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Dell to build, manage small-business Web sites

The PC direct retailer launches a Web site hosting initiative for small businesses as it looks to draw new revenue from the services market.

Dell Computer today launched a Web site hosting initiative for small businesses, as the PC maker looks to draw new revenue from the services market.

The new service, called Dellhost.com, will help small businesses set up Web pages on Dell servers. Dell will support the new site with technical assistance and upgrades as soon as they roll off the shelves, a representative said.

Dell CEO Michael Dell first disclosed his company's interest in the hosted services market at last year's Comdex trade show.

Web hosting allows businesses to set up and run Web sites on servers housed in a separate location, like a data center, where the hosted service provider manages the servers. Through Web hosting, companies outsource the servers that run their e-businesses but maintain access to their site's information and content.

Pricing for the service will start at $17.95 a month. For companies that want to sell products online, hosting packages start at $29.95 a month for a basic service and go up to $134 a month for a premium service, the representative said.

Company executives said the Dell PowerEdge servers and PowerVault storage servers behind Dellhost.com run Microsoft's Windows NT operating system, as well as Red Hat's Linux variant.

Dell, like other players in the PC market, is looking to offset slowing PC sales through new markets. Dell is attempting to tap the growing number of small businesses that are turning to providers of Web site hosting services to handle their e-commerce transactions, instead of buying and managing their own systems.

Research firm International Data Corp. estimates that the Web hosting market for small and medium-sized businesses will reach $16 billion by 2003.

Dell's Web hosting business initially will be U.S.-based, with plans to expand to other regions later in the year. Dell is working with Web-hosting company Interliant to launch the new service.

Although longtime Dell partner Intel launched its own hosting backbone services last summer, including data centers housing servers built by Dell, company executives said they went with Interliant because its services fit better with small business needs.

"Intel's offering focuses on high-end Web sites, but that's not what we wanted to target," said Tim Mattox, vice president of Dellhosting.com. "We expect to see some larger companies come to Dellhost.com, but we will refer them to our friends at Intel."

The company has no plans to build its own data centers to support Dellhost.com, and it is looking into partnering with other Web hosting companies like Interliant to support the service.

"We believe providing Internet services is key to the Internet, and we want to be involved in that," said Mattox.