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 dont 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
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.