#onlinestartup: Essential tools and skills for a successful online business startup

As I was working on my Q2 VAT return I was wondering what I would post about today – I was using excel, textedit, MySQL, phpmyadmin and cpanel to create the documents I needed to send off to our accountancy firm and thought, well, what are the essential components of a successful online business?

One of the things that immediately struck me was that aside from a wide skillset, which is the IP we work from, everything we use is either open source / free or priced at a marginal cost to the business. In other words, for anyone to set up an online business, all they need are the skills and the time, the rest is readily available if they have connectivity and a computer or even a tablet.

My second thought was that actually we do have some software which we have had to purchase, mostly the Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign … ) but there are open source alternatives freely available.

I’ve listed everything below. Some of it is generic, some is specific – like the hosting solutions we use – how we knit it all together to create a market-leading business like Dunans Castle Limited, is another matter 😉

Foundation for online presence:

  • Open Source software – Linux / Apache / MySQL* / PHP*
  • Domain registrars: Bluehost.com (Top Level Domains) and 123-reg (UK domains)
  • Hosting solution: Mediatemple (US) and UnitedHosting (UK)

Maintaining online presence:

  • WordPress* including:
  • Cpanel* (maintaining the server)
  • phpmyadmin*
    • for website health
    • for customer metrics
    • for essential metadata

Communications & Marketing:

Spreadsheet / Word Processor

  • Excel for detailed cashflow analysis
  • Google spreadsheets for shared information
  • Word for compatibility
  • TextEdit or Textmate for csv, text & sql manipulation

Shared Information

  • Dropbox – for shared proprietory documents eg. .ai, .psd, .pdf, .jpg
  • Google Drive – for shared non-proprietory docs eg. simple spreadsheets and collaborative how-tos
  • Google Calendar for scheduling

Proprietory Software

  • Illustrator
  • Photoshop
  • Microsoft Office

* skills or competencies which can take several years to acquire.



@TWTC website design refreshed with visually edgier theme, giving better access to all of the TWTC content

twtc-newFor the last couple of years the TWTC website has been using a theme from Pagelines which has served us well. However, we started to hit its limits when the number of pages on the website exceed the menu functionalities capacity (128 pages, I think!). So it was back to the drawing board, or rather back to adapting one of WP’s venerable themes. Twenty Twelve lent itself readily and along with a sliding image plugin and some nifty CSS work, the website now looks spiffing and works properly…

… well mostly, Firefox, is good, but the webkit browsers Safari and Chrome are not rendering the sliding images at the correct width. I’ll be working on this over the next few days so check back then (those of you with webkit browsers that is!)


Setting up CCC to keep up with activity on a daily basis and to distribute to Twitter and FB