Many firms that are online do with one Web site, 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 creating and saving those sites. Stated 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 are trying to make Web site creation and storing a revenue center.”
STARTING IT’S very own SITE…
After months of preparation, Hungerford, Aldrin, Nichols & Carter went real time featuring its site that is own in 1996. The firm has a technology committee responsible for the content and design of the site, but everyone during the company is taking part in some way. The layout and design are handsome and easy to make use of: the house web page links to explanations of this firm’s solutions, shareholders and supervisors; 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 almost entirely self-contained, using its servers that are own. 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 repeat this. Senior Network Analyst Sean Motherway, who acts as Webmaster for HANC, spends several hours a week on general site maintenance for HANCS site. He also helps HANC clients set up their web sites.
The site helps in delivery of services in addition to promoting the firm. Tax shareholder John Clark uses the site to send and receive client tax documents. He’s found the site is becoming a popular place for individuals to post tax concerns: “I’d like to put up a billable service-answering income tax questions on the internet. And there are various other opportunities under conversation.”
GUIDES TO SETTING UP OTHERS’
The company began its online storing and design service to offer additional services to current clients; however, about half its Web site clients are new to the firm. “Because of the expertise we’ve developed in IT consulting, we’re able to market our hosting server by themselves,” said Hungerford. Most of its webpage clients have signed because of the firm since 1997 january.
Hungerford, Aldrin, Nichols & Carter provides a wide array of services divided in to two plans:
* The basic plan: 500 kilobytes of server area (enough for a modest-size Web site), an e-mail address, registration in over 400 search-engines, a month-to-month report of access hits, a daily backup of this customer’s information and an address that is the main firm’s (http:// www.hanc.com/yourcompany).
* The premium plan: exactly like above, but with 10 megabytes of server space (for a very large site), 10 email addresses (therefore 10 employees, or divisions, can each have a unique e-mail address) and a distinctive address (http://www.yourcompany.com).
Nevertheless, Hungerford stressed that each customer gets a tailor-made site suitable for its needs and its market. “For each Web that is prospective site, we perform a feasibility research. We study 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 can handle sophisticated programming: 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.
Installing a countertop on a site is a fast and procedure that is simple 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 look at its data.
“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 simple uploads, so they can modify their site from their desks without concerning the company.
HANC’S site provides links to its consumers’ pages, such as a furniture maker, automobile dealerships, some nonprofits and a golf clubs supplier. This not only encourages HANC’s solutions but also encourages more hits to its customers. HANC’s web page gets 900 to 1,000 hits a month. All its kept sites, together, average about 1,500 hits each day.
PULLING IT TOGETHER
Inspite of the firm’s technical sophistication, Motherway utilizes a number of the programs that are same 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 invested about $20,000 on its host hardware.
HANC’s IT staff trains others within the firm 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 technological skills are homegrown,” stated Hungerford. “The IT staff keeps up with the literature so we’re looking into certification on some Microsoft products. But most of our Internet knowledge is self-taught.” Hungerford, Walraven and Motherway have proceeded their technological education after college.
Later on, Hungerford, Aldrin, Nichols & Carter intends to help its clients be much more sophisticated on the net. Hungerford stated that even though the company’s clients had been satisfied with the marketing abilities associated with the Web, they would be looking beyond to using the Web to actually provide services. HANC is working on solving security issues to make online stores and email transactions practical. Fundamentally, the company plans to help clients setup their own servers. “We see the Internet as a huge consulting area,” stated Hungerford.
Meanwhile the firm is expanding into other areas aswell, including litigation solutions and fraud investigations. Many conventional businesses — HANC ended up being launched in 1941 — found myself in IT consulting as a sideline to services that are traditional. But as traditional and new services meet at HANC, the company finds itself doing a 180″ turn. Said Walraven, “We now hope to seu more traditional accounting services to the brand new webpage chients.”