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E-Commerce Essay, Research Paper

“Electronic Commerce” the slogan of our time seems to be the most popular subject of any business discussion today. International experts are sure that in the year 2000 at least about 10% of the world s trade will be handled via on-line services. All over the world companies will use electronic commerce solutions and will try to profit from this new potential. There is no doubt that Electronic Commerce needs a highly functional and effective network for communication. That s why in the sixties, when electronic data exchange began on private networks only, it was primarily affordable for big groups of companies or banks etc. However, with the increasing popularity of Internet, electronic commerce has become available for everybody, individual consumers as well as business companies of all sizes.

On the other hand many people regard electronic markets still as a vague and obscure area, which irritates with its tremendous possibilities and the incredible speed of technical revolutions. Surprisingly enough it is often among business people that you will find still a lot of reservations against electronic media and their commercial applications. The reason for this is mainly ignorance about the nature and function of the NET, the technical requirements and the big opportunities.

The Internet has caught on like wild fire. No one ever intended for it to be so commercially successful. In the beginning, its main purpose was to send and receive messages; no one anticipated that one-day people could buy books and cars over a computer. Though with the advancement of certain technologies, this has happened. E-commerce is a worldwide commodity that has taken the place of trips to the supermarket and has given us the freedom to conduct business at out house in our pajamas. Technical problems face all businesses today, but they are especially difficult for businesses based on the Internet. One technical difficulty can shut down a site for several hours, which means loss of business and customer trust. There are various technical problems that can disrupt services, or even completely shut a site down.

Supporting each web site and every transaction is a huge technological undertaking that can involve hundreds of computers, thousands of miles of network cable, hundreds of software programs and dozens of engineering employees, some of whom are upgrading systems on the fly. There are numerous points of vulnerability, ranging from the failure of multimillion-dollar mainframes, to programming errors, seemingly innocuous software glitches or human stumbles. For example, the site of SecureTax.com, a web site used by hundreds of thousands of customers to prepare and file taxes, crashed when a $200 network circuit card failed and in another instance in March because an employee tripped on a power cord.

One of the more major problems affecting web sites is not so much the threat of angering or losing customers, but the prospect of attracting new ones in droves. A flood of customers hitting a sit can cause the web server to lock up and/or shut down. Unfortunately its like leaving a car out in the cold all night, then climbing into it and revving it up to 100 miles per hour without warming it up. James M. Marks, E-commerce specialist and managing director at Deutsche Bank Securities in New York, said that Web site outages were largely a result of surges in traffic that seemed inconceivable a year ago (Richtel, 3). When the stock market opens, 30,000 visitors pour onto the Schwab site. Theoretically, Schwab’s site is currently designed to accommodate 264,000 simultaneous users.

Software glitches can be another difficulty when running an E-business. On Thursday, June 10, 1999, Ebay’s site crashed at 7:50 p.m. California time and did not return to service until 5:30pm the next day. Officials estimate losses to revenue at $3 million to $5 million during the blackout (Richtel, 3). The problem was a corrupted file used for listing auction items and submitting bids. Another example of how software glitches affect online business is Schwab, an online brokerage firm. On April 26, 1999, a program on one of the Schwab’s mainframe computer hit a snag and did what it was supposed to, call home. When the technician entered the command to remotely fix the problem, it frozen instead. The entire web site was down for more than 45 minutes during trading time.

Problems with Internet sites are not always the creators to manager of the web sites fault. The company that hosts the page can also be at fault. Infodial, a company that hosts web sites, assures its customers it can handle “unlimited databases”. In 1998, Jim Ames was running J3, an aspiring reseller that sold niche software on the Web. In his site he included a database of 46,000 records that customers could search through. The problem was that Infodial was using Microsoft Access, so sequential searches of that magnitude often “timed out” before a visitor found whatever he or she was looking for. Today, J3 is out of business for this reason and Ames is thinking of suing Infodial (Schindler, 1). The best way to overcome problems with Web hosting is to start small and then grow. The VP for Dell says, “E-commerce is like buying a puppy. It’s going to grow up into a big dog”.

The mischievous works of hackers wreak havoc on several web sites a day. Sometimes the shut web sited down, other times they just leave a mark letting you know they were there. No matter what the reason for the attack, hackers cause major headaches to both IT professional and security managers. Lately in the press, hacker attacks have been on government sites, such as the FBI, ARMY, and NAVY websites, but hackers also like to attack companies such as BellSouth. This past New Years Eve, when BellSouth employees and customers logged on to the company’s web site, they found a love letter from a hacker with the tag Zyklon to a girl named “Crystal” in place a company press release. Once the hack was discovered, the site was shut down and fixed within the hour. Since then, the path the hacker used to enter BellSouth s web site has been secured (Neil, 1).

References

Neil, Stephanie and Jim Kerstetter. “Cracking down on Web site hackers is full-time IT job”. www.zdnet.com/pcweek/stories/printme/0,4235,1014939,00.html

Richtel, Matt. “As E-Commerce Surges, So Do Technical Problems”. www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/06/biztech/articles/21tuff.html.

Schindler, Esther and Ben Elgin. “Nightmare on e-street–don t fall asleep”. www.zdnet.com/filters/printerfriendly/0,6061,406298-2.html.


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