Essay on Information Systems
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Sample Essay on Information Systems
The shape of the present day economy is the product of a process of massive changes and development that began over two centuries ago. Although the industrial paradigm was a success in terms of the prevailing markets conditions, it is clear that Information and Communications Technologies (“ICT”), E-Commerce and Advancement in Software provide the opportunity to radically alter the way in which individuals and enterprises can pursue their objectives.
ICT has helped to remove the geographical and temporal barriers that constrain the operations of any enterprise. Among the developments of ICT is the introduction of better, faster and cheaper computers that everyone could have access to, miniaturization and mobile/portable computers and advancement in transmission media. Faster and more powerful computer has been attributed to people like Moore’s (see Moore’s Law diagram below) and nanotechnology (build computer systems with mole quantities of logic elements that are molecular in both size and precision and are interconnected in complex and highly idiosyncratic patterns).
Miniaturization technology has introduced the notebook or laptop computer that is lightweight yet as powerful as average desktop computer. Tablet PC on the other hand is a special kind of notebook that uses a digital pen. An even smaller version of the Tablet PC is the modular computer. Three popular mobile devices nowadays are handheld computer, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant) and smart phones. Some computers today have hybrid function, for instance the Acer TravelMate 100 could be use as a notebook and Tablet PC as well. There has been innovation to implement multi-function in today’s hardware devices. (See Table 1 in Appendix 1 for classification of computers).
Communications occur over cables, telephone lines, cellular radio networks, satellites or other transmission media. Among the current transmission media available today are wired and wireless (meaning no physical lines/cable); larger broadband that is a type of transmission that sends multiple signals in digital form simultaneously very often used by DSL and cable television users to connect to the internet; faster rate of transfer; bluetooth technology that uses wireless communication standard that uses short range radio waves to transmit data between two bluetooth devices (30 to 100 feet); wireless – fidelity (Wi-Fi) and pervasive computing.
The types of communications over the telephone network are as follows:
(a) Dial-up Lines: is a temporary connection that uses one or more analog telephone lines for communications. Analog signal/data transfer a typically slower and less reliable than digital signal. This method is similar to using a telephone to make a call.
(b) Dedicated Line: is a type of line of always on connection that is established between two communications devices (unlike dial-up). The quantity and consistency of the connection for a dedicated line is better than a dial-up line because dedicated lines provide a constant connection. Dedicated line can be either analog or digital. Four popular digital dedicated lines are ISDN lines, DSL, T-carriers Line and ATM.
ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) Lines is a set of standards for digital transmission of data over standard copper telephone lines. With ISDN, the same telephone line that could carry only one computer signal now can carry three or more signals at once through the same line, using a technique called multiplexing. ISDN requires both ends of the connection to have an ISDN modem different from the one used in dial-up lines. DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) another alternative transmit at fast speeds on existing copper telephone lines. Some DSL provide a dial tone providing users with both voice and data communications. To connect to DSL a customer needs a special network card and a DSL modem. ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) is one of the more popular types of DSL (others include xDSL). ADSL supports faster transfer rates when receiving data (the downstream rate) than when sending data (the upstream rate). T-carrier lines are any of several types of long-distance digital telephone lines that carry multiple signals over a single communications line. T-carrier lines provide very fast transfer rate. Only medium to large companies can afford it because it is so expensive. The most popular T-carrier line is T1 line. The T3 line is equal in speed to 28 T1 lines. ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) is a service that carries voice, data, video and multimedia at extremely high speeds. (See Table 2 of Appendix 1-Speeds of Various Internet Connections).
Some of the common communications devices used are dial-up modems, ISDN and DSL modems, cable modems, network cards, wireless access points, routers, hubs and gateway. A dial-up modem modulate that is change analog signal and demodulate an analog signal to a digital signal. ISDN and DSL modem do not require modulation because there are digital modems. Cable modem sometimes called a broadband modem is a digital modem that sends and receives digital data over the cable television network (CATV). Network cards sometimes called a network interface card (NIC) is an adapter card or PC Card that enables a computer or device to access a network. A network card for mobile computers is in the form of a Type II PC Card or a flash memory card. An Ethernet card is a very common network card often supporting 10 Mbps and 100 Mbps (10/100). A wireless access point (WAP) is a central communication device that allows computers and devices to transfer data wirelessly among themselves or to transfer data wirelessly to a wired network. Wireless access points have high quality antennas for optimal signals. A router is a communications device that connects multiple computers or other routers together and transmit the data to its correct destination on the network. A hub is a device that provides a central point for cables in a network. Some hubs include routers.
Communications channel is sometimes called bandwith. The higher the bandwith the more the channel transmits. Latency is the time it takes a signal to travel from location to another on a network. For best performance, bandwith should be high and latency low. Baseband media transmit only one signal at a time, by contrast broadband transmits multiple signals simultaneously. Physical transmission media used includes twisted-pair cable, coaxial-cable, and fiber-optic cable (e.g. FDDI, Frame Relay, Cell Relay(ATM)) (see Table 3 of Appendix 2). Wireless transmission media used include infrared, broadcast radio, cellular radio, microwaves, and communications satellites. (See Table 4 of Appendix 2).
Cellular telephone uses high frequency radio waves to transmit voice and digital messages. GSM (Global System fro Mobile Communications), CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and WAP (wireless applications protocols) are 2G technologies. UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) are 3G technologies based on GSM. 3G technologies allow users quick display of multimedia and graphics, browse the Web, watch television and video conference.
There is also an ever increasing memory space to store instructions and data. Some very common memory components used are RAM (Random Access Memory), Cache, ROM (Read Only Memory), Flash Memory, CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semi-conductor) and Memory Access Times. The size of the memory nowadays are at least a few Megabyte (MB) to Gigabyte (GB), Kilobyte (KB) is quite rare nowadays.
Storage that holds data, instructions and information for future use is also increasing tremendously. Unlike memory which is volatile (contents are erased when power is removed) storage is nonvolatile (contents remain). Storage is also regarded as secondary storage while Memory is primary storage. The common storage device are floppy disks, ZIP disks, Hard disks, CDs and DVDs, Tape, PC Cards, Miniature Mobile Storage Media (Smart Cards), Microfilm and Microfiche. (See Appendix 3 – Miniature Mobile Storage Media) Miniature Storage Media has a life expectancy of about 10 to 100 years or re-writing of about 1 million times.
The kind of input and output devices available today has also grown enormously. The typical input devices are keyboard (wired or wireless); pointing devices like Mouse (wired or wireless), trackball, touchpad, pointing stick, Joystick and wheel, Light Pen, Touch Screen, Stylus, Digital Pen, and Cursor; Audio Input; PDAs, Tablet PCs and Smart phones are input devices for mobile users; Digital Cameras; Video Input devices like PC Video Cameras, Web cams, Video Conferencing; Scanners and reading devices like optical scanner, optical readers, Bar Code Scanner, MIRC (magnetic-ink character recognition) reader, Data Collection Devices; Point of Sales (POS) terminals, Automated Teller Machines, Smart Displays; Biometrics input device is the technology of authenticating a person’s identity by verifying a personal characteristics. For example, a fingerprint scanner, face recognition system, hand geometry system and iris recognition system.
Output devices available today are like CRT (Cathode-Ray Tube) Monitor (Ergonomics), Flat Panel Monitors (using Liquid Crystal Display technology), Gas Plasma Display, Television, and HDTV (high definition TV); Printers (impact, non-impact, ink-jet, Photo, Laser, Thermal, Portable, Label and Postage, Plotters and Large-Format Printers and wireless printers); Speakers and Headset; Fax Machine and Fax Modems, Multifunction Peripheral (printer, fax, scanner all in one), Data Projectors, Force-Feedback Joystick and Wheels (these devices sent resistance in response to the use).
Some of the more widely used communication technologies for both wired and wireless networks included Ethernet, token ring, TCP/IP, 802.11, Bluetooth, IrDA, and WAP. Ethernet is a network technology that allows nodes to contend for access to the network. The second most popular LAN technology is token ring, which controls access to the network by requiring that devices on the network share or pass a special signal called a token. TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) manages the transmission of data by dividing it up to pockets. When computer sends data over the Internet, the data is divided into small pieces or packets. The technique of breaking message into packets, sending along the best route, and then reassembling is called packet switching.
Advancement in ICT has spawned the information and communications to everyone cross the globe. Businesses, companies, customers, governments and other entities or people could now share and have access to information and other expertise. As such, better decision making could be made if the decision maker is more informed. Apart from decision making, empowerment and decentralization of decision making is more efficient because with faster rate of transfer a multinational company can now operate globally whilst maintaining the necessary control of its subsidiary company. For instance by video conferencing, web cam, e-mails and fax it is possible to decentralize a company’s operations and simultaneously providing more flexibility to management. With the availability of more information from the many different sources this would lead to better coordination of information as well. As a result of that there is a tendency that the management hierarchy is a flat one. For example DELL Corporation has a flat with operations across the globe.
With fast rate of transfer of data by using DSL (large bandwith), fiber optics and satellite/microwave it is now possible to get in touch with the remote part of the world. Further faster transfer rate means time savings that could be a competitive advantage to an organization.
With the introduction of higher capacity storage devices and memory and more advance peripherals, less dependency on paper could also be seen. For instance in certain countries the Court has opted to us laptop computers whereby all the legal documents are all in the computer and the Judge could easily view the required section of the legal documents if the advocate request to do so. There is no need for lawyers to carry boxes of legal supporting documents anymore to court and in the future just a Tablet PC of laptop computer will do. This is the case in Malaysia as well (still novel) though.
Fast transfer rate and many means of communicated as also made integration with suppliers and vendors more efficient and effective. This is especially true for a company with a MRP or ERP system for their supply chain. Suppliers/vendors could communicate and have the required information faster now and make faster and better decision.
E-Commerce is another development in information technology. E-commerce is business activity that takes place over an electronic network. It includes transaction that utilize any computing or communication technology. E-commerce thus includes commercial activities involving e-mail, an online information service, a bulletin board system (BBS), and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) systems. The most well-known and powerful medium for e-commerce is the Internet. From the networks and Internet comes about intranet and extranet as well as other forms of e-commerce such as agents. Agent is used to describe a specialized program that automatically searches the Internet for information meeting a user’s requirement.
Intranet (intra means within) is an internal network that uses Internet technologies. Intranets generally make company information accessible to employees and facilitate working in groups. An intranet essentially is a small version of the Internet that exists within an organization. It uses TCP/IP technologies discussed earlier, has a Web server, supports multimedia Web pages coded in HTML, and is accessible via a Web browser such Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator, databases, Web publishing/design tools and Firewall system. The relationship between internet, extranet and internet as shown in Appendix 4. Firewall system is necessary in intranet and extranet to ensure that outside access to confidential information does not occur. Firewalls are usually created as software mounted on a separate server at the point where the company is connected to the Internet. Firewall can be configured to only accept links from trusted domains representing other offices in the company.
Intranets are used extensively in supporting marketing information and core supply-chain management. Intranet would save a company a lot of money through higher productivity, communicating faster, effectively and efficiently with its employees and staffs. Computer Based-training (CBT) could also be done through the intranet that would mean cost savings. In return all the employees and working in groups within the network would have access and search for the desired information easily and readily available. This would facilitate the work process as a whole. Thus it allows for Graphical Use Interface (GUI) to control the operation of a computer program or item of computer hardware. Intranet also facilitates knowledge management by using OAS, word processing; Desktop Publishing (DTP) software, imaging and web publishing, EDM (Electronic Document Management), emails or voice mail.
Information could be easily shared in by using intranet for marketing or sales function. Some advantages of marketing intranet are reduced product lifecycles, better customer service and distribution of information through remote offices nationally. Intranet also assist human resource management in posting and setting up job biddings, newsletter, circulating policies, launching new products and bidding or advertising projects. Basically intranet plays a very important aspect ion an organization value chain and it helps simplify the business process. Web based conferencing or Internet telephony (Voice over IP, VOIP), that enables users to talk to other users over the Internet could also be done over the Intranet. Other way to communicate via intranet is by using software like Collaboration and Groupware.
If access is extended to some other, but not everyone beyond the organization, this is extranet. Extranets can be accessed by authorized people outside the company such as collaborators, suppliers or major customers, but information is not available to everyone with an Internet connection – only those with password access. Extranet is basically an intranet or internet system with an ISP (internet service provider) that is more restricted by VPN (Virtual Private Network) and Firewall system. With VPN information remains secure by the use of tunneling protocol and security procedures like firewall.
Extranets are used extensively to support supply chain management as resources are ordered from suppliers and transformed into products and services delivered to customers. The benefits of extranet include costs savings (paper, communications, transactions), improves the coordination, enhances business partnership and productivity.
Whilst using the internet, intranet or extranet agents like MSN search, Yahoo!, Google and AOL Search helps facilitate the searching process. It also reduces information overload and helps filter out only the desired information the user ones. As such it support the decision making process.
E-commerce is the buzz word today. There are four basic models of e-commerce business that is Business-to-consumer, business-to-business, business-to-employee, and consumer-to-consumer. Overall it facilitates knowledge management such as information management and Electronic Data Management (EDM) for corporate managers. Corporate management would have better access to information needed to make the right decision and there is also access to more external information for the managers. With the use of networks it facilitate communications, share hardware and software, share data and information, and transfer funds.
However, one drawback about the information obtain from E-commerce is the validity and credibility of the data. The data is only as good as entered into the network. If the data entered is not good at all it would not benefit the users as well. Another point to note is the security concerns with these networks. There are many computer viruses, Worms, and Trojan Horses, unauthorized access and use, software and information theft, internet security risks and information privacy.
Software (see Appendix 5) too has advanced tremendously. Application software consists of programs that perform specific tasks for users. Application software is used to a variety of reasons as a business tool; to assist with graphics and multimedia and facilitate communications. The current operating system today are Windows XP and Mac OS X. Functional based software includes software for sales, marketing, human resource and accounting.
Enterprise wide software are like ERP (Enterprise resource Planning) usually develop by JBOPS or Oracle. Business intelligence software is like OLAP (Online Analytical processing), Data mining, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software, and SCM (Supply Chain Management). Groupware software helps groups of people to work together in projects and share information over a network by providing 3Cs, that is Communication, Collaboration and Coordination or Email, Calendaring and Scheduling, Document Management, Information sharing, Conferencing and Structured Workflow.
Software has enable management to better consolidate, search and manage information in a more systematic manner. At the same time enable the user to analyze data quickly. Without software the hardware is inadequate.