I think, since I am not a business man, the most important issue in business is information. Information can be your products, the customer balances, the purchasing status. I will present the way to present these information by using computers and networks. I may emphasize on the customers since that is the place where your money come from, but this same idea can be used to improve your organization as well. For example, instead of the information about your products, the information about company activity can be used for your employees.
If you want to use the network only inside your company, I expect that you have at least some kinds of networks already. Theoritically, you should be able to run TCP/IP on any kind of networks. After setting your TCP/IP connection, the rest should be the creative imagination to put the information on the Web. You can skip until almost the end of this section.
The main problem that usually occurred is the cost of building the networks. The Internet may be one choice to go for since there are many resources and supports. The Internet is also designed for a very wide area communication. The next problem is the cost of the Internet connections. My propose solution is to make a kind of intranet. I suggest that you build your own network . The network should be based on the Internet technology to help your life easier, since there are to many resources (software and hardware) for this kind of networks. It seems to be massy now, but actually the network that I am talking about can be implemented on one computer and a telephone line.
It seems to be too difficult to build your own network for small business. You can begin with one computer (I will call it as server) and let your customers dial-in to get the information their want. Since we try to solve the problem of leasing the Internet connection, we are not connecting with the main Internet.
For a bigger business, which has branches, you can do pretty much the same thing as the small business by setting the server at the head office. The new problem will arrive that your customers do not want to pay the long distance phone calls. You may have to pay more money to image your information to your branches so the customers can choose the cheapest way of connected to your information. If you need something online with the main office, you may need to have some lease lines, but this is not the big due since many companies have extra lease lines as an stand-by system for the other communication system. Is this going to effect the purpose of stand-by system. This may not be the main problem, since if we make this information services as an extra service for our customer. In the case that you need to use this stand-by line, you can turn off the on-line information system. If you don't want to interrupt your customers, I have no idea how to make it cheap yet.
"What is the benefit?" is the question that I should answer. My answer is that in the business world, you have to have the things that
Come to the implementation issue. There are many ways to implement it. One way (which seems to be simple for me) is to run a UNIX-based such as Linux. It is build-in the way to handle the telephone connection. I think this should be working fine. An easier way is to use MS Windows 95 which contains SLIP server on the distribution CD (my friend said that). Sorry that I haven't try it by myself, since I haven't have my own computer yet. The user interface can be done through the World Wide Web, since there are many utility to browse and to edit. By conclusion, you need only a computer with a modem and some free time.
Since I cannot demonstrate the feasible of the hardware implementation, I will demonstrate, actually just give an example of the thing that can be done.
The following links connect you to the real interesting places on the Internet. One thing that may different from the above strategy is that they connect to the real Internet. In my opinion, if you spend enough time, you should be able to do the same by using the above configuration which will give you a very good information for your customers.