No brick-and-mortar business owner thinks all the work is done the day a business opens its doors. Inventory must be ordered and adjusted. Customer lists need to updated; prices must be monitored.

Floors need to be swept, cash registers balanced and displays updated for the season.

Fall behind on mundane maintenance and the business will start to falter.

The concept is exactly the same with an Internet business. Web site maintenance is critical to proper operation. Without it, your customers will experience slow download times, broken links, and error messages that send them to your competition.

Here are some maintenance guidelines to keep your site up and selling.

Anyone Home?

Read and respond to e-mail promptly. Studies have shown customers expect responses to their e-mail messages within an hour. Even if it's just to say, "I know about the situation and I'm working on it," get back to them quickly.

Depending on the volume, designate one or more employees to handle this task. Develop standardized messages that can be sent with little or no modification.

Monitor your site's transaction performance. Walk through a logical business transaction and make sure the process is working. "It's a one- or two-minute task," said Mike Killian, a product manager with CompuWare, "but if you don't do it, you'll be the last to know. If you're in business on the Web, you can't afford downtime."

Update any new content information. This could be changes in prices or sales, the addition of new items, changes in model numbers, discontinued items -- you name it.

Check all sections of your site to make sure they work as expected. Read your error reports and check for broken links. Web Site Garage, Dr. Watson, and HTML Tidy are among site checkers that will look for broken links and rate your site at no charge.

Daily Duties

Back up the day's critical files: the shopping cart database and all your e-mail.

Read the daily logs from your Web host. These include error logs, analysis of where your hits originate, and, if they're search engine logs, which keywords are used.