No company can allow itself to not have an internet connection. Some will even opt for an intranet or an email program.
Regardless of the company's size, an internet connection is vital. Any company not present on the internet will find it hard to be successful, particularly nowadays. When you choose your internet provider, check the reliability of the data line, the data transfer speed and connection costs. For small companies, a broadband ADSL connection is standard (ADSL being the abbreviation for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line). It should amply cover the needs of an SME. The service is also billed at a flat rate, which helps plan internet costs.
If this is not enough, you can also rent an SDSL line (SDSL being the abbreviation for Symmetrical Digital Subscriber Line), but the cost is markedly higher than an ADSL connection. However, availability is better. Flat rates based on connection time, seen in ADSL offers, can be advantageous for individual entrepreneurs. However, they are only viable if time spent on the internet is very short.
But the fastest solution is fiber optic, which has become increasingly popular in recent years. Previously used only by large companies, it is now accessible to SMEs. The network has grown considerably in Switzerland and many operators are offering it at affordable rates. In addition to supersonic speed, which is ideal for transferring large data packets, fiber optic has the advantage of offering great connection stability.
An intranet is a computing network, based on the same techniques as the internet, but which can only be used by a specific group within an organization. In many companies, intranets have replaced the “blackboard” and allow access to data specific to the company, such as telephone lists, the list of absences, information about the company, etc. The objective of an intranet is to facilitate access to information for employees within the company. As a general rule, when you start the browser, the intranet also starts automatically. The information published on the intranet is confidential and usually reserved for employees. Small companies with full knowledge of the facts use other channels of communication for employees. The intranet is therefore more common in companies that have more staff.
The advantages of an intranet:
- Information flows within the company are faster
- The risk of error is reduced
- Work is facilitated because all departments in the company have access to the common database and do not need to consult different lists or records
- Some applications can even be automated
- There are numerous possible uses
The extranet has one more feature than an intranet—it’s internal to the company for use by a specified group of external users only. Extranets are used for publishing information aimed at companies, customers or commercial partners for example, but not at the general public.
Generally, an extranet is based on the same technology as an intranet. Companies wanting to collaborate closely with their partners in particular, log on to an extranet or program an extranet.
The ever-expanding number of emails exchanged and the ever-increasing size of contents mean greater expectations from users in terms of email: if you are sending a confidential message from one side of the world to the other, you want it to reach its destination. Email failures can quickly end in disaster: bad publicity for a company, frustrated users, reduced productivity and – a critical factor – negative impact on business.
Email, a shared calendar, contacts and rapid access to webmail should be as commonplace as making a phone call. To respond to the increasingly complex expectations of users, small companies have to face the following challenges:
- Access to email is becoming more complex (POP, IMAP, webmail, wireless connection)
- The solution should always be accessible (at 99.9%) and offer considerable security
- The solution must be adaptable to future growth
The high speed of change, the complex processing of data along with the multitude of different types of access (POP3, IMAP4, webmail, FSI, etc.) which all have to be supported, render evaluation of the email system difficult. The various internet service providers (ISPs) such as Bluewin, Sunrise, Green, GMX, etc., offer small companies ready-to-use basic packages with which it is not necessary to install a server infrastructure. In the start-up phase, this may be an ideal solution. After strong growth, the company will need to install its own email server infrastructure sooner or later.
Email application program
Any company wanting to write and send emails more efficiently and securely necessarily needs a simple and reliable application program (email client) with features closely adapted to practices. In addition to standard paying programs aimed at the majority of operating systems, such as IBM’s Lotus Notes or Microsoft’s Outlook, there are also free email programs that work very well, such as Thunderbird or Microsoft’s Outlook Express.
However, free programs generally do not offer the same convenience as paying programs. Companies must remember that they must keep their electronic correspondence for 10 years. This is why emails must be saved regularly and kept. To make emails secure, there are several security programs which are usually even available free of charge on the internet.