As the internet grows in popularity every
day, so too does electronic commerce. Electronic commerce,
simply put, is the exchange of money for goods and services via electronic
means. In other words, electronic commerce is usually when you purchase
something off of the internet. Electronic commerce is often referred
to as e-commerce, or e-business. In this paper I will be discussing
the technical side of e-commerce, security, different points of view regarding
e-business, and of course my personal opinion and experiences.
First I would like to discuss the types
of e-business. E-business can be anything from purchasing a toaster
from a department store online to checking your bank statement online.
All are examples of the many aspects of e-business.
There are several aspects of e-business
unique to it. When comparing traditional business to e-business,
one can see several differences between the two. The most obvious
difference when buying standard goods (such as a toaster, a book, or a
new computer) is the store. When dealing with e-business there is
no “real” store or merchandise to look at. It is all presented through
the merchant’s webpage, or by other electronic means. You will not
be able to touch, or inspect potential purchases. All you will have
to go on is perhaps a picture and a brief description of the item in question.
This is obviously a big change from traditional store-based business practices.
Why would any self-respecting consumer buy something via e-business if
they were unable to touch, or inspect a potential purchase, and there is
a real store just done the street? There are several reasons why
e-business is appealing to a growing amount of people. For example,
e-business is based on the internet. If you are using the internet,
you are not bound by geography. You can access any site, anywhere
in the world from the comfort of your computer chair. What does this
mean to the consumer? Now the consumer has access to several things
they didn’t before. The consumer now has diversity. With the
entire internet at your fingers, in a matter of minutes you can browse
several stores in several parts of the world without even leaving your
home. This allows you to compare prices and products. With
e-business you are not restricted to the prices and products of you local
stores. You can easily choose the best price on the best product.
Purchasing goods electronically is becoming
easier by the day. The majority of e-businesses have software set
up on their webpage to take and record your order as well as your credit
card and personal information. The software is set up such that you
can order anything you want without having to interact with anyone what
so ever. You just have to enter your credit card number, address,
and other personal information. Some people are not comfortable with the
concept of sending their credit card number or other personal to a potential
merchant over the internet, but are more comfortable using the telephone.
Most businesses know this and have set up a special number or other means
to talk to a representative from the company to settle any questions, and
to accept credit card numbers or other means of payment. There are
of course several security issues involved in both forms of commerce. I
will discuss security in greater detail later in the paper.
The popularity of e-business is growing
almost as fast as the technology itself. More and more people are
using their computers to buy what ever they want, whenever they want.
Every day there is an increasing number of companies that join the electronic
world of business. Companies spend millions of dollars a year to
setup and maintain a website designed for e-business. Why are they
willing to spend so much? Most business people have a good knowledge
of how and why business works. It is not hard to see that there is
a huge market in e-business. With the price of computers going
down each day, more and more people have the opportunity to get in on their
piece of cyberspace.
A Typical E-business Transaction &
A few methods in which e-business is conducted
are shopping, and online banking. Let’s examine the shopping aspect
of e-business first. When you go to a site to buy something, a site
such as www.amazon.com, there are a few things you should notice.
They have something called a shopping cart. When you finally decide
that you want to buy something, you enter the quantity you wish to purchase,
and then “add to shopping cart”. The shopping cart it a CGI script used
to keep track of the things you want, and how many. This is a way
to keep track of everything while you can continue shopping. When
you are finished adding everything to the shopping cart, then you choose
the option to “check out”. This starts another CGI script that takes
all of your personal data such as your name, address, and phone number,
as well as your credit card number.
When you examine the online banking portion
of e-business, you have a few more things to consider. In order to
use online banking, you will have to have an account with the bank in question.
Once you have your account, you can go to the bank’s webpage and set it
up by giving them account and personal information. Then you will
be able to use their software to access your account. There is definitely
an issue with privacy in both cases. It is obvious that customers
do not what their personal information released. A more important
issue, perhaps more important than your personal information is your credit
card number. This can be used by anyone who has it. There is
no real way to stop someone from using your number at another site to buy
things with out your permission. This is a major concern of the e-business
industry. Should the consumer be concerned? Well, yes and no.
The first thing you should be concerned with is the validity of the e-business
itself. Unless the company can offer you some kind of assurance that
you can agree with, you should stick to the companies you know and trust.
Many businesses you have been using for years are now making the push to
provide an electronic method to shop. Once you have established that
you are in fact dealing with a respectable firm, you in most cases have
nothing more to worry about. Most respectable companies use data
encryption to secure online transfers. These sites use your browser
to encrypt data so that no one without the decryption key can gain access
to your information. Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape come
standard with 40-bit encryption. With your data encrypted, even with
a 40-bit encryption, it is safer to transmit that data around the world
than to call in your number over the telephone. When you are talking
about online banking, you most likely will have to upgrade your browser
to support 128-bit encryption. The majority of online banking companies
will not let you use the basic 40-bit encryption because it is not quite
as safe as the 128-bit version. It is assumed that you need more
protection for your bank accounts than you do for a basic online purchase.
In all cases you should be using some form of encryption to transfer data.
Some companies will give you a security guarantee.
Issues Regarding E-business:
There are two points of view to consider.
There is the consumer and the business person. Within these two groups,
there are those in favor of e-business and those who are not. First
I would like to talk about the consumer and there points of view.
There are many reasons why a potential customer will either like e-business
or will not. I believe the main reason most people like e-business
is the ease in which they can get what ever they want, when ever they want
it. Anyone with a valid credit card can go to a site such as www.amazone.com,
and order anything they want at any time of the day. Within a few
days (depending on the method of shipping chosen) their order will arrive
at their front door. The problem with shopping online is, because
you are not bound by geography, the company you bought from could be on
the other side of the world. They have to send you the product.
This obviously creates delays in receiving your merchandise and you will
also have to pay a modest shipping charge in addition to any other charges.
If you are buying something heavy like a computer monitor, you may not
wish to spend the extra fifty or so dollars to have it shipped. In
this case going to your local circuit city may be a more effective way
of shopping. Basically, when shopping online you have the power to
get anything any time, but you may have to pay for your convenience.
From the perspective of the e-business
itself, there are other things to consider. Mostly you need to consider
the cost versus the sales. Is it worth the cost to setup and maintain
a website? What exactly is involved in setting up an e-business?
In order to set an e-business you will need a domain name, webspace to
put pictures and things like that, and bandwidth. In addition to
this, you might need to hire technical support, and purchase software needed
to run your business. Compared to the cost of traditional commerce,
I believe e-business is much cheaper to run and maintain. When running
an e-business you wont have as high of an overhead to pay. A domain name,
webspace, and bandwidth are all fairly cheap. A growing number of
businesses think e-commerce is a good investment, and a legitimate way
to expand their company. Large companies such as K-Mart are leaning
towards the e-business market.
In my quest for the best product at the
best price, I too have turned to e-commerce from time to time to get what
I needed. My first experience comes from purchasing a telephone online.
I started by visiting several sites and inspecting what they had to offer.
I began to notice right away that some stores are more expensive than others,
even for the exact product. I proceeded to find the best deal on
the phone I wanted and, as I described before I added it to my shopping
cart at www.amazon.com. Next I went to check out. The scrip
loaded and I entered all of my personal data and my credit card number.
After I did all of that, I was taken to a billing screen where I could
choose my form of shipping based on cost and time. At the bottom
of the billing section it added the price of the phone and all of the additional
charges (such as shipping), and produced an actual total. Before
proceeding to confirm my order I considered my position. Was it worth
the price after shipping to buy here instead of at a local shop?
Do I need the phone right away? It turned out that even after shipping
and all additional costs, I got the phone for less than my local stores
could offer. Because I did not need the phone right away, I decided
to purchase it. Within three or four days I received my phone and
was satisfied with my first online purchase. It is also worth noting
that I bought my phone at about 2am.
Another personal experience of mine regards
online banking. I have a checking and a savings account with Wellsfargo.
I noticed that they offered online banking free of charge, so I figured
I would try it out. I went to their website and began to setup my online
account. I was asked for my basic personal and my account information.
I gave them all of that and proceeded to try to log into my account.
I was surprised to find that I could not. I was using Internet Explorer
with only 40-bit encryption. Wellsfargo requires that you use a browser
with at least 128-bit encryption. After I downloaded the addon for
Internet Explorer, I successfully logged in. I was meet with a number
of options. I could check my checking account balance, my savings
account balance, and I could transfer money between the two. This
made me very pleased. I have trouble keeping my checking account up to
date, but with this I could see exactly what I had with only a day’s delay.
I am overly pleased with all of my e-business
encounters. I enjoy buying things from my home at any hour.
It is also very convenient to see my account status in almost real time.
To summarize this paper, e-business is
basically online transactions for goods and services. There are many
things to consider when buying something online. Firstly you should
be dealing with a company that you are totally comfortable with.
After you have that established, online shopping is safer than any other
form of commerce because of the use of encrypted data transfer. Online
banking is another aspect that is worth looking into. You can get
information about your accounts anytime for little or no charge.
Online banking, of course requires a stronger method of encryption, so
you may need to download the newest security plugin for your browser.
Finally, e-business is the new business of the future. You can buy
anything, any time, and get information from your home. Which
makes being antisocial just that much easier.