E-commerce has become the most talked about subject in the past year and yet there appears to be an air of high-tech mystery and high cost surrounding the implementation of e-commerce technology.
Yet there are a number of sources of information that you can use to help yourself along the route. The most accessible is your business bank manager.
He or she can help you get in contact with the bank's e-commerce department.
Which will be able to provide you with most of the information you will require to start investigating an e-commerce solution for your business.
If your bank does not allow e-commerce then find yourself a bank that will.
Three points to watch for:
1. Don't even consider e-commerce unless you currently have credit-card transaction facilities. Nobody, and I mean nobody, orders across the Net without using a credit card.
2. In choosing your e-commerce payment system, choose wisely. Real-time online transactions may work well if you can always guarantee the product you are selling is in stock, offline transaction processing may be better if you have a more unreliable supply chain.
3. When choosing your hosting company, ensure that the hosting company can handle increases in bandwidth requirements as your site becomes popular.
Saving yourself £100 a year by hosting with a company that will not be able to handle the bandwidth will mean you loose out on revenue as people turn away from your site.
And two words of encouragement:
1. A satisfied customer is a repeat customer, guaranteed (plus all their friends).
2. With the right supply agreements with your suppliers, the Net enables you to have a policy of "zero stock".
E-commerce is simply the most cost effective and efficient way for a company to grow. So give your bank a call today.
BT putting us on hold
The future is the Internet: e-commerce, entertainment, software distribution and so on. However if you live in the UK you have no chance of being part of this future.
BT's near-monopoly of the telecoms market is stopping us from developing and keeping up with the US. For most users of the Internet, time is of the essence due to the phone charges. It is therefore impractical to download IE5 using a modem because it will probably cost more than buying the CD direct from Microsoft.
BT recently announced free weekend calls. Free? Free if you paying the £12 a month for an unlimited plan, and which average user is going to commit themselves to £12 a month for a year when they can get the same service for free (minus the free weekend calls).
That's not all. BT is even making high-speed access to the Internet unreasonable for most users. Home Highway costs £12 a month and installation costs, and if you want to use the maximum capacity of 128Kb you actually pay for your calls twice because your are using two x 64Kb lines.
If BT is not careful someone is going to perfect data transfer over copper cables and we will no longer need to pay phone bills to use the Net.
I am not even going to mention the subject of the slow development of voice-over-IP for long distance communications.
A topic that I feel I must raise is that of digital convergence.
There has been a lot of talk over the past year about computers being in everything from televisions to toasters, so that the user can connect many devices together. So if they are introduced to a new device they will know how to use it as the interface would be similar to that of another device.
This will only be possible if everything uses the same standards and protocols, and as it stands, it will be a lot longer than a few years off.
If you think about it, for every format or standard, there is an opposite, totally incompatible one that either requires new hardware or new software.
For example, there are so many different types of DVD that most types of DVD won't be usable on a standard player.
There are several types of CDs, there is the Bluetooth system and another one, MP3s and yet another (Microsoft) format. Then there is Java - a language that isn't supposed to change between formats - and other Microsoft variants Direct3D and OpenGL, lots of different operating systems, even for handhelds, and so many different types of SCSI.
So, if there is to be any sort of convergence, it will not be soon and is far less likely in the future as more large companies see the benefit of making new formats and protocols.
The best time to have done it would have been years ago when most computers were the same.
What are we to do with all the software on the market today? With so many computers widely available, competing with in-house entertainment, software is now everywhere.
I am inundated with CDs, cover disks, demos, free trials, samples and so on, all of which are now surplus to requirement, and used only as a decorative display, complementing my hi-fi.
Nevertheless, my 12-year-old grand-daughter, who by the way is highly thought of by her school friends for her courageous approach to the school's computer, suggested that I should decorate the hallway with all of my CDs.
All it takes, so she says, is imagination and Blu-tack.
Candle in the wind
I see that a certaib church is sending a "Millennium Candle" to every household for people to light just before midnight on New Year's Eve.
A nice gesture so we can all spend a few sober moments reflecting on our lives?
Or is it that a "higher being" (not Bill Gates) is more aware of the Y2K effects to the National Grid?
Oh well, I'd better finish off the lager by candlelight before the fridge warms up.
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