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					1. introduction - what is ICT?

You see the letters ICT everywhere - particularly in education. But what does it mean? Read
our brief introduction to this important and fast-changing subject.

ICT is an acronym that stands for Information Communications Tecnology

However, apart from explaining an acronym, there is not a universally accepted defininition of
ICT? Why? Because the concepts, methods and applications involved in ICT are constantly
evolving on an almost daily basis. Its difficult to keep up with the changes - they happen so

Lets focus on the three words behind ICT:


A good way to think about ICT is to consider all the uses of digital technology that already exist
to help individuals, businesses and organisations use information.

ICT covers any product that will store, retrieve, manipulate, transmit or receive
information electronically in a digital form. For example, personal computers, digital
television, email, robots.

So ICT is concerned with the storage, retrieval, manipulation, transmission or receipt of
digital data. Importantly, it is also concerned with the way these different uses can work with
each other.

In business, ICT is often categorised into two broad types of product: -

(1) The traditional computer-based technologies (things you can typically do on a personal
computer or using computers at home or at work); and

(2) The more recent, and fast-growing range of digital communication technologies (which
allow people and organisations to communicate and share information digitally)

Let's take a brief look at these two categories to demonstrate the kinds of products and ideas
that are covered by ICT:

Traditional Computer Based Technologies

These types of ICT include:

Application       Use
Standard Office Applications - Main Examples
Word processing E.g. Microsoft Word: Write letters, reports etc
Spreadsheets      E.g. Microsoft Excel; Analyse financial information; calculations; create
                  forecasting models etc
Database          E.g. Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Access; Managing data in many forms,
software            from basic lists (e.g. customer contacts through to complex material (e.g.
Presentation        E.g. Microsoft PowerPoint; make presentations, either directly using a
software            computer screen or data projector. Publish in digital format via email or
                    over the Internet
Desktop             E.g. Adobe Indesign, Quark Express, Microsoft Publisher; produce
publishing          newsletters, magazines and other complex documents.

Graphics            E.g Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator; Macromedia Freehand and Fireworks;
software            create and edit images such as logos, drawings or pictures for use in DTP,
                    web sites or other publications

Specialist Applications - Examples (there are many!)
Accounting          E.g. Sage, Oracle; Manage an organisation's accounts including
package             revenues/sales, purchases, bank accounts etc. A wide range of systems is
                    available ranging from basic packages suitable for small businesses through
                    to sophisticated ones aimed at multinational companies.
Computer Aided Computer Aided Design (CAD) is the use of computers to assist the design
Design              process. Specialised CAD programs exist for many types of design:
                    architectural, engineering, electronics, roadways

Customer            Software that allows businesses to better understand their customers by
Relations           collecting and analysing data on them such as their product preferences,
Management          buying habits etc. Often linked to software applications that run call
(CRM)               centres and loyalty cards for example.

Traditional Computer Based Technologies

The C part of ICT refers to the communication of data by electronic means, usually over some
distance. This is often achieved via networks of sending and receiving equipment, wires and
satellite links.

The technologies involved in communication tend to be complex. You certainly don't need to
understand them for your ICT course. However, there are aspects of digital communications
that you needs to be aware of. These relate primarily to the types of network and the ways of
connecting to the Internet. Let's look at these two briefly (further revision notes provide much
more detail to support your study).

Internal networks

Usually referred to as a local area network (LAN), this involves linking a number of hardware
items (input and output devices plus computer processing) together within an office or

The aim of a LAN is to be able to share hardware facilities such as printers or scanners,
software applications and data. This type of network is invaluable in the office environment
where colleagues need to have access to common data or programmes.

External networks
Often you need to communicate with someone outside your internal network, in this case you
will need to be part of a Wide Area Network (WAN). The Internet is the ultimate WAN - it is a
vast network of networks.

ICT in a Broader Context

Your ICT course will almost certainly cover the above examples of ICT in action, perhaps
focusing on the use of key applications such as spreadsheets, databases, presentation, graphics
and web design software.

It will also consider the following important topics that deal with the way ICT is used and
managed in an organisation:

- The nature of information (the "I" in ICT); this covers topics such as the meaning and value
of information; how information is controlled; the limitations of ICT; legal considerations

- Management of information - this covers how data is captured, verified and stored for
effective use; the manipulation, processing and distribution of information; keeping
information secure; designing networks to share information

- Information systems strategy - this considers how ICT can be used within a business or
organisation as part of achieving goals and objectives

As you can see, ICT is a broad and fast-changing subject. We hope our free study materials
(revision notes, quizzes, presentations etc) will help you master IT!

2. qualities of good information

Not all information is helpful to a business. Alternatively, it might be detailed, but has been
obtained for too much cost. What are the main features of good quality information in a

The table below summarises the key characteristics of good quality information, and suggests
ways in which information can be improved if it is not quite up to standard:

Quality        Commentary
Relevant       The information obtained and used should be needed for decision-making. it
               doesn't matter how interesting it is. Businesses are often criticised for producing
               too much information simply because their information systems can "do it". A
               good way of ensuring relevance is to closely define the objectives of any
               information reports. Another way to improve relevance is to produce
               information that focuses on "exceptions" - e.g. problems, high or low values,
               where limits have been exceeded.

Up-to-date     Information needs to be timely if it is to be actioned. For example, the manager
               of a large retail business needs daily information on how stores are performing,
               which products are selling well (or not) so that immediate action can be taken.
               To improve the speed with which information is produced, businesses usually
               need to look at upgrading or replacing their information systems.
Accurate      As far as possible, information should be free from errors (e.g. the figures add
              up; data is allocated to the correct categories). The users of information should
              be informed whenever assumptions or estimates have been used. Accruate
              information is usually a function of accurate data collection. If information
              needs to be extremely accurate, then more time needs to be allocated for it to
              be checked. However, businesses need to guard against trying to produce
              "perfect" information - it is often more important for the information to be up-
              to-date than perfect.

Meet the     Users of information have different needs. The managing director doesn't have
needs of the time to trawl through thick printouts of each week's production or sales listings -
User         he or she wants a summary of the key facts. The quality control supervisor will
             want detailed information about quality testing results rather than a brief one-
             line summary of how things are going. It is a good idea to encourage users to
             help develop the style and format of information reporting that they require.

Easy to use   Information should be clearly presented (e.g. use summaries, charts) and not too
and           long. It also needs to be communicated using an appropriate medium (e.g.
understand    email, printed report, presentation. Businesses should also consider developing
              "templates" which are used consistently throughout the organisation - so that
              users get used to seeing information in a similar style.

Worth the     Often forgotten. Information costs money. Data is costly to collect, analyse and
cost          report. Information takes time to read and assimilate. All users should question
              whether the information they recieve/have requested is worthwhile

Reliable      Information should come from authoritative sources. It is good practice to quote
              the source used - whether it be internal or external sources. If estimates or
              assumptions have been applied, these should be clearly stated and explained.

3. Introduction to Information System Security

Information and information systems need to be controlled. A key aspect of control is that an
information system should be secure. This is achieved through security controls. What are

What is Information Security?

According to the UK Government, Information security is:

"the practice of ensuring information is only read, heard, changed, broadcast and
otherwise used by people who have the right to do so" (Source: UK Online for Business)

Information systems need to be secure if they are to be reliable. Since many businesses are
critically reliant on their information systems for key business processes (e.g. webs ites,
production scheduling, transaction processing), security can be seen to be a very important
area for management to get right.

What can go wrong?
Data and information in any information system is at risk from:

Human error: e.g. entering incorrect transctions; failing to spot and correct errors; processing
the wrong information; accidentally deleting data
Technical errors: e.g. hardware that fails or software that crashes during transaction
Accidents and disasters: e.g. floods, fire

Fraud - deliberate attempts to corrupt or amend previously legitimate data and information

Commercial espionage: e.g. competitors deliberately gaining access to commercially-sensitive
data (e.g. customer details; pricing and profit margin data, designs)
Malicious damage: where an employee or other person deliberately sets out to destroy or
damage data and systems (e.g. hackers, creators of viruses)

How Can Information Systems be Made More Secure?

There is no such thing as failsafe security for information systems. When designing security
controls, a business needs to address the following factors;

Prevention: What can be done to prevent security accidents, errors and breaches? Physical
security controls (see more detailed revision note) are a key part of prevention techniques, as
are controls designing to ensure the integrity of data (again - see more detailed revision note)

Detection: Spotting when things have gone wrong is crucial; detection needs to be done as
soon as possible - particularly if the information is commercially sensitive. Detection controls
are often combined with prevention controls (e.g. a log of all attempts to achieve unauthorised
access to a network).

Deterrence: deterrence controls are about discouraging potential security breaches.

Data recovery - If something goes wrong (e.g. data is corrupted or hardware breaks down) it is
important to be able to recover lost data and information.

Business benefits of good information security

Managing information security is often viewed as a headache by management. It is often
perceived as adding costs to a business by focusing on "negatives" - i.e what might go wrong.

However, there are many potential business benefits from getting information system security
right: for example:

- If systems are more up-to-date and secure - they are also more likely to be accurate and
- Security can be used to "differentiate" a business – it helps build confidence with customers
and suppliers
- Better information systems can increase the capacity of a business. For example, adding
online ordering to a web site can boost sales enabling customers to buy 24 hours a day, 7 days a
- By managing risk more effectively – a business can cut down on losses and potential legal

4. integrity of data and information systems

This revision notes summarises the main kinds of physical security controls that are used to
protect information systems

Physical Access Controls

Access controls are designed to prevent unauthorised access to hardware and/or data storage.
The main kinds of access control are:

Human error: e.g. entering incorrect transctions; failing to spot and correct errors; processing
the wrong information; accidentally deleting data
Technical errors: e.g. hardware that fails or software that crashes during transaction
Accidents and disasters: e.g. floods, fire

Fraud - deliberate attempts to corrupt or amend previously legitimate data and information

Commercial espionage: e.g. competitors deliberately gaining access to commercially-sensitive
data (e.g. customer details; pricing and profit margin data, designs)
Malicious damage: where an employee or other person deliberately sets out to destroy or
damage data and systems (e.g. hackers, creators of viruses)

How Can Information Systems be Made More Secure?

There is no such thing as failsafe security for information systems. When designing security
controls, a business needs to address the following factors;

Prevention: What can be done to prevent security accidents, errors and breaches? Physical
security controls (see more detailed revision note) are a

Accidents and disasters: e.g. floods, fire

Fraud - deliberate attempts to corrupt or amend previously legitimate data and information

Commercial espionage: e.g. competitors deliberately gaining access to commercially-sensitive
data (e.g. customer details; pricing and profit margin data, designs)
Malicious damage: where an employee or other person deliberately sets out to destroy or
damage data and systems (e.g. hackers, creators of viruses)

5. controls over access to information systems

Information systems contain important data - so it makes sense to restrict user access. How is
this done?

Control Access to What?

Businesses need to control access to:
Computer applications
Operating system facilities

How is It Achieved?

Control over access to an information system is achieved by using a logical access system: such
a system:

- Requests details of the identification of the user (e.g. by requesting a username and
- Checks whether the user has the authority to access the system
- Authenticates the user and allows access

Effective control ensures that staff have appropriate access to information and applications,
and do not abuse it.

Management issues, such as periodic reviews of user accounts, can apply as much to IT systems
as to physical access control systems. Confidentiality of information is best achieved by
ensuring that people only have access to the information they actually need.

If access rules are too detailed, managing them will be very difficult. If they are too general,
people will have access to information or applications that they will never need. A balance
must be struck depending on:

Needs of the business
Security features provided by the systems
Trust in staff

Consideration of security issues during system design, development and procurement will
greatly enhance effectiveness. Look for:

Strong password enforcement

Management of access rights to read, amend, process or delete information

Analysis of what users require to do their job
Analysis of the security features each system can provide

6. introduction - what information does a business

We talk often about Information - the "I" in ICT. But what is information? How does it differ
from "data"? And what kind of information does a business require?

The difference between Data and Information?

It is important that you understand the difference between "data" and "information"


Think of data as a "raw material" - it needs to be processed before it can be turned into
something useful. Hence the need for "data processing". Data comes in many forms - numbers,
words, symbols. Data relates to transactions, events and facts. On its own - it is not very

Think of the data that is created when you buy a product from a retailer. This includes:

- Time and date of transaction (e.g. 10:05 Tuesday 23 December 2003)
- Transaction value (e.g. £55.00)
- Facts about what was bought (e.g. hairdryer, cosmetics pack, shaving foam) and how much
was bought (quantities)
- How payment was made (e.g. credit card, credit card number and code)
- Which employee recorded the sale
- Whether any promotional discount applied

At its simplest, this data needs processing at the point of sale in order for the customer to
receive a valid receipt. So the data about the transaction is processed to create "information" -
in this case a receipt. You can imagine that the same data would also be useful to the manager
of the retail store. For example, a report showing total sales in the day, or which are the best-
selling products. So the data concerning all shop transactions in the day needs to be captured,
and then processed into a management report.


The above example demonstrates what information is.

Information is data that has been processed in such a way as to be meaningful to the
person who receives it.

Note the two words highlighted in red - "processed" and "meaningful". It is not enough for data
simply to be processed. it has to be of use to someone - otherwise why bother?!

Uses of Information in a Business

Businesses and other organisations need information for many purposes: we have summarised
the five main uses in the table below.
Use             Description
Planning        To plan properly, a business needs to know what resources it has (e.g. cash,
                people, machinery and equipment, property, customers). It also needs
                information about the markets in which it operates and the actions of
                competitors. At the planning stage, information is important as a key
                ingredient in decision-making.

Recording       Information about each transaction or event is needed. Much of this is required
                to be collected by law - e.g. details of financial transactions. Just as
                importantly, information needs to be recorded so that the business can be
                properly managed.
Controlling     Once a business has produced its plan it needs to monitor progress against the
                plan - and control resources to do so. So information is needed to help identify
                whether things are going better or worse than expected, and to spot ways in
                which corrective action can be taken
Measuring       Performance must be measured for a business to be successful. Information is
                used as the main way of measuring performance. For example, this can be
                done by collecting and analysing information on sales, costs and profits
Decision-       Information used for decision-making is often categorised into three types:
                (1) Strategic information: used to help plan the objectives of the business as
                a whole and to measure how well those objectives are being achieved.
                Examples of stategic information include:

                - Profitability of each part of the business
                - Size, growth and competitive structure of the markets in which a business
                - Investments made by the business and the returns (e.g. profits, cash inflows)
                from those investments

                (2) Tactical Information: this is used to decide how the resources of the
                business should be employed. Examples include:

                - Information about business productivity (e.g. units produced per employee;
                staff turnover)
                - Profit and cash flow forecasts in the short term
                - Pricing information from the market

                (3) Operational Information: this information is used to make sure that
                specific operational tasks are carried out as planned/intended (i.e. things are
                done properly). For example, a production manager will want information
                about the extent and results of quality control checks that are being carried
                out in the manufacturing process.


This revision note has outlined the main kinds of information. It is important that you
understand the difference between data and information, explain the role that information
plays in a business, and distinguish between the main kinds of information.

7. sources of data and information
Data and information come from many sources - both internal (inside the business) and
external. This revision note summarises the main sources:

Business data and information comes from multiple sources. The challenge for a business is to
capture and use information that is relevant and reliable. The main sources are:

Internal Information

Accounting records are a prime source of internal information. They detail the transactions of
the business in the past - which may be used as the basis for planning for the future (e.g.
preparing a financial budget or forecast).

The accounting records are primarily used to record what happens to the financial resources of
a business. For example, how cash is obtained and spent; what assets are acquired; what
profits or losses are made on the activities of the business.

However, accounting records can provide much more than financial information. For example,
details of the products manufactured and delivered from a factory can provide useful
information about whether quality standards are being met. Data analysed from customer sales
invoices provides a profile of what and to whom products are being sold.

A lot of internal information is connected to accounting systems - but is not directly part of
them. for example:

-   Records of the people employed by the business (personal details; what they get paid;
    skills and experience; training records)
-   Data on the costs associated with business processes (e.g. costings for contracts entered
    into by the business)
-   Data from the production department (e.g. number of machines; capacity; repair record)
-   Data from activities in direct contact with the customer (e.g. analysis of calls received and
    missed in a call centre)

A lot of internal information is also provided informally. For example, regular meetings of staff
and management will result in the communication of relevant information.

External Information

As the term implies, this is information that is obtained from outside the business.

There are several categories of external information:

- Information relating to way a business should undertake its activities

E.g. businesses need to keep records so that they can collect taxes on behalf of the
government. So a business needs to obtain regular information about the taxation system (e.g.
PAYE, VAT, Corporation Tax) and what actions it needs to take. Increasingly this kind of
information (and the return forms a business needs to send) is provided in digital format.

Similarly, a business needs to be aware of key legal areas (e.g. environmental legislation;
health & safety regulation; employment law). There is a whole publishing industry devoted to
selling this kind of information to businesses.
- Information about the markets in which a business operates

This kind of external information is critically important to a business. It is often referred to as
"market" or "competitive intelligence".

Most of the external information that a business needs can be obtained from marketing

Marketing research can help a business do one or more of the following:

1. Gain a more detailed understanding of consumers’ needs – marketing research can help
firms to discover consumers’ opinions on a huge range of issues, e.g., views on products’
prices, packaging, recent advertising campaigns

2. Reduce the risk of product/business failure – there is no guarantee that any new idea will
be a commercial success, but accurate and up-to-date information on the market can help a
business make informed decisions, hopefully leading to products that consumers want in
sufficient numbers to achieve commercial success.

3. Forecast future trends – marketing research can not only provide information regarding the
current state of the market but it can also be used to anticipate customer needs future
customer needs. Firms can then make the necessary adjustments to their product portfolios
and levels of output in order to remain successful.

The information for marketing research tends to come from three main sources:

Internal Company Information – e.g. sales, orders, customer profiles, stocks, customer service

Marketing intelligence – this is a catch-all term to include all the everyday information about
developments in the market that helps a business prepare and adjust its marketing plans. It can
be obtained from many sources, including suppliers, customers and distributors. It is also
possible to buy intelligence information from outside suppliers (e.g. Mintel, Dun and
Bradstreet) who will produce commercial intelligence reports that can be sold profitably to any
interested organisation.

Market Research – existing data from internal sources may not provide sufficient detail.
Similarly, published reports from market intelligence organisations cannot always be relied
upon to provide the up-to-date, relevant information required. In these circumstances, a
business may need to commission specific studies in order to acquire the data required to
support their marketing strategy.

8. information system security - risk analysis

This revision notes describes what is meant by risk analysis - an important part of the process
for any business to address potential problems with information system security

What is Risk Analysis?

Risk Analysis has been defined as:
"a formal process of determining risks and developing a plan to deal with them"

Risks do not arise all by themselves. A risk is normally a product of two factors: threats
(something could go wrong) and vulnerabilities (the information system/s used by the business
will allow things to do wrong).

Threats include:
- Deliberate manipulation of information prior to input/processing
- Impersonation of a legitimate user
- Untrained or poorly trained staff

Vulnerabilities include:
- Poor website or network design (e.g. which can allow "hackers" into a system or web site)
- Poor recruitment procedures

The first - and key stage - in addressing risks is to do a risk analysis:

A risk analysis process has three main stages:

(1) Understanding risks to the business and how they can occur
(2) Understanding the potential cost to the business if they do occur (a business should focus
its attention with the risks that have the greatest potential cost)
(3) Identifying suitable and effective measures and policies to:
- Minimise the likelihood of the threats happening
- Prevent or detect the threat
- Enable appropriate recovery action to be taken

Many risks can be quantified - since they occur in most businesses - and there is lots of
evidence of how threats and vulnerabilities arise.

The most important element in the process is that risk decisions are taken openly. Denying the
presence of risk is not helpful. But trying to reduce the risk to zero is not realistic, and will
normally cost more than it will save.

9. physical security in information systems

How do you stop unauthorised physical access to information systems? How do you protect the
security of the information systems assets themselves (e.g. computer rooms, laptops and
disks)? The answers lies in physical security controls. The key controls you need to be aware of
are summarised in this revision note.

Ensuring that there is a proper physical environment for systems, records and staff is essential
for maintaining confidentiality, integrity and availability of information.

Management need to think about the following aspects of physical security:

(1) Protection
- of information and information systems from the elements is as important as protecting them
from unauthorised people
- of physical access, which should be restricted to authorised personnel. IT equipment is
tempting to thieves, and can be damaged by accidents or sabotage

(2) Maintenance
- of the physical operating environment in a computer server room is as important as ensuring
that paper records are not subject to damage by fire or flooding.
- of supporting equipment such as air conditioning plant or mains services

The main physical security controls are as follows:

Controlling Physical Access

The objective with physical access controls is to stop unauthorised people getting near to
computer systems.

The key is to have a range of controls that include:

- Personnel (e.g. security) controlling human access
- Use of locks, key pads or car entry systems to sensitive computer locations
- Intruder alarms (detection)

Preventing Theft

Increasingly, computer equipment is smaller and lighter - which makes it easier to steal. So it
makes sense for such equipment to be:

- Locked away when not in use
- Marked with identification (e.g. bar code / security code)

Physical Environment

The locations in which information systems are held also need to be protected. Measures

- Site preparation (e.g. materials that are fireproof)
- Detection equipment (e.g smoke detectors)
- Extinguishing equipment (e.g. sprinklers)
- Protection of power supplies (e.g. back up generator)

10. information systems - controls over people


Personnel Security

This covers aspects of job definitions and resourcing, to reduce the risk of human error and
ensure that staff understand what their rights and responsibilities are concerning information

Most organisations require staff to keep client information confidential. They also ask staff to
report security incidents and perceived weaknesses.
Appropriate personnel security ensures:

That employment contracts and staff handbooks have agreed, clear wording

Ancillary workers, temporary staff, contractors and third parties are covered

Anyone else with legitimate access to business information or systems is covered

It must deal with rights as well as responsibilities, for example:

Access to personnel files under the Data Protection Act

Proper use of equipment as covered by the Computer Misuse Act

Staff training is an important feature of personnel security to ensure the Information Security
Management System (ISMS) continues to be effective.

Periodically, refreshers on less frequently used parts of the Information Security Management
System (ISMS), such as its role in disaster recovery plans, can make a major difference when
there is a need to put the theory into practice.

11. types of information system

For most businesses, there are a variety of requirements for information. Senior managers need
information to help with their business planning. Middle management need more detailed
information to help them monitor and control business activities. Employees with operational
roles need information to help them carry out their duties.

As a result, businesses tend to have several "information systems" operating at the same time.
This revision note highlights the main categories of information system and provides some
examples to help you distinguish between them.

The main kinds of information systems in business are described briefly below:

Information     Description
Executive       An Executive Support System ("ESS") is designed to help senior management
Support Systems make strategic decisions. It gathers, analyses and summarises the key internal
                and external information used in the business.

                  A good way to think about an ESS is to imagine the senior management team
                  in an aircraft cockpit - with the instrument panel showing them the status of
                  all the key business activities. ESS typically involve lots of data analysis and
                  modelling tools such as "what-if" analysis to help strategic decision-making.

Management        A management information system ("MIS") is mainly concerned with internal
Information       sources of information. MIS usually take data from the transaction processing
Systems           systems (see below) and summarise it into a series of management reports.

                  MIS reports tend to be used by middle management and operational
Decision-       Decision-support systems ("DSS") are specifically designed to help
Support Systems management make decisions in situations where there is uncertainty about
                the possible outcomes of those decisions. DSS comprise tools and techniques
                to help gather relevant information and analyse the options and alternatives.
                DSS often involves use of complex spreadsheet and databases to create
                "what-if" models.

Knowledge        Knowledge Management Systems ("KMS") exist to help businesses create and
Management       share information. These are typically used in a business where employees
Systems          create new knowledge and expertise - which can then be shared by other
                 people in the organisation to create further commercial opportunities. Good
                 examples include firms of lawyers, accountants and management consultants.

                 KMS are built around systems which allow efficient categorisation and
                 distribution of knowledge. For example, the knowledge itself might be
                 contained in word processing documents, spreadsheets, PowerPoint
                 presentations. internet pages or whatever. To share the knowledge, a KMS
                 would use group collaboration systems such as an intranet.

Transaction      As the name implies, Transaction Processing Systems ("TPS") are designed to
Processing       process routine transactions efficiently and accurately. A business will have
Systems          several (sometimes many) TPS; for example:

                 - Billing systems to send invoices to customers
                 - Systems to calculate the weekly and monthly payroll and tax payments
                 - Production and purchasing systems to calculate raw material requirements
                 - Stock control systems to process all movements into, within and out of the

Office           Office Automation Systems are systems that try to improve the productivity
Automation       of employees who need to process data and information. Perhaps the best
Systems          example is the wide range of software systems that exist to improve the
                 productivity of employees working in an office (e.g. Microsoft Office XP) or
                 systems that allow employees to work from home or whilst on the move.

12. methods of data collection

Collecting data can be a time-consuming, labour intensive process. So businesses are constantly
looking for ways in which data capture and analysis can be automated. However, manual data
collection is still common for many business processes. This revision note summarises the main
kinds of data collection you need to be aware of.

The table below summarises the main methods of data collection

Method           Commentary
Manual Input Methods
Keyboard           A very familiar input device. Typically used to input data into personal
                   computer applications such as databases and spreadsheets

Touch-sensitive    Developed to allow computer monitors to be used as an input device.
screens            Selections are made by users touching areas of a screen. Sensors, built into
                   the screen surround, detect what has been touched. These screens are
                   increasingly used to help external customers input transactional data - e.g.
                   buying transport tickets, paying for car parking or requesting information

Automated Input Methods

Magnetic ink       MICR involves the recognition by a mchine of specially-formatted characters
character          printed in magnetic ink. This is an expensive method to set up and use - but
recognition (MICR) it is accurate and fast. A good example is the use of magnetic ink
                   characters on the bottom of each cheque in a cheque book

Optical mark       Optical Mark Reading (OMR) uses paper based forms which users simply
reading (OMR)      mark (using a dash) to answer a question. OMR needs no special equipment
                   to mark a form other than a pen/pencil. Data can be processed very quickly
                   and with very low error rates. An OMR scanner then processes the forms
                   directly into the required database. An example you are probably familiar
                   with is the National Lottery entry forms, or answer sheets for those dreaded
                   multiple choice exam papers!

Optical character OCR is the recognition of printed or written characters by software that
recognition (OCR) processes information obtained by a scanner. Each page of text is converted
and scanners      to a digital using a scanner and OCR is then applied to this image to produce
                  a text file. This involves complex image processing algorithms and rarely
                  achieves 100% accuracy so manual proof reading is recommended.

Intelligent       Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) again uses paper based forms which
Character         respondees can enter handprinted text such as names, dates etc. as well as
Recognition (ICR) dash marks with no special equipment needed other than a pen/pencil. An
                  ICR scanner then processes the forms, which are then verified and stored
                  the required database.
Bar coding and    A very important kind of data collection method - in widespread use.
                  Bar codes are made up of rectangular bars and spaces in varying widths.
                  Read optically, these enable computer software to identify products and
                  items automatically. Numbers or letters are represented by the width and
                  position of each code's bars and spaces, forming a unique 'tag'. Bar codes
                  are printed on individual labels, packaging or documents. When the coded
                  item is handled, the bar code is scanned and the information gained is fed
                  into a computer. Codes are also often used to track and count items.

                  Businesses of all types and sizes use bar code systems. Best known are
                  retailers using Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) technology, familiar in
                  supermarkets and many retail operations. Not only saving time at checkout,
                  EPOS cuts management costs by providing an automatic record of what is
                  selling and stock requirements. Customers receive an accurate record of
                  prices and items purchased. Producers use bar coding for quick and
                  accurate stock control, linking easily to customers. Distributors use bar
                  codes as a crucial part of handling goods. Larger businesses and those with
                  high security requirements can use bar codes for personnel identification
                  and access records for sensitive areas.

EFTPOS            EFTPOS stands for Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale. You will find
                  EFTPOS terminals at the till in certain shops. An EFTPOS terminal
                  electronically prints out details of a plastic card transaction. The computer
                  in the terminal gets authorisation for the payment amount (to make sure it's
                  within the credit limit) and checks the card against a list of lost and stolen

Magnetic stripe   A card (plastic or paper) with a magnetic strip of recording material on
cards             which the magnetic tracks of an identification card are recorded. Magnetic
                  stripe cards are in widespread use as a way of controlling access (e.g. swipe
                  cards for doors, ticket barriers) and confirming identity (e.g. use in bank
                  and cash cards).

Smart cards       A smart card (sometime also called a "chip card") is a plastic card with an
                  embedded microchip. it is widely expected that smart crads will
                  eventually replace magnetic stripe cards in many applications. The smart
                  chip provides significantly more memory than the magnetic stripe. The chip
                  is also capable of processing information. The added memory and
                  processing capabilities are what enable a smart card to offer more services
                  and increased security. Some smart cards can also run multiple applications
                  on one card, this reducing the number of cards required by any one person.

                  One of the key functions of the smart card is its ability to act as a stored
                  value card, such as Mondex and Visa cash. This enables the card to be used
                  as electronic cash. Smart cards can also allow secure information storage,
                  making them ideal as ID cards and security keys.
Voice recognition A data collection technology that converts speech into text or interprets it
                  as a sequence of computer commands. Voice recognition is most common in
                  data entry and word processing environments, and fields where a user
                  needs to interact with a computer without using their hands.

Web Data Capture Web data capture use electronic forms on either on an Intranet or Internet.
                 They are becoming increasingly popular and have the advantage of being
                 accessible by any user having access to a computer. Users complete the
                 questions online and the returned data is then imported in electronic
                 format to the required database.

13. methods of data storage

Data storage is the holding of data in an electromagnetic form for access by a computer
processor. There are two main kinds of storage:

Primary storage is data that is held in in random access memory (RAM) and other memory
devices that are built into computers.

Secondary storage is data that is stored on external storage devices such as hard disks, tapes,

The table below summarises the main methods of data storage

Method             Commentary
Hard disks         Often called a disk drive, hard drive or hard disk drive, this method of data
                   storage stores and provides relatively quick access to large amounts of
                   data. The information is stored on electromagnetically charged surfaces
                   called 'platters'.
Floppy disks       A floppy disk is a type of magnetic disk memory which consists of a flexible
                   disk with a magnetic coating. Almost all floppy disks for personal computers
                   now have a capacity of 1.44 megabytes. Floppy disks are readily portable,
                   and are very popular for transferring software from one PC to another. They
                   are, however, very slow compared to hard disks and lack storage capacity.
                   Increasingly, therefore, computer manufacturers are not including floppy
                   disk drives in the products as a built-in storage option.
Tape storage       Tape is used as an external storage medium. It consists of a loop of
                   flexible celluloid-like material that can store data in the form of
                   electromagnetic charges. A tape drive is the device that positions, writes
                   from, and reads to the tape. A tape cartridge is a protectively-encased tape
                   that is portable.
Optical disks      An optical disc is a storage medium that can be written to and read using a
                   low-powered laser beam. A laser reads these dots, and the data is
                   converted to an electrical signal, finally converted into the original data.
CD-R               Compact Disc-Recordable ("CD-R") discs have become a universal data
                   storage medium worldwide. CD-Rs are becoming increasingly popular for
                   music recording and for file storage or transfer between personal
                   conmputers. CDR discs are write-once media. This means that - once used -
                   they cannot be erased or re-recorded upon. CD-R discs can be played back
                   in any audio CD player or CD-ROM drive, as well as many DVD players and

CD-RW              Compact Disc-Rewritable (CD-RW) disks are rewritable and can be erased
                   and re-recorded upon over and over again. CD-RW discs can only be used on
                   CD players, CD-ROM drives, and DVD players and drives that are CD-RW

DVD                A DVD (Digital Versatile Disc or Digital Video Disc) is a high density optical
                   disc with large capacity for storage of data, pictures and sound. The
                   capacity capacity is 4.7 GB for single sided, singe layer DVD disc - which is
                   approximately 7 times larger than that of a compact disc.

14. networks - local area networks (LAN)

A local area network ("LAN") is network of personal computers usually in close proximity (in the
same office or on the same floor of a building) hooked together. The main reason for joining
these computers together is that common resources like files, data, and printers can be used
by an entire group of workers. This revision note summarises the key features that you need to
understand about LAN's.
ain reason for joining
these computers together is that common resources like files, data, and printers can be used
by an entire group of workers. This revision note summarises the key features that you need t o
understand about LAN's.

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