The information revolution : Applications

The last 20 years can be viewed as a sort of information revolution. Like the Industrial Revolution that radically changed the world a century ago, the computer age has also ushered in a new era. Computers have impacted business, industry, employment trends, and consumer behavior. Numerous jobs are now obsolete due to computers, and an increasing number of people spend their working hours sitting at a computer workstation. And, like the Industrial Revolution, the information revolution has produced numerous consumer benefits.

While the end user is happily sending and receiving data, behind the scenes, the telephone companies are investing millions of dollars building up these networks. They, in turn, bill their customers for all this data traffic. In 2000, telecom carriers billed their data networking customers more than $7 billion.

Applications
Commercial use of data networking falls into two categories: front-office applications and back-office applications. A dime store’s customers walk in the front door and its suppliers walk in the back door. Data networking applications are essentially the same. The front office handles customers, while the back office handles suppliers. Front-office applications concentrate on customer relationship management and include:

- Customer service;

- Point of sale systems;

- Call centers;

- Sales;

- E-commerce;

- Shipping.

Back-office applications concentrate on internal company business and external supplier relationships such as:

- Accounts payable;

- Inventory control;

- Accounts receivable;

- Logistics;

- Engineering;

- Manufacturing;

- General ledger accounting;

- Research and development;

- Human resources;

- Supply chain.

Distinguishing between front- and back-office applications is important to a network’s stability and security. Front-office applications are more “mission critical” to the success of the business. Consequently, the data network that handles front-office applications should be less prone to glitches, downtime, and security breaches.

Back-office applications also need to be secure and reliable, but the business suffers more when front-office applications crash, so they have priority. Just like the five-and-dime store, a company loses more business when its front door is broken than if its back door is broken.

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