How business can be supported by network applications


Stated in general terms, networks support businesses and other organizations in all types of functions. These functions fall into the following major categories discussed below;
Discovery
The Internet enables users to access information located in databases all over the world. By browsing and searching data sources on the Web, users can apply the Internet’s discovery capability to areas ranging from education to government services to entertainment to commerce. Although having access to all this information is a great benefit, it is critically important to realize that there is no quality assurance on information on the Web. The Web is truly democratic in that anyone can post information to it.


For example, anyone can edit a Wikipedia page (with some exceptions in controversial areas). Therefore, the fundamental rule about information on the Web is: User Beware! In addition, the Web’s major strength—the vast stores of information it contains—also presents a major challenge. The amount of information on the Web can be overwhelming, and it doubles approximately each year. As a result, navigating through the Web and gaining access to necessary information are becoming more and more difficult. To accomplish these tasks, people increasingly are using search engines, directories, and portals.

Search Engines and Metasearch Engines.
A search engine is a computer program that searches for specific information by key words and reports the results. A search engine maintains an index of billions of Web pages. It uses that index to find pages that match a set of user specified keywords. Such indexes are created and updated by webcrawlers, which are computer programs that browse the Web and create a copy of all visited pages. Search engines then index these pages to provide fast searches. People actually use four main search engines for almost all their searches: Google (www.google.com), Yahoo (www.yahoo.com), Microsoft Network (www.msn.com), and Ask (www.ask.com). However, there are an incredible number of other search engines that are quite useful, and many perform very specific searches.

Portals.
 Most organizations and their managers encounter information overload. Information is scattered across numerous documents, e-mail messages, and databases at different locations and systems. Finding relevant and accurate information is often time-consuming and may require users to access multiple systems. One solution to this problem is to use portals. A portal is a Web-based, personalized gateway to information and knowledge that provides relevant information from different IT systems and the Internet using advanced search and indexing techniques.

Commercial (public) portals are the most popular portals on the Internet. They are intended for broad and diverse audiences, and they offer fairly routine content, some in real time (for example, a stock ticker). Examples are Lycos (www.lycos.com) and Microsoft Network (www.msn.com).

As their name suggests, corporate portals offer a personalized single point of access through
a Web browser to critical business information located inside and outside an organization. These portals are also known as enterprise portals, information portals, or enterprise information portals. In addition to making it easier to find needed information, corporate portals offer customers and employees self-service opportunities. The illustration below provides a framework for corporate portals.


Communication
The second major category of network applications is communication. There are many types of communications, including e-mail, call centers, chat rooms, and voice.

Electronic Mail. Electronic mail (e-mail) is the largest-volume application running over the Internet. Studies have found that almost 90 percent of companies conduct business transactions via e-mail, and nearly 70 percent confirm that e-mail is tied to their means of generating revenue. In fact, for many users, e-mail has all but replaced the telephone.

Web-Based Call Centers. Effective personalized customer contact is becoming an important aspect of Web-based customer support. Such service is provided through Web-based call centers, also known as customer care centers. For example, if you need to contact a software vendor for technical support, you will usually be communicating with the vendor’s Web-based call center, using e-mail, a telephone conversation, or a simultaneous voice/Web session. Web-based call centers are sometimes located in foreign countries such as India.

Electronic Chat Rooms. Electronic chat refers to an arrangement in which participants exchange conversational messages in real time. A chat roomis a virtual meeting place where groups of regulars come to “gab.” Chat programs allow you to send messages to people who are connected to the same channel of communication at the same time. Anyone can join in the online conversation. Messages are displayed on your screen as they arrive, even if you are in the middle of typing a message.

There are two major types of chat programs. The first type is a Web-based chat program, which allows you to send messages to Internet users by using a Web browser and visiting a Web chat site (for example, http://chat.yahoo.com). The second type is an e-mail–based (text-only) program called Internet Relay Chat (IRC). A business can use IRC to interact with customers, provide online experts’ answers to questions, and so on.

Voice Communication. When people need to communicate with one another from a distance, they use the telephone more frequently than any other communication device. With the plain old telephone service (POTS), every call opened up a dedicated circuit for the duration of the call. (A dedicated circuit connects you to the person with whom you are talking and is devoted only to your call.). In contrast, the Internet divides data into packets, which traverse the Internet in random order and are reassembled at their destination.

With Internet telephony, also known as voice-over Internet protocol or VoIP, phone calls are treated as just another kind of data. That is, your analog voice signals are digitized, sectioned into packets, and then sent over the Internet. VoIP significantly reduces your monthly phone bills. In the past, to utilize VoIP, you needed a computer with a sound card and a microphone.

However, today you do not need special phones or headsets for your computer. Skype (www.skype.com) provides several free voice-over IP services: voice and video calls to users who also have Skype, instant messaging, short message service, voicemail, one-to-one and group chats, and conference calls with up to nine people.

Unified Communications. In the past, organizational networks for wired and wireless data, voice communications, and videoconferencing operated independently, and the IT department managed each separately. This situation led to higher costs and lower productivity. Unified communications (UC) simplifies and integrates all forms of communications—voice, voice mail, fax, chat, e-mail, instant messaging, short message service, presence (location) services, and videoconferencing—on a common hardware and software platform. Presence services enable users to know where their intended recipients are and if they are available in real time.UC unifies all forms of human and computer communications into a common user experience. For example, UC allows an individual to receive a voice-mail message and then read it in his e-mail inbox. In another example, UC enables users to seamlessly collaborate with another person on a project, regardless of where the users are located. One user could quickly locate the other user by accessing an interactive directory, determine if that user were available, engage in a text messaging session, and then escalate the session to a voice call or even a video call, all in real time.



{ 8 comments... read them below or add one }

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