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How I Use the Internet
October 2000

Russell James is Operations Manager at BJ Associates of San Antonio. They are an authorized service center for Toshiba and Sony systems. They are the laptop specialist and also handle system builds and parts for desktops. They can take care of any IBM compatible hardware or software problem that you have.

What is the Internet and what can it do for you. This is the question that we as computer users should be asking ourselves. It can be a number of different things to many different people. In the computer sales and service business, we use the Internet an enormous amount throughout each day. We use the Internet to look for newer versions of device drivers for the systems that we are working on and building. The Internet is used to search for replacement parts for some of the laptops that are brought in for repair. Shopping with vendors for customer requested and difficult to find products is only a touch of the keyboard away. We use the Internet to process orders and claims for some of the companies that we do business with. Most of you may not be in the computer business but more than likely the Internet has made an impact on the way you do business.

 Many of the companies that we deal with have been moving to the Internet for a number of years now. With the advances in the Internet technologies, we are now seeing more and more real time processing of orders, claims and other items on the web. When the move began, most of the business was conducted on our computers at the office and then we would have to call up a bulletin board on a daily, weekly or monthly basis to send the orders or claims to the companies that we deal with. In the case of our company, we would upload on a daily basis so that the orders we needed would be shipped to us. Then we would have to download on a weekly basis so that we could receive the software updates. This would keep our catalogs, parts and price list current. This was all taken care of with the old 28.8 modems that were prevalent at that time. We had a modem on the computer in the office that took care of the orders. That was the only employee who needed to be connected to the Internet on a regular basis.

Some of the companies that we deal with now have changed the software to be 100 percent on the Internet. They use Active X programs to run the software that is needed to administer the claims and orders. We can check warranty status for a computer on the Internet in a couple of minutes. That used to take at least 30 minutes to get through the voice mail jungle of the big company phone system. We can place orders for the parts that we need to fix the systems. When we place the orders, it is impossible to order the wrong part because we are using the company database to choose the parts. There is much less chance for human error now.

The problem with this move to the Internet is that now all of the systems in the office need to be connected. The luxury of having everyone connected to the Internet through the network has become a necessity. The companies that we deal with have an enormous amount of data available on their websites. We can have notification of new products and information about current and older lines of merchandise. There is no need to deal with cumbersome paper catalogs of the past. Most of the companies have a search engine built into their web page. There is not even a need to go browsing through the pages to find what you need. Search for the description, and you will probably come up with a few links that will take you directly to the product that you are looking for. The amount of time that we have to spend taking care of some of the menial tasks of the past has been cut to a fraction of what it used to be.

With these software advances and increase in the amount of data available comes another problem. An entire office staff checking email, browsing product literature and placing orders at the same time, can really slow down that 56kbps modem connection. Now you not only have to make sure that they can all take care of their jobs through the network connection but now we need to do something about the speed. Time is money so here comes the cable modem. 

These same advances can help you in your daily travels. Microsoft would like us to buy all of their software off the net in the future. The idea is that you would only have to pay for what you need to use instead of having to buy the whole package. Mcafee has already started to offer this with their Mcafee Clinic. The main selling point is that their browser-based applications are easy to use and take up less space on your home PC. You are paying a yearly charge for the software, and they take care of keeping it updated. Every time you connect to the Internet, the software checks with the Mcafee website to see if there has been an update. If an update is detected, it will be downloaded and installed for you. One less thing for us to remember. Mcafee has a trial version available and is running a special price of $19.95 year. This seems like a small price to pay for virus protection. The program has Viruscan, Uninstaller, First Aid and Oil Change included in the price. The entire suite of programs is hosted on the Mcafee site and you don’t have to remember anything except to pay the bill each year. They also have a Personal Firewall and Wireless Security Center that are available on the same type of arrangement as the Mcafee Clinic.

Another great service that is being offered is free online file storage. Driveway.com offers 100mb of space for you to backup your files onto their servers through your Internet connection. The files are password protected so that only you can access them. You can also use this service to store files so that you can access them from any computer that has an Internet connection. The company takes care of the security of the site as well as the safeguarding of the data while it is on their servers. This would be a great idea for families that live in different parts of the world. You can share the data that you place on the web with anyone that you choose. Photographs of a new arrival could be instantly shared with out of town relatives. For work related projects, you could use the service to keep all the files in the same place so that everyone involved with the project would know where to find the most current versions. There are a number of companies that offer the same type of services. I was surprised to find a company that is charging $99 a year for the same thing that Driveway.com is giving away free

Along the same line as the photos would be the ability to use the web to place long distance phone calls. Dialpad.com and Phonefree.com are free services that allow you to use your Internet connection to place PC phone calls to any regular number within the continental United States. They also offer PC to PC calls anywhere in the world. The quality is not as good as a phone-to-phone connection but the price is right. The faster your Internet connection, the better the quality of the call. This would be a great service to keep in touch with family members around the world. There are also services like Netmeeting or CuSeeme.com that will allow you to use your PC camera to send and view video from anywhere around the world. 

Probably the biggest explosion to the Internet has been the financial services industry. Internet stock trading was all the rage until the Tech sector fell from grace a few months ago. The prices that we had to pay to buy and sell stock were cut dramatically with the advent of the Internet brokerages. If you need to have the advise of a broker, you can pay a higher price for the privilege to talk to them first. Other times you just want to place the trade and donít need any advice. These are the times that the Internet trades come in handy. Fast, efficient and the least expensive of all the options available.

Internet banking has come a long way in the last few years. Now we are able to get real time access to our accounts through the Internet. We are able to check balances, transfer funds, order checks and numerous other tasks that would have taken a lot longer over the phone. It takes about two minutes to login to my bank account on the web and make a transfer, compared with the thirty minutes that it used to take on the phone.

These are but a few of the many things that the advance of web technology has made possible. The future of the Internet seems to be an endless journey. The old adage that whatever the mind can conceive, man can achieve, seems to hold true. There doesnít seem to be an end to the possibilities that are available. Just think of the Internet as a never ending classified ad section. If you desire a product or service, there is likely someone on the Internet willing to provide it. There is even a company to complete your unfinished craft project. Referrals from friends can be an excellent source to aid you in becoming a savvy web consumer, however, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

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