As soon as the Web sprang to life, many techno-pundits portrayed it as the great equalizer, a technology that would finally let small firms compete on an equal footing with major corporations. But guess what: As measured in Internet time, the majority of small businesses today remain stuck in the distant past.
International Data Corp., a Framingham, Massachusetts, market researcher, surveyed the technology habits of 1,011 small U.S. companies (defined as those with 100 employees or less) and found that some 93 percent of those that had two or more computers had an online connection. Great. But of those firms, a minuscule 5 percent had shared access--a local network connection that links all the computers a company's employees use to the Internet. Most small companies still used dial-up accounts, which are often expensive, inefficient and difficult to manage.
Fortunately, wiring small businesses for companywide Net access has become pretty much a no-brainer, thanks to a handful of prepackaged all-in-one Internet appliance products. Companies such as Whistle Communications (http://www.whistle.com), Intel (http://www.intel.com), Cobalt Networks (http://www.cobaltnet.com), Ramp Networks (http://www.rampnet.com) and Flexion Systems (http://www.flexion.com) have come out with self-contained solutions, starting between $369 and $5,000, that take virtually all the technical hassle out of getting an office of 100 employees set up for full use of the Web and more. With a simple solution at your fingertips, why not make the move to shared Web access?
John Verity reported and edited for 10 years at Electronic News, Datamation and Business Week. Since 1997, he has been freelancing from his Brooklyn, New York, home.