Wired Woman

Sophia Chauchard-Stuart describes how the Internet can help you in the office, in the first of a new series
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The Independent Online
Sophia Chauchard-Stuart describes how the Internet can help you in the office, in the first of a new series

Why should your office be wired up to the Internet? How do you go about getting a connection to the World Wide Web. And, most important, how much does it cost?

The first is easy. In the business world, competition is a fierce motivator and many, many UK companies are using the Internet on a daily basis to get contacts, information and keep up to date with the latest business and financial news. An increasing number are also setting up a worldwide corporate presence on the Web, establishing links with other businesses and getting into e-commerce (buying and selling services to customers electronically over the Internet).

So if the Internet is fast becoming a global business market and the competition is online, shouldn't your firm be too? But how do you get wired up to the Internet?

First, you will need to access it. This is done through an Internet service provider (ISP) who will give you access to the Net and the software you will need to send E-mail and find your way around the millions of websites you can visit on the Web. These include anything from The Independent online - a version of the newspaper that you can read on your computer screen - to a mail-order shopping mall complete with pictures of the goods you can buy.

You will also need a modem. This allows your computer to talk to other computers over the telephone lines. Find out what facility your office has already as there are many ways to get connected. If you work in a small firm, or from home, you will probably want a simple dial-up account via a single modem.

Expect to pay about pounds 200 for a modem, and remember, the faster the modem connection the faster the web pages will download, resulting in cheaper phone costs.

This is a consumer market and the service providers are in fierce competition themselves so shop around. There are many different pricing packages for corporate and single users but, on average, you should expect to pay about pounds 15 a month plus an initial start-up fee of around pounds 25. Some service providers offer a monthly fee which gives you a certain number of free hours online and charges per minute after that. Good for light users but beware - because the Internet can be addictive, all those minutes on line can add up, just like a phone bill!

A big tip here: the whole point about the Internet is that it only costs the same as a local phone call so the service provider should offer a local number for you to connect to. Ask for a free trial. Most service providers offer a free month's connection so you should be able to carry out a thorough check. If the modem keeps getting a busy signal, complain and take your business elsewhere because the provider obviously cannot cope with demand.

The Internet won't change your life but it will make you more efficient, informed and give you useful skills. Which, of course, all makes you more employable, doesn't it? Welcome to the Information Superhighway


BT Internet: 0800 800001

CompuServe: 0990 000200

Demon Internet Ltd: 0181 371 1234

Easynet Ltd: 0171 209 0990

Pipex Dial: 0500 474739

UKIUG (UK's first Internet Users Group, holding regular meetings for business people): 0171 608 0608