Internet 101

 

July 1998

Managing:Technology

Internet 101

Everyone talks about the Internet, but it's intimidating for beginners. Starting this month,Professional Jeweleroffers step-by-step instructions on getting acquainted with the World Wide Web, setting up service, Web surfing and building a Web site

If you don't have an Internet connection yet, getting started can be confusing and may seem not worth the effort. There are many new terms and much unfamiliar equipment. Take a deep breath and use our checklist to get started.

The Computer
You'll need an adequate computer. To run today's World Wide Web browsers (the software needed to view Web sites), you'll need a computer with sufficient RAM (the computer's brainpower; in computer lingo, 16 MB is generally recommended) and hard drive space (at least 1 gigabyte). Most Pentium computers bought in the past few years are good enough, and some later model 486 systems can be upgraded to work. The system should be sophisticated enough to run Windows 95®. Visit a computer store and ask about deals – basic systems are available for less than $1,000. Also consider buying used equipment.

A Fast Modem
You'll need a built-in modem or a modem port to attach a separate modem unit. A modem works like a telephone: you plug it into a phone jack in your wall so it can "dial" a number to connect your computer to the Internet server, another computer that's directly connected to the Internet. Because Web sites are so graphic-heavy these days, buy a fast modem. (The fastest speed available now is 56.6 kilobytes per second. Pages will appear quickly on your screen when your computer communicates with the server at this speed.)

Internet Provider
This is a company that gives you access to e-mail, which allows you to send and receive instantaneous messages via your computer. You also get access to the World Wide Web, a network of pages of information and resources posted worldwide by companies, organizations, schools and individuals. These pages, called Web sites, are transmitted over the phone line to your computer. Once you have an Internet provider, you can visit any of these sites by opening your Web browser software and typing in Web site addresses (the long string of letters starting with "www" that you're starting to see at the bottoms of ads; they're also called URLs [uniform resource locators]).

When you sign up with a provider, you get an account with a password and a local phone number that your modem dials to connect to the server.

You have several options when choosing a provider:

  • Membership networks. Providers such as America Online (888-265-8002), Compuserve (800-524-3388, ext 664), Microsoft Network (800-386-5550) and Prodigy (800-213-0992) are exclusive, closed communities providing news, entertainment, chat rooms, research resources and e-mail for members, usually for about $20 a month for unlimited access. Most services also give access to the World Wide Web with their own browsers, but it's secondary to their members-only services. Because thousands of people dial the access numbers, the line is often busy (especially with AOL), so you can't always connect immediately. Many novices start with membership networks to get familiar with the technology, then graduate to an independent provider.
  • Independent providers. Practically every region has dozens of Internet providers with local dial-in numbers. For a monthly fee (again about $20), they set up an account and reserve space on their server so you can put up your own Web page. These companies are more do-it-yourself than the prepackaged networks and are often harder to set up properly. Look in the Yellow Pagesunder "Internet" for local providers. Ask each one what software and support they provide.
  • WebTV. Devices for computerless folks made by Phillips/Magnavox and Sony plug into your TV and phone line to access the Web and send and receive e-mail. The TV box costs $249, and you then subscribe to a monthly network. People use it to send e-mails during commercials and surf the Web from the comfort of their sofas. The drawbacks: you can't access other Internet capabilities, download files or save information to a disk the way you can on a computer. (800) GO-WEBTV.
  • @Home. Different from WebTV, you connect to the Internet with a computer plugged in to your TV's cable. The connection is 100 times faster than phone-line modem connections, the company says. Technicians come to your home to set up the service, which is $29.95 to $49.95 per month. There's also a service called @Work for businesses. The service is available only in certain areas; call your cable provider to check.

Software
Most service providers will send you beginning software to get you started with e-mail and the Web. This often arrives on CD-ROM or floppy disk. Ask whether they configure the software for you (in other words, they should type in the necessary numbers, codes and options in the software that will dial your modem for you.) The software checklist:

  • TCP/IP and PPP software (short for point-to-point protocol), which configure and help your modem connect properly.
  • Web browser software, such as Netscape Navigator® or Microsoft Internet Explorer®.
  • E-mail software, such as Eudora (some Web browsers also read e-mail).

Once you have these programs, you can download other software, such as alternative browsers and software to help you transfer files to servers, telnet to connect to different servers and chat. (More on this will be explained in future issues.)

The Phone Line
You need an available phone line. Understand that an Internet connection will tie up your phone line like a phone call, so you may want to add a dedicated line for the modem. "Call Waiting" often interrupts your connection, so type *70 (to turn off this calling feature) before the access phone number in your configuration. Be sure to use an access phone number that is in your local calling area to prevent long-distance charges.

– by Stacey King

Next month: Insructions on dialing your modem for the first time, troubleshooting and starting the "browsing" process on the World Wide Web.

  Web Site Woes

For those who still see a needle in a haystack as a challenge, the World Wide Web has become positively befuddling.

Jewelers who build monuments to their stores among this chaos are often disappointed with the results, says Rich Goldstein of iJeweler, an Internet marketing service for the jewelry industry. He outlines three major reasons for lack of response to a jeweler's Web site:

  1. Problems with the site. The page is technically challenging (it loads too slowly or the links don't work), hard to navigate or not useful. The design should be clean and make sense; it should not alienate people with older browsers and slower equipment; content should be an interactive resource.
  2. Lack of strategic planning. If you're thinking about spending money to become part of an on-line marketplace, calculate the amount you'll spend vs. how much of a return you might get as one of many jewelers in the spot. If you're an independent site, consider how you can link to other sites: check out banner ad exchange programs or consumer jewelry sites.
  3. Inadequate marketing. Most graphic artists who build Web sites fail to approach the art from a marketing standpoint, says Goldstein. Find a company to help you evaluate what to do with your Web presence. Once you've designed a site geared toward getting a return on investment, promote your URL like crazy: on business cards, advertising, on-hold messaging and local Web sites.






Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


 

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