The dotcom crash vindicated a lot of business owners who were reluctant to spend the money necessary to bring their businesses to the Internet. However, business owners who are still waiting for the novelty of this "whole Internet thing" to die out might as well be waiting for the novelty of this "whole telephone thing" to do the same. Not merely the Internet, but the dramatic growth of reliable, always-on broadband Internet service has changed the way Americans live their lives, and in turn, do business.
Connecticut-based Jupiter Research reports that 88 million American households will be linked to the Internet by the year 2010, 78% of which will use broadband service. Already in 2004, there were 31.9 million households with broadband Internet connections. Rather than the slow, unreliable service of dial-up, DSL and cable-modem broadband provide immediate access to enhanced Web features. This immediate access makes it more likely that customers will go online to check a business's hours of operation, take a sneak-peak at a menu, see examples of a landscaper's work, or even get driving directions to a new store. Even for companies who will never sell a single thing online, having a website attracts customers and can add legitimacy to an unknown business.
To be sure, simply having a website does not insure a successful business. Many customers still prefer to speak with a live person rather than fill out an online form, and the lack of a flashy site doesn't make the local bakery's fresh apple pie taste any less delicious. However, for small businesses, having a website is similar to using chicken soup to treat a cold; it may not help, but it certainly can't hurt.