effectively. So the move to BSM can be seen as a natural reaction to the new way IT interacts with and enables business.

“BSM is a way for a company to agree on what the business expectations are, and manage the IT performance to those agreed upon expectations,” clarifies Brian Childers, a consultant who also serves on the Board of Directors for itSMF USA, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting best practices in IT services management. “Once we understand the expectations, we can build the processes to suit the expectations, and manage against them.”

Vendors are responding rapidly to these new service management imperatives. Leading software providers – like HP, BMC, Mercury and Managed Objects – are already introducing new BSM-versions of their popular tools to help revolutionize the way IT managers gauge technology performance and leverage that knowledge to meet business needs. And new kinds of automated, self-learning software from companies like Netuitive, are making it easier than ever for managers to cut across their technology silos and tie together their existing management tools.

“Over the years – especially during the frenetic IT build-out of the late 1990s – companies cobbled together a mishmash of systems within their IT organizations,” adds Tony Gilbert, vice president at Netuitive. “The result now is a heterogeneous set of components in the IT environment, and individual departmental silos for managing each one. The right set of BSM tools makes it possible to tie together all of these pieces of technology across an enterprise and to monitor IT from the perspective of the service it delivers.”

BSM tools help IT groups see technology in terms of how it impacts their business services, and zero-in on the cause of a particular performance issue that is affecting that service — a capability companies do not have when they manage IT solely through technology silos. The new BSM tools can also enable a company to prioritize resources based on the relative importance of multiple business services. For example, a brokerage firm could manage online trading or online banking services holistically instead of piecemeal within silos: the server group, the database group, the application group.

More Than Just Technology

But completely changing a management approach is not easy. “For the last 20 years our industry has been focused on managing technology. Management of IT has been by domains, such as mainframes, networks and databases. But those domains don’t truly live in isolation.” Pink Elephant’s DuMoulin continues, “A basic premise is that there is a business requirement for IT to understand how any given IT component relates to another and how these devices support or potentially disable a business process. When you understand IT from this perspective you see that you cannot manage by technology or device. You need to understand the relationship between those devices, and how they relate to IT services, and ultimately how IT services are consumed by business.”

The people factor remains an issue, too. For many organizations, BSM often requires a corporate culture change. IT personnel must learn that they don’t just manage boxes and applications, but actually provide services that the business consumes in order to survive and thrive. Most experts agree that the tools are out there, and are necessary, but they go hand in hand with changing processes and changing the way companies perceive the value of IT.

“Some people believe that it doesn’t matter what technology you use as long as you have the right processes in place,” comments Ken Wendle, the ITSM Solution Lead at HP. “But I have always said that IT service management is a combination of people and process, enabled by the right technology, all working in synergy with each other. It is about the intelligent blending of technology to enable and enforce the right processes, which then will allow an organization to execute around business priorities.”

“I have seen companies that put the right processes in place, and trained the right people, but then created process silos,” HP’s Wendle also notes. “But ITSM is about cutting across the technology silos, not just creating another set of process silos on top of them. ITSM is about taking a holistic approach.”

The BSM Evolution Continues

Where is BSM going from here? “One of the missing ingredients today is the enrollment of the business community,” itSMF’s Childers believes. “They need to understand what BSM is and why they would want to support it. I think the better job everyone does with bringing the business side onboard, the faster BSM will progress.”

“I don’t think companies have gained all the benefits of technology that they could,” HP’s Wendle agrees. “The business people need to understand and appreciate what IT can do to help the business side of the organization.”

Clearly there is work to be done, but the adoption of ITSM and the BSM tools that support it continues to gain momentum as more companies realize this is a prerequisite for success in a new world where business and IT have become one.

“The prediction is that over the next five years, ITSM will be as impactful as ERP systems were, or maybe more,” itSMF’s Childers concludes. “I don’t think ITSM is going away, because it makes too much sense.” And innovative BSM vendors will continue to develop new tools to help.