Magazine article The CPA Journal

How Accountants Can Use the Internet

Magazine article The CPA Journal

How Accountants Can Use the Internet

Article excerpt

The information superhighway, known as the Internet, provides a new way for accountants to access business information.

WHAT IS THE INTERNET?

The Internet is a computer network whose tentacles reach around the world. Exhibit I illustrates its enormous size.(Exhibit 1 omitted)

Individuals who use the Internet (users) come from a broad spectrum of educational, governmental, not-for-profit, and commercial enterprises. These users can exchange e-mail, participate in nearly 3,000 special topic discussion groups, and access information databases and programs at various computer sites connected to the Internet (servers).

The Internet is made possible through the cooperative effort of its members. The Internet works effectively because each participating computer network connects to the Internet with common communication protocols, i.e., conventions for electronically transferring data and accessing information. These protocols provide the common denominator that gives users the means of accessing many remote and diverse locations. Accordingly, users see the Internet as one big computer.

Users connect to the Internet through one of two types of Internet providers. First, users may be members of an organization, such as a corporation or university, that has a telecommunications connection dedicated to the Internet. These organizations pay as much as $50,000 to $100,000 for up-front charges, hardware, software, and support personnel to manage their Internet connection. Monthly maintenance charges can run as high as $2,000 (Source: Computerworld, September 5, 1994). The second way is to subscribe to a commercial service such as America Online, CompuServe, Delphi, or Netcom, or Prodigy. Users of these services typically pay an initial connection charge, a small monthly maintenance fee ($10-$30), and a charge based on usage.

PROTOCOLS FOR USING THE INTERNET

Users employ the Internet to communicate with individuals, or to access data and programs at other Internet servers. Exhibit 2 describes two communication protocols and four access protocols.(Exhibit 2 omitted) Communication between users is accomplished directly through "e-mail" or indirectly through "usenet." Users access databases and servers through several different protocols. Four of the most common are Gopher, World Wide Web, Telnet, and FTP. Each server determines the protocol needed to access its site.

The software necessary to implement these protocols is distributed between the users' and Internet providers' computers. The actual implementation may vary slightly from the examples presented here.

E-mail. E-mail means electronic mail. Users type messages and send them directly to other individuals who have Internet connections. E-mail users have electronic mailboxes that receive and hold their messages until they are read. The users may then delete the messages or save them for future reference.

E-mail is "addressed" by specifying that a message should be sent to the user's identification code at a particular Internet site. This is possible because each Inter. net site is given a unique name. Likewise, each user of a site is assigned a unique identification code. The Internet's communication protocol is responsible for routing messages to the named site. For example, to send e-mail to the President of the U.S. a user will address the message to "president(at)whitehouse.gov." "Whitehouse.gov" is the name of the Internet site, "president" is the user's identification code, and "(at)" is the symbol used to connect these.

E-mail provides a useful link for communication within a company as well as between companies. This offers a low-cost alternative to telephone calls, facsimile, voice mail, or "snail mail" (Internet slang for regular postal delivery). Through the Internet, users can communicate with co-workers and clients, or even "reach out and touch someone" down the street or across an ocean. …

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