Check the status of your American Express card, pay bills, even order travelers checks at American Express' Web site, http://www.americanexpress.com . The new site is a superb model for how sensitive financial transactions can be securely handled online. Cardholders can download transaction records for importing into Intel's Quicken or Microsoft Money, pay bills with a mouse click, or request that a particular billed item be investigated.
Intranet sites--Web sites posted on an in-house server and viewable only by those inside a business--are all the rage as businesses discover this convenient, cheap way to get information to employees. Everything from job listings to employee handbooks are now on Intranets, with businesses saving in slashed printing and photocopying costs. While most Web page authoring programs can be used to create Intranet content, Microsoft gives users of its FrontPage program (about $150) a head start by offering a powerful Intranet creation tool as a freebie for downloading from the FrontPage Web site (http://www.microsoft.com/frontpage ).
Up To Speed
Super-fast 56K modems are hitting the market (at prices close to $200), but few Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have widely adopted that speed, and, worse, there are two competing, incompatible standards (one from U.S. Robotics and another from Rockwell/Lucent). So before upgrading, find out whether your ISP provides 56K access and which standard it embraces.
Want faster Web access now? A $50 software solution is Blaze, which uses a unique read-ahead browsing system to speed through and store a Web site's pages on your computer as you read one page and before you click on the links. Speed enhancements are noticeable, especially for users who thoroughly digest each page before jumping to the next. Download a trial version at http://www.xspeed.com
Going, Going . . .
Buy electronic equipment cheap at America Online's Online Auction (keyword: Online Auction). Most products require minimum bids, but printers, scanners, modems and computers are all listed with enticingly low opening bids. Click on any product to see how many bids have been entered and for how much, as well as how many units will be sold at the closing. Brand names AST, Dell and IBM dominate the auctioned products. Some units are new, others refurbished, but all come with manufacturers' warranties.
New surveys of Internet usage, electronic commerce and related topics continue to flood the business press, and keeping up to date is a chore. Cut to the chase by subscribing to Nua Internet Surveys, a free monthly e-mail newsletter that summarizes key findings. Discovered in a recent issue: a Cowles/Simba Information forecast that Web advertising will top $2.5 billion by 2000, an Andersen Consulting prediction that online grocery shopping will hit $60 billion annually in the next 10 years, and a report documenting a staggering 100 percent monthly growth in Internet users in Latin America. To sample the newsletter, visit http://www.nua.ie/surveys
Want to put your business forms--anything from customer feedback surveys to employment applications--online but don't want to hassle with the complicated programming usually involved? WebBase with the ExperForms add-on may be the answer. It's pricey--$2,495 including OmniForm Internet Publisher--but it can simply scan a form, and, minutes later, it's ready for posting to a Web site. WebBase includes a heavy-duty database tool for collecting and crunching data at the Web site. Download a demo at http://www.expertelligence.com
American Express, (212) 640-7453,email@example.com
Ascent Solutions Inc., 9009 Springboro Pike, Miamisburg, OH 45342,firstname.lastname@example.org
ExperTelligence Inc., 805 Chapala St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101, (805) 962-2558
Internet Liquidators International Inc., (888) 750-SHOP
Microsoft Corp., 1 Microsoft Wy., Redmond, WA 98052, (800) 426-9400
Nua Ltd., Westland Court, 5 Cumberland St., Dublin 2, Ireland, email@example.com
To contact Robert McGarvey, visit his Web site at http://members.aol.com/rjmcgarvey