Small retailers who want to take their companies online can now build a store on the Web for free with a new service from FastCommerce.com. Business owners follow a simple step-by-step process to create a store template, and can have their online businesses up and running in a short amount of time.

FastCommerce.com provides business owners with a fully integrated package on the Web that allows them to run their entire operations -- from order processing to sales to inventory control -- without purchasing additional computer software. Online businesses can also customize their storefront with other applications available on FastCommerce.com, including order management and customer management, shipping rate calculator for UPS and FedEx shipments, and automatic e-mails for order confirmations.   

The service is free for the first 250 products posted. For online businesses with more than 250 products, a monthly subscription fee applies. For more information, visit www.fastcommerce.com.

A New Kind of 411

When it comes to choosing the right phone system for a small business, most entrepreneurs face hundreds of possible providers and an excess of technical jargon about what the system will deliver. A new blog, www.Small-Business-Phone.com, aims to provide start-ups and entrepreneurs with straight-forward reviews about the best virtual voice and fax solutions for their business without the "geek-speak."

Small-Business-Phone.com offers entrepreneurs a simple way to understand the functions of a small business phone system, or Virtual PBX, so that they can choose the best fit for their business. In addition to in-depth reviews, the blog includes a layman's tutorial of Virtual PBX's, as well as a glossary of phone system and telecommunications terms. Small-Business-Phone.com also provides readers with simple money-saving tips on which systems are a better buy.

"Small-Business-Phone.com takes the confusion out of the process and recommends the best and brightest of Virtual PBX's, call forwarding solutions, Internet fax services, and more," J.B. Malik, blog founder and editor-in-chief, said in a statement. For more information, visit www.Small-Business-Phone.com.

Running the Numbers

The Census Bureau has launched a new website, www.business.census.gov, designed to help business owners make sense of economic Census data -- and use the statistics to their advantage. The site features industry snapshots, a compilation of basic facts and figures on various industries that business owners can use to plan a marketing strategy or to understand their target industry. Business owners can also find suggestions for other ways that Census data can aid their business.

The new site also seeks to educate business owners about the upcoming economic Census survey. The economic Census is conducted every five years and more than 4 million businesses will receive forms later this year to submit in December. The site explains to business owners how to prepare for the survey and what information is needed for the Census forms.