The growth of technology has tremendously affected how business is carried out throughout the world. Among other benefits, technology enables business enterprises to automate their operations, cut down operating expenses, improve marketing, and reach a wider market that extends beyond borders. One of the greatest technological developments of our time is the Internet. When Tim Berners-Lee came up with the idea of the World Wide Web, he did not envision what is happening today. The use of the Internet allows business enterprises to sell to customers who may be far away while customers are presented with choices as they source for what they need.
This paper looks at how business operations have changed over the years with the coming of the Internet. Specifically, the discussion will focus on the Internet as a disruptive technology, the evolution of the Internet, accessing Internet information, and providing Internet information.
Internet as a Disruptive Technology
The introduction of any new technology tends to disrupt the normal way of doing things. Undoubtedly, the invention of the Internet brought changes that pushed business enterprises to rethink their strategies of conducting business to survive (Laseter & Rabinovich, 2011). One of the characteristics of disruptive technology is the ability to create new markets which must be accompanied by the need for radical changes. While the Internet opened up an avenue to access a bigger market, it was up to the managers to ensure that business operations were streamlined to take advantage of new developments.
Although the cost of restructuring was quite prohibiting at first, business enterprises that undertook bold steps to make the necessary adjustments benefitted a great deal. There are some companies that have ignored disruptive technology when such technology appears not to support the company’s agenda. This notwithstanding, failure to embrace disruptive technology may lead to serious repercussions and massive loss of business to competitors. A business enterprise may lose out on the possibility of becoming more effective, reducing operational costs or capitalizing on the existence of new markets which may be created by the new technology.
According to Evans (2003), it is the need for competitive advantage that will prompt mainstream business enterprises to adopt new technological innovations. It is, however, important for a business enterprise to take time and evaluate emerging and disruptive technology to determine how it affects its operations.
Evolution of the Internet and the World Wide Web
Generally, the Internet is a global network of computers that communicate by following defined communication standards or protocols. The idea of the Internet began in the early 1960s during the cold war and was originally designed to be a communications system for the U.S. Department of Defense (Pastor-Satorras & Vespignani, 2007). Later it was used by scientists to exchange research data and communicate with one another. Eventually, the Internet was open for use by individuals and business enterprises. Presently, there are various bodies that are concerned with the operations of the Internet.
While the Internet is the infrastructure that supports operations, the World Wide Web refers to the collection of documents that reside on different servers across the world and accessible through the Internet. This is analogous to the idea of vehicles using the road to get to their destination. Without the road infrastructure, the vehicles will not be able to move and simply useless. Similarly, the World Wide Web is only useful if a reliable Internet infrastructure exists. Principally, the Internet uses a client/server model with servers scattered everywhere. A server may refer to hardware or software and is usually configured to provide services to client machines. A client, on the other hand, is either hardware or software that accesses services from the server. Ordinarily, client machines are used by users to access resources stored in different servers.
Accessing and Providing Information through the Internet
As pointed out earlier, the Internet comprises of servers configured to offer services to clients. According to Chadwick and Howard (2010), the Internet has become an increasingly important source of information. It has greatly simplified the process of accessing when needed, and it has also made it easy for content providers to pass information to those who may be interested. The challenge, however, is to guarantee equal access to information (Ershova and Hohlov, 2002).
Companies may use intranets, extranets, portals, or kiosks to access information. A user requires a computer, telecommunication equipment, and the services of an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to gain access to information. The ISP offers several services that enable customers to connect to the Internet and access data as well as other available services. Users also need web browser software to access information through the Internet.
The provision of information through the Internet may be done in several ways, and service providers play a big role in ensuring that the delivery of the information is successful. Depending on the approach taken, the provider may or may not need a server machine to store and provide access to information. Normally, the act of providing information to users is known as hosting. Internet content providers may choose from several web hosting options depending on their specific needs. While a content provider may opt for personal web hosting services, this is quite costly and requires specialized skills to succeed. Other available options are co-located server, dedicated server, and free web hosting web services.
Effect of the Internet on Business
Since its inception, the Internet has been widely adopted by business enterprises across the world. Unlike in the olden days, most business transactions are today carried out over the Internet. However, the effect of the Internet on business operations may be positive or negative.
One of the positive effects of the Internet on business enterprises is improved networking (Vallee, 1999). Businesses can now use extranets to exchange information with business partners and as a result, improve reduce the response time. The Internet also presents businesses with a global market environment. While this comes with administrative challenges, it allows business enterprises to reach many customers and increase their profitability. Unlike in a traditional business setup, buying through the Internet enables customers to have access to products from many suppliers.
This creates competition among providers and compels them to produce high-quality products at very affordable prices. The Internet also facilitates flexibility at the work place such that employees may be allowed to work away from the office. To a certain degree, this acts as a form of motivation for employees and causes them to give their best. Communication through the Internet also enables employees to collaborate on work tasks regardless of where they may be located geographically.
Negative aspects of the Internet on business include theft of important business information. When the data ends up in the wrong hands, it may be used against a business enterprise to bring it’s down. Security is also a major concern for businesses that depend heavily on the Internet to transact. Because of the existence of numerous security threats targeting Internet-based businesses, businesses have to invest heavily in securing their transactions over the Internet. A business enterprise may also lose production time because of employees spending so much time using the Internet for things that do not add value to the performance of the business. The Internet also creates very stiff competition since customers have the freedom to purchase whatever they need from anywhere across the world. Business enterprises thus face competition from all over the world and have to do everything possible to retain customers and attract new ones. The information provided through the Internet may also be misleading, and this can affect both businesses as well as individual customers.
Unlike any other invention, the Internet has transformed our lives. It has simplified interaction and greatly revolutionized the way business is conducted. As has been discussed in this paper, the Internet has positive as well as negative effects on business operations. While it opens up the market for a business enterprise, it presents security challenges that must be dealt with.
Regardless of the negative effects, the Internet has greatly improved the way business is conducted. Communication between business enterprises and their partners has been enhanced, and so much information is available for business to carry out research and to improve their operations.
Chadwick, A. & Howard, P. N. (2010). Routledge Handbook of Internet Politics. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.
Evans, N. D. (2003). Business Innovation and Disruptive Technology: Harnessing the Power of Breakthrough Technology for Competitive Advantage. Upper Saddle River, NJ: FT Press.
Ershova, T. V. & Hohlov, Y. E. (2002). Libraries in the Information Society. The Hague, Netherlands: Walter de Gruyter.
Laseter, T. M. & Rabinovich, E. (2011). Internet Retail Operations: Integrating Theory and Practice for Managers. Florida: CRC Press.
Pastor-Satorras, R. & Vespignani, A. (2007). Evolution and Structure of the Internet: A Statistical Physics Approach. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Vallee, D. (1999). Leading Your Business into the Future with the Internet. Florida: CRC Press.