Networks for Productivity Gains
By Joel G. Siegel, Frank Grippo, and Annie Amit
networks have many practical business applications. Local
Area Networks (LAN), Wide Area Networks (WAN), and mobile
wireless networks are of immense value in the business world.
All three are tools to accumulate and analyze business-related
information to make informed decisions.
are many advantages to networks, including the sharing of
data, software, and hardware within an organization. A network
is fast, cost-effective, and promotes increased worker productivity.
Networks allow computer administrators to have standardized
configurations. All computers can access, revise, add, delete,
and update data on a centralized file server.
LAN can be connected to other LANs over any distance via
telephone lines and radio waves. If a company has multiple
office buildings, a WAN can be used to share business files
and accounting information across the country. A WAN is
a geographically scattered telecommunications network that
joins together LANs scattered in different places.
are used daily by:
Information systems and network managers, along with support
staff, that operate and maintain the system.
system developers that set up and modify the network.
Business managers that deal with network staff and make
informed business decisions.
and vendors of a company, who may need to be connected
to the company’s network to obtain relevant data.
(Outsider-approved use of a network is referred to as
Security personnel that use networks in order to implement
security procedures to safeguard software and hardware.
managers and analysts that are involved with appraising
the funding for network equipment acquisitions.
Accountants that have to audit the financial records on
a company’s network. Auditors can use software packages
such as Microforge’s Network Auditor 3.0 (www.microforge.net),
which will check a computer network for faults or changes
and determine exactly what hardware and software is installed.
It also tracks software legitimacy.
program keeps all the information it gathers in a central
database. It allows the auditor to audit machines individually,
and define exactly what information is stored.
are many benefits to networked accounting, which is when
accounting software resides on a server and is accessible
by all PCs on the network connected to that server. Networked
accounting enables companies to improve customer service
by giving immediate access to customer accounts. When customers
call with inquiries, their information can be immediately
accessed, translating into greater customer satisfaction
and more efficient business practices.
accounting also helps improve managerial decision making
by giving management immediate access to financial information.
Managers have the ability to monitor cash flow, spot problem
areas in receivables or inventory, and review the company’s
daily fiscal condition.
networked accounting saves time and money. Networked accounting
systems allow employees to perform multiple tasks simultaneously.
For example, one employee can enter orders received while
another calculates payments to vendors. Accounts payable
employees do not have to wait for the accounts receivable
employees to finish their tasks. Payroll operators can enter
information while managers are preparing payroll report
should include sophisticated security and password features
that allow users varying degrees of access. For example,
a customer service representative might have access to individual
account balances but not to employee payroll data.
applications have been centralized, the next step is to
centralize files and directories so databases are accessible
from every computer. Files can also be shared between members
of a group, who often work together on a single file.
this approach, each member works on a common document that
can be modified many times in its lifetime. A version management
tool is a useful means for distinguishing between versions.
Instead of storing each copy made by the members, only the
changes are stored, in addition to the original version.
This allows better workflow because everybody is in a state
of interaction with the other members asynchronously.
approach is a groupware interface, which allows employees
to work on the same document at the same time. This means,
simply, “what you see is what I see.” Groupware
allows for simultaneous work by people who are not physically
in the same location. Applications and files are shared
through a centralized server, which provides all the necessary
problem with wired networks is their lack of mobility. Workers
like being able to move around the office while remaining
in contact with the network. With wired networks, users
have to stay in one physical location. Wireless networks,
on the other hand, allow users to access information wherever
they want, even at remote locations.
networks involve data carried over radio waves much
like cordless phones. Most wireless LANs are not completely
wireless; a wireless access point must usually be connected
to a standard Ethernet network. Portable computers or devices
must be equipped with a networking card to access the wireless
too far from an access point will cause a disconnection
from the network. The effective range of most units now
is about 100–150 feet. As a user gets farther away,
the connection becomes less reliable and the transmission
becomes slower. As a result, many companies will set up
their networks so that a user’s computer will automatically
switch to the closest access point.
up access points requires a good deal of configuration planning
and implementation. Installers have to take into consideration
walls, ceilings, and building materials. Someone should
look at a blueprint and map the desired access range.
disadvantage of a wireless network is that someone can easily
hop onto a system, similar to the way people steal phone
numbers from cellphone users. If a wireless range extends
past an office, someone on the outside could actually access
network resources and steal bandwidth. Some people roam
the city with a laptop, looking for wireless leads.
wireless networks are not as secure as wired networks, security
safeguards are a necessity. One option is a wired equivalent
privacy (WEP), which establishes password protection for
a wireless access point. Making a wireless network secure
is not as simple as making a wired network secure, and firewall
and other network security should still be enabled on the
wired portion of the network, in case wireless access is
G. Siegel, PhD, CPA, is a professor of accounting
and information systems at Queens College, City University
of New York.
Frank Grippo, CPA, is an associate professor
of accounting at William Paterson University, Wayne, N.J.
Annie Amit works in the accounting department
at Apple Bank.