Technology has transformed business processes globally. Today, e-commerce, which is a trade done on the Internet, has grown beyond purchasing and selling to include customer service and relationship management with other associates. Many organizations have noted that Web sites can generate values through innovation and offer useful information to users. Thus, Web sites have gone beyond their basic usages to create an enhanced sense of community, collaboration, and business platforms for revenue generation. It is imperative for an individual to understand basic aspects of of e-business, which include disruptive technology, the evolution of the Internet, accessing Internet information, and providing Internet information. This is a short review of accessing Internet information as a part of the e-business aspects and its rationale as a topic of study.
Accessing Internet Information
The Internet is a major r tool for sharing and accessing information across organizations. Moreover, growths in the Internet technologies and reliance on data to drive business processes and decisions have become critical aspects of new forms businesses.
Companies rely on intranets to facilitate internal communications among employees. Without the intranet, many large organizations experienced communication breakdown across their multiple business units. Some of the challenges included the following:
- Failure to communicate important news and information in a timely and consistent fashion
- Failure to articulate business objectives and priorities
- Over-reliance on some means of communication
- In some instances, the information could be irrelevant, inaccurate, not current, difficult to find, and required users to have the technical expertise to retrieve them
- Some intranets did not have formal and broad governance mechanisms to control intranet usages and methods of including several diverse views of stakeholders. This is an acceptable usage policy.
Organizations, which have recognized the intranet as a critical aspect of a business system that supports business processes, have noted an improvement in communications. Therefore, the intranet became a larger part of organizational communication strategies. In other words, intranet had to address e-mail communications, communications between employees and managers. There are four main tools for accessing Internet information.
An intranet is a part of the Internet platform that facilitates internal communication, and it is inaccessible to external parties. Only employees of an organization can use the intranet to gain access to information and application software. It offers access to information and acts as a central point for gaining access to organizational data. This platform can accommodate any form of data that an organization wishes to host and publish to employees.
Users can rely on familiar Internet tools like Web browsers, newsreaders, and e-mail to gain access to the intranet.
Firms that rely on the intranet have noted significant returns on investment (RIO) by making information available to their employees (Callaghan, 2002).
Different organizations use the intranet for diverse purposes. For instance, Bell Canada uses the intranet to enhance information access, create, share, and use information across business units. Based on the nature of the organization, the intranet can be deployed to enhance accuracy, improve the speed of communication, indicate information details, retrieve important data to support customer service, provide current information, and save costs among others (Lee, 2003).
An extranet platform is accessible to important business associates of an organization. These may include customers, suppliers, and other external stakeholders. Several organizations have noted benefits associated with providing people outside firm access to their intranet-based data and application systems. For instance, firms have order processing platforms for external stakeholders. It acts as a common platform where employees, vendors, customers, and suppliers can gain access to relevant information. This is a means of creating a competitive advantage in a company (Hemmatfar, Salehi, and Bayat, 2010). Wal-Mart’s customers can gain access to detailed product information through its extranet. Consequently, it can manage the supply chain and inventories effectively.
A portal is a technology, which allows users to gain access to information. It is a Web site with various forms of information and services, including communication and search engines platforms among others.
eBay, Amazon.com, and Alibaba have relied on their portals to transform retail business processes across the globe. Also, companies have established a niche or specialized portals for specific products and services.
Companies use portals to save costs of operations. High-speed Internet access can facilitate global communication and service provisions.
A kiosk is a computer platform that is available to everyone, and users use a keyboard or other input devices for searching for information. The system runs on a full-screen mode, but the operating system is inaccessible to users.
Companies use kiosks to enhance customer experience and sell their products. They update their kiosks with different features and services to enhance functionality. Customers can manage their accounts from such features in kiosks.
Providing Internet Information
Internet service providers are responsible for offering access to Internet information. The organization may find it necessary to outsource certain aspects of Internet-based services to other partners as a means of enhancing efficiency and saving costs (Gewald, 2010). There are three main forms of service providers, which include:
The Internet service provider (ISP)
ISPs are firms that offer Internet access and other related services like Web building to individuals and businesses. ISPs have equipment and infrastructures required to offer Internet services to different geographic areas. Large ISP firms do not depend on telecommunication firms for communication lines. Some of the ISP firms include Bell Internet, Telus, and Cogeco, among others.
The wireless Internet service provider (WISP) offers subscribers opportunities to connect to the Internet at specific hot spots or access points through wireless devices like modems.
The main ISP services include Web hosting, storage space, 24/7 site availability, and support. T-Mobile is an example of WISP, which offers convenience in Internet accessibility.
Online service provider (OSP)
An OSP offers various forms of unique services, include Web browsers. While ISPs offer Internet connectivity, OSPs provide Internet access and online contents to users.
The application service provider (ASP)
An ASP is a firm that provides access over Internet services and related services to companies. These services are mainly outsourced, and service providers manage companies’ business processes, such as operations, maintenance, and upgrade responsibilities of a system.
A major critical aspect of an ASP contract is the service level agreement (SLA). In the SLA, service providers must identify and define their specific responsibilities and commit to meet their customers’ needs. The most important aspects of SLA include availability, accessibility, maintenance, performance, backup and recovery, upgrade, equipment ownership, software ownership, confidentiality, security, and privacy.
Discussion with a focus on learning outcomes
- Learners should understand the evolution of e-business and its impacts on modern organizations. The growth in Internet technologies and the use of information to drive business decisions will continue to influence organizations. Thus, knowledge of Internet functions and applications is imperative for learners.
- Challenges with accessing Internet information
- It is imperative for learners to understand the factors that resulted in the development of intranet usages in organizations. As organizations acquire technical expertise and relevant tools, such challenges decline. Therefore, many companies noted that they could use the intranet to improve accuracy, speed of communication, indicate information details, retrieve important data to support customer service, provide current information, and save costs among others.
- Tools for accessing the Internet
- At the end of the course, learners should be able to identify and define different tools used in accessing Internet information. These are intranet, extranet, portal, and kiosk. These tools enhance the user experience, communication, gathering, and sharing of information. Further usages indicate that organizations deploy their Internet access tools to manage the supply chain (Stambro Svartbo, 2002), create competitive advantage, and achieve returns on investments.
- Learners should understand different modes of providing Internet information.
- ISP, WSP, OSP, and ASP offer various modes of gaining access to Internet information. Internet services from these providers differ. Some organizations have achieved efficiency in operations, cost-saving, and customer experience through outsourcing their Internet services to service providers.
- Learners must understand the relationship between service providers and organizations.
Service level agreements (SLAs) account for availability, accessibility, maintenance, performance, backup, and recovery, upgrade, equipment ownership, software ownership, confidentiality, security, and privacy. Some studies noted that aggressive and competitive marketplace required organizations to include SLA in their processes, differentiate users based on “information requirement, response time, or system availability to make their business more idiosyncratic” (Mahmood et al., 2007).
Callaghan, J. (2002). Inside Intranets & Extranets: Knowledge Management and the Struggle for Power. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Gewald, H. (2010). The perceived benefits of business process outsourcing: An empirical study of the German banking industry. Strategic Outsourcing: An International Journal, 3(2), 89-105. Web.
Hemmatfar, M., Salehi, M., and Bayat, M. (2010). Competitive Advantages and Strategic Information Systems. International Journal of Business and Management, 5(7), 158-169.
Lee, S. (2003). Business use of Internet-based information systems: the case of Korea. European Journal of Information Systems, 12, 168–181. Web.
Mahmood, K., Niki, S., Nakahara, Y., Lu, X., Luque, I., and Mori, K. (2007). Proceedings from International Symposium on Autonomous Decentralized Systems (ISADS 2007): Autonomous Real-Time Navigation for Service Level Agreement in Distributed Information Service System. Sedona, AZ, USA: DBLP.
Stambro, R., and Svartbo, E. (2002). Extranet Use in Supply Chain Management: A case study of three companies. Web.