Risks of Doing Business Online

Over 40 percent of the world's population uses the Internet. Your potential to reach your existing and new customers expands when you get online, too. You'll be able to sell your product anywhere you can ship it, meet virtually with clients from around the globe, connect personally with customers and share important information about your business, including the hours you're open or your menu. Today, being online is almost essential for a small business, but there are risks. Before you run to set up a website, social media accounts and e-commerce site, learn about the risks of doing business online.

Internet Security

When you collect personal information, including addresses and credit card numbers, you have the responsibility to protect that data. Hackers who target your website could gain access to sensitive information and put you at risk for a lawsuit. Understand firewalls and other protections you need and have them in place before you open for business.


Depending on what goods and services you offer, you may be prohibited from selling or shipping to certain areas. You'll also need to collect and pay taxes, which vary by country, state and even city. Be sure you understand the laws before you do business online.


Accepting credit cards or bank information over the phone is risky. You don't know if the person buying the item actually owns that financial information. You also could also receive false shipping information, which means you lose that merchandise and its income.

Time Commitment

Remember that you'll need to update your online profile regularly so that your information is fresh and accurate. Be prepared for trolls, too, as your audience expands. These activities require time, so decide now if you have enough time to handle an online presence.


Your website, blog and social media posts compete with thousands of other voices for attention. If you don't use the right keywords, no one will find you, and you'll be wasting your money. Be sure you have the right resources to maintain your company's searchability before you commit to going online.

Ongoing Cost

In addition to paying for your website and web hosting, you'll need to pay someone to update your online presence regularly. Consider whether or not you can afford this expense and if it will improve your bottom line.

Your small business can benefit from a website, e-commerce site and social media accounts. Know the risks and prepare accordingly to ensure you and your customers are protected.
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