Yahoo offers Web hosting for small businesses –

Yahoo Inc. is further expanding its premium services by offering Web hosting packages for small businesses, replete with corporate e-mail accounts, site building tools, storage and design templates.

The Web hosting services are being offered at "starter," "standard" and "professional" levels, but all three packages are aimed at small enterprises that require easy-to-use tools and services.

The Sunnyvale, California, Internet company officially launched the Web hosting packages Monday as just the latest in a range of premium services aimed at diversifying its business. The company has also rolled out premium e-mail and corporate instant message services, which have helped to move the company's financials into the black.

The Web hosting offerings are meant to build on Yahoo's five years of experience offering small business services, the company said.

The Business Starter package includes 10 personal e-mail addresses, 50M bytes of storage and 20G bytes of data transfer for US$11.95 a month, with a $15 setup fee. The Standard plan offers 25 e-mail accounts, 100M bytes of storage, 25G bytes of data transfer and 24-hour, seven-day-a-week customer support for $19.95 a month plus a $25 setup fee. The Professional plan, on the other hand, offers 35 e-mail accounts, 350M bytes of storage, 35G bytes of data transfer as well as customer service for $39.95 a month and a $25 setup fee.

The packages offer different levels of functionality, such as site building and authoring tools, design templates, PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) scripting and MySQL database services, Yahoo said.

The Starter plan, for instance, lets businesses use SiteWizards to build a static, multipage Web site with no coding required. Customers of the Standard and Professional plans can use templates, or write their own code, however.

Yahoo has made the small business market one of its key focuses, offering them domains, online store fronts, and targeted advertising services. With the integrated Web hosting tools and services, the company is hoping to grab more of the growing small enterprise market and become a one-stop online service provider.

"It's a leverage play," said Melanie Posey, an analyst with IDC.

IDC is a division of International Data Group Inc., the parent company of IDG News Service.

Posey said that Yahoo's new Web hosting services will be especially compelling for companies that already use the Internet giant's existing business services.

"What they are counting on initially is mining their existing customer base," she said.

The analyst added that there are still a wealth of small businesses that have yet to make the transition online. Yahoo's focus on ease of use will be particularly important for attracting businesses that have been intimidated by the technical aspects of working on the Web, she added.

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