AIRPEX and the Internet - A White Paper

Revised 11/05/99

The Challenge

The world is being wired! Increasingly, the language of the Internet is creeping into our lives. As it turns out, the Internet offers a convenient means of communications around the world at a remarkably low cost. The systems you are using for your business are all network capable and the temptation is to connect them to the Internet directly. However, this would expose them to attacks from thousands of hackers whose mission in life seems to be to cause as much havoc as possible.

To avoid this problem, "firewalls" have been invented. These are special computers with programming designed to resist the efforts of hackers. However, these devices are somewhat expensive and not perfect. Therefore, BMS has devised what we believe to be a completely secure way for you to offer information from your databases to your customers through the Internet.

What can the Internet do for my company?

An Internet "Home Page" can serve as an advertising medium for your company but it can do a lot more. It can be used to provide easily accessed status information to your customers. You can also provide a way for your customers to order your services.

The advertising model is a "static" application and some of our customers already have set up home pages for this purpose. Doing this effectively requires some artistry just as any other creative process. BMS can provide technical consulting about how to do this but has no interest in the creative process itself. For that, you would use the same kind of people who currently prepare your brochures, etc.

What BMS can provide is the linkage to your databases and the programming that lets your customers access the data in them. This can be done in a secure fashion so that customers should only have access to data about their shipments (both Import and Export), just as existing dial-in programs work now. We can also set up data entry forms so that your customers can send SLI's, Commercial Invoices or other standard forms. In contrast with the current system where you have to provide your customers with a program that allows them to dial into your system, anyone with a modern PC will be able to access your Home Page through the Internet.

Little or no training will be required because the programs will be in the familiar Windows form and on-line help will be available. The current dial-in versions of these programs use many codes to indicate ports, status and other information. The new programs we are writing for the Home Pages will be in plain English with no codes. Also, you will not have to worry about customers monopolizing your modem line or customer frustration because the line is busy.

We must point out that any Web site is subject to attack by hackers. You have to assume that any data on your site will become public knowledge. For that reason, we will severely restrict what data is published to the Home page.

Why not connect directly to the Internet?

Because of security concerns we will not connect one of the systems we have installed directly to the Internet. BMS has constructed an Intranet (a local secure network) at each customer site. At times, while we are performing maintenance work, your network is connected to our network, thus forming a larger Intranet. In fact, sometimes we are connected to more than one customer site at a time. This doesn't pose any security threat to your system because BMS is in control of the situation. Conversely, an Internet connection is open to all of the millions of users logged on at any time. A direct Internet connection of any site could jeopardize the integrity of all the BMS customer sites.

Why not use a hosting service?

One alternative to direct connection to the Net is to hire someone to provide a Home Page for your company. This is an attractive and relatively inexpensive option. You can probably do this for $200-300 per month. (Setup and maintenance would be extra.) If you all want to do is to offer advertising and possibly be able to accept customer orders and inquires, that may be the right solution for you.

However, if you want to be able to offer your customers up-to-date status information about their shipments (like UPS or Federal Express) you need a direct connection to your database. A hosting service cannot do that.

How it will work

BMS has been studying this problem for the last several years. We believe we have devised a safe way to provide carefully selected live data to your customers without compromising the security of your system.

Originally, our plan was to install a small Unix system at each customer location to serve as a Web site. However, after a thorough analysis of the costs involved, this does not seem to be economically feasible. Instead, BMS has purchased a Motorola computer system which will serve as a Web site for all its customers who elect this service. The computer will be located at our Fairfax, Virginia office and will be connected to the Internet by Commercial Internet Services, LLC (CommInt) through a firewall. Initially, we will have a 128 Kbaud connection. We believe this will be completely adequate for the traffic we expect, but will monitor it carefully,

Each customer will have a completely independent database on this host system. Data will be transferred through serial communications lines using existing modems. It will appear to your customers that you have your own web site. There will be no possibility of any mixture of data. We expect to obtain updates from each customer's system about once an hour. This should suffice, but the updates can be done more frequently if necessary. The updates will be done by having your computer automatically call our Web site system.

By running the web sites on a computer located in our office, we greatly simplify the whole process. This is especially true when the reduction in system administration is considered.

What it will cost

The costs involved with setting up a web site consist of initial setup and recurring charges.

The recurring charges will be split evenly between all customers who choose to participate. As we understand it now, the following charges would be split:

Internet Access Fee $225 per month
Communication Costs 90 per month
Hardware Maintenance 100 per month
Total $415 per month


Thus, the cost per customer should be between $100 and $200 per month. In addition, you will have the cost of calling the Web site computer. This should not be a significant cost, even if long distance is involved. We expect that each call will be less than 1 minute.

The setup costs will include a share of BMS's costs in procuring the necessary hardware and the cost of developing the applications.

The cost for application development will depend on the level of services required and how many of our customers decide to go this route. We are hoping that we can write one core set of applications to access status data and accept orders. Spreading this effort across the needs of several companies will reduce the cost for each.

Send requests for further information or a demonstration to:

Business Management Systems, Inc.
4001 Williamsburg Court
Fairfax, VA 22032

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