Even after several years of doing business with commercial services like America Online, Jim Gonyea found it tough going when he decided to establish his business presence on the Internet. The big difficulty, from his point of view? Finding qualified, reliable Internet expertise. "It's almost like the used-car business," Gonyea says. "You can easily go out and spend several thousands of dollars and still not end up with an Internet site location."

His company, Gonyea & Associates, is a six-employee career-counseling firm based in New Port Richey, Fla., that provides counseling and develops on-line databases of help-wanted ads and rÉsumÉs. Both job hunters and employers pay to be listed in the databases.

When Gonyea first ventured to try the Internet, he joined forces with a career firm that had already established an Internet location. He gave it access to his database in exchange for an Internet presence. Both companies got technical support from the development firm that had built the site. However, as Gonyea quickly discovered, getting timely technical help from an outside service provider can be a dicey proposition. When the database had problems, Gonyea found himself waiting as long as a week to get them fixed. "Meanwhile, people can't search the data," he says, and "customers who paid to have their data put in there to be searched are screaming."

Finally, last November, Gonyea decided that his company, like so many others, should establish its own presence on the World Wide Web, the popular section of the Internet where businesses can create multimedia "home pages" that are linked to other Internet information. Gonyea chose a consultant whose own storefronts were widespread on the Internet. The bad news: Gonyea says the programmer assigned to his project quit within four weeks, and four weeks after that the second programmer quit as well. After spending several thousand dollars and, even worse, wasting four months, Gonyea himself gave up on the development firm.

Disgusted by the experience, Gonyea now intends to control his own Internet destiny. He's hired two programmers to help him set up his own connection to the Internet and Web site. The project, he estimates, will cost at least $30,000. That includes obtaining a high-speed data-transmission line (known as a T-1) from the phone company and purchasing specialized computers and software. A hassle? You bet, says Gonyea -- but he thinks it's worth it. "It'll take us more time and more money, but in the long run, we'll have more control," he says. "And that's the bottom line: you've got to get control of your data."