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Internet, Web, eMail, Domain ... What is this? What do I need?

The Internet and its Services
For a Private User: dial-up connection and mailbox
For a Business or Organization: domain name, eMail system, Web presence, Intranet/Extranet

The Internet is a worldwide network of computers, without any central administration. As soon as you connect your computer (e.g. via a modem) to the Internet, you are part of it!

The Internet provides several Services. The mostly used and known are: The World-Wide-Web and eMail. Other services, more in the background, used to make the Internet work are: the Domain Name System (DNS), File Transfer (via FTP), Remote Administration (via telnet) etc.

Most of the standards and protocols, which are used for the services on the Internet, are developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a worldwide virtual organization of volunteering individuals. The IETF, as well as ICANN and some other Internet-related organizations work under the auspices of the Internet Society (ISOC). Standards for the Web are in addition being developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

As a private user, the main services which you will use are most probably eMail and the Web.
In order to connect your PC to the Internet, you will need a "dial-up account" or an ADSL account with one of the local "Internet Service Providers" (ISP). In order to use that account, your ISP will give you a dial-up (or ADSL) username and a password. You need that when you connect to the Internet. The password makes sure, that nobody else connects to the Internet on your cost. Once you are connected, you can use the Web, and Web-based eMail (like Yahoo! etc.).

A usually more convenient, faster - and therefore cheaper way, is to use an eMail program on your PC, like Pegasus Mail, Eudora, Netscape and Mozilla, or MS Outlook and Outlook Express. In order to use them, you will need your own mailbox. Usually, every ISP provides one such mailbox with your dial-up account, but in principle you can use any mailbox on every server in the Internet. To check the eMail in our mailbox, you need the mailbox username and password. This makes sure, that nobody can read your mail without your permission. Although technically quite unrelated, with dial-up accounts, the mailbox username is usually the same like the dial-up username, and some ISPs use even the same password for dial-up and mailbox. Most of them however allow two different passwords for the different functions.

As a business or organizational user, you will require a bit more. While a free eMail address like <myBigCompany@yahoo.com> is technically sufficient, it does not really look very professional. So, the first what you want is to be able to use your own name, in the Internet called the "Domain Name".

Domain Name
Domain names were originally used to give Internet hosts a more "user friendly" designation than the IP numbers by which they are technically addressed, but the use of domain names exceeded that meanwhile. A domain name has to be registered via a registrar with the registry of the next higher level domain: To get e.g. a "comapny.com" domain name, you will need to register with a registrar of the ".com" domain. To get a "company.com.vn" domain, you need to register with a registrar of the ".com.vn" domain, i.e. currently VNNIC (which is right now playing the double role of registry and registrar) or one of its registrars. There are domain fees to be paid, usually per year, but in Vietnam in addition also to setup the domain. The fees vary from domain to domain. A ".com" domain e.g. is much cheaper than a ".com.vn" domain.
Domain names are usually available on a "first come, first serve" principle. If you are looking to get "mySmartCompany.com", but somebody else was faster and registered that name already, then you will have to choose another name. So you'd better be fast to register the name which you intend to use!

With your own domain name, you can have an eMail address like <sales@mySmartCompany.com>. In order to use that, you will need an eMail host, which either redirects your mail to your existing mailbox (e.g. with your ISP), or which provides you a separate mailbox. As you see, there is a difference between an eMail address and a mailbox: Mail to many different eMail addresses can end up in the same single mailbox.
As a small business or organization, you will probably not be permanently connected to the Internet, so in order to save cost, it is advisable to have your own internal mailserver, which will pickup the mail for all your employees from the (single) mailbox of your ISP and distribute it internally. Your staff will have now their own eMail address like <John@mySmartCompany.com> and <Thuy@mySmartCompany.com>. eMail to <sales@mySmartCompany.com> might reach John and Thuy, but when she leaves the company one day, it would be delivered to her successor, so that your customers don't need to change their eMail directories.
Congratulations! You have now a well-looking, well-working and cost-effective eMail system. You can proudly print your eMail address on your business card: not <jo_noname2003@yahoo.com> (which also nobody can remember), but <director@mySmartCompany.com>.
What's next?

Web Presence
Your Website, in its most simple form, might be only like a short brochure, a business profile, which informs your visitors about what your company is doing and how to contact you. In its most complex form, it could be your virtual shop, where you not only provide information, delivery condition and prices about your products (like in a catalog), but where your customers can directly order and pay on-line. Certain products might even get delivered via the Internet.
While eBusiness starts already when you use eMail to communicate with your customers and suppliers, true eCommerce is only applied, when payment is done online.
In order to create your Website, you will first need a designer. A good one will not create a "nice, beautiful" site, but one which fits your purpose. Similarly like a hotel lobby looks different from a supermarket, the "look and feel" of a website should correspond with its purpose and the brand image of the owner. To get functionality beyond the basic navigation, especially when it comes to online shopping, you probably will need a web programmer to create all that code which is executed in the background either on the webserver, or on the visitor's PC. Finally, you will need a Webserver, i.e. a special computer which is permanently connected to the Internet, on which your website will be hosted. The technical requirements for that server depend also on the complexity of your website.
Of course you will want that visitors find your site. One of the most successful ways is to rely on search engines to lead visitors to your virtual home. However, in order to get a high ranking with search engines, a site has to be designed from beginning with the corresponding requirements in mind.

Depending on your kind of business, the Internet might help you with your internal operations. If you use the Internet to allow your own staff to connect to your internal PCs, e.g. from home or during business trips, then this setup is usually called an "Intranet". If you allow your business partners (suppliers or certain customers) access to part of your information network, then this is called an "Extranet". In both cases usernames and passwords permit access only for authorized users.
Intranets and Extranets can also be very useful to exchange data between your branch offices or subsidiaries. Each of your shops might e.g. submit their daily statistics via a password protected webinterface to a central database and your headquarters' administration department has thus crucial up-to-date data for their planning, logistics, etc.


If this everything sounds too complicated to you, don't worry. We have practical experience in all those fields and can assist you in determining your needs. And since we can provide and assist you with everything, from getting you a dial-up account to creating and running an Extranet, you need to contact only one place and don't need to care about co-ordinating a number of different companies for different tasks.
For more details on what we do, please have a look on our sections regarding Web Design, Hosting, Domain Registration, and eCommerce.

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