Washington State Small Business Development Center
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E-business is a complex subject, but can simply be defined as transacting business electronically. These transactions typically occur in three modes: between the company and its buyers, between the company and the vendors it buys from, or transactions entirely internal to the company.

Within these three modes, transactions occur in front office business functions such as marketing, sales and customer service. Or, they can occur in back office business functions such as human resources, finance, engineering, manufacturing, inventory, and supply chain activities. Internal transactions facilitate the flow of information and data throughout the company by connecting departments and functions, which is called e-business integration.

An increasingly important fourth mode of e-business transaction is between the company and the various levels of government. These transactions can be filing of tax or informational returns, distribution of notices, procurement activities, and requests for quotation.

E-commerce is defined generally as electronic sales transactions over the Internet. M-commerce stands for mobile commerce, which is a new concept supported by the advance of wireless technology. Business transactions made on mobile internet-capable devices, such as handheld appliances, fall into the realm of m-commerce.



  • How can I incorporate e-business into my company?

    The number of e-business opportunities is limited only by creativity, cost and good business sense. Determine the best opportunities for payback and address them first. Make sure the benefit will meet or exceed the cost. 

  • I have an existing brick-and-mortar business. Should I venture into e-space?

    E-business can allow you to reach customers beyond the scope of your store, target additional customer groups, provide more efficient customer and vendor transaction processing, lower your marketing costs, and improve your company image.

    But the decision boils down to one basic business principal: "Will the investment and ongoing expense be paid back with profit?" Analyze the risks by taking a hard look at all the costs involved. Then develop cash flow, income statement and balance sheet projections. How positive is the impact? How long does it take to pay back the investment? 

    One excellent resource is a business that has traveled a similar path. They can offer insight and advice that will help you make a sound decision.

  • What do online customers want?

    Consumer attitudes of those who shop and purchase online are significantly different from the habits and preferences of consumers who visit stores. Their purchase decisions are driven and based on a different set of factors tied to the characteristics of the e-space environment. For an e-commerce business to survive, it is absolutely necessary to establish and maintain and intimate understanding of the customers, their behavior, and the factors that drive purchase decisions.

    Online consumers are highly sensitive to the following characteristics:

    • Quick page download time (8-10 seconds)
    • Fast navigation
    • Logical and understandable first-page view
    • User-friendly web site that's easy to read and view, with interesting graphics
    • Immediate customer service; a human to contact to ask questions while browsing
    • Complete product descriptions, prices and pictures
    • Contact information
  • What level of security is necessary?

    A secure web site is critical to the success of your e-business. Not only do you want to protect your web site from hackers, but your customers need to feel comfortable that their online transactions are secure. Firewalls, encryption, secure network perimeters and virtual private networks can all be used to elevate security.

    Work closely with your technology partner and ISP to determine the security required for your business and investigate various options. FBI statistics show that disgruntled employees are your biggest security risk, so internal business controls are imperative. The following steps will improve security:

    • Address computer security policies in the company policy manual
    • Post banner warnings on employee systems
    • Document computer and software policies with employee user agreements
    • Establish codes of conduct and terms for continuation of employment
    • Create a system to deactivate employee accounts prior to termination
    • Consider keystroke monitoring to support ongoing problems and termination
    • Establish a computer security policy
    • Establish policies for physical security of facility; door locks, restricted access, ID options, security guards, etc.
    • Implement policies for physical security of computers
    • Require a fine for loss of a laptop
    • Establish controls for contents of laptops
    • Restrict access to unused network jacks
    • Restrict the use of infrared devices
    • Establish policies to control the circulation and destruction of information
    • Use third-party "recoverable" encryption products for sensitive data
    • Shred proprietary and personal information before discarding
    • Map your network
    • Compile a list of all running services
    • Know and record typical traffic patterns; recognize abnormal patterns
    • Scan all disks for viruses
    • Obtain software from reliable sources
    • Implement and enforce account and password procedures
    • Delete obsolete or inactive web pages
    • Update anti-virus software regularly
    • Obtain and install security patches
    • If intrusion software is used, update it frequently and read the output
    • Install, test and update firewalls
    • Implement a policy to maintain and inventory software
    • Maintain backup sets of installed software
    • Prepare a contingency plan that will allow you to maintain service
    • Establish an incident response plan
    • Prepare a response checklist
    • Compile a written list of security personnel names and contact information
    • Turn on all logs in the event of an incident
    • Write logs to a remote computer
    • Read and analyze logs
    • Take a snapshot of the system during an incident
    • Verify time stamps on logs
    • Determine the cost of the incident
    • Contact appropriate authorities

Online Resources

  • Blogs - Technorati
  • CERT Coordination Center

    Located at Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute, CERT studies internet security vulnerabilities, researches long-term changes in networked systems and develops information and training to help you improve security.

  • FBI Cyber Investigations

     Learn what the FBI is doing to combat cyber-intrusions.

  • Office of Technology and Electronic Commerce

    Provides general trade and policy analysis and research, including analyzing foreign countries e-commerce laws and initiatives and participating in international discussions to promote a favorable global policy environment for electronic commerce growth.

  • The System Administration, Networking and Security Institute

     This organization offers training and information on computer security.

  • Tools for Online Success

    Google and the Small Business Administration have partnered to educate local businesses about how to succeed online. Each video describes how a small business owner successfully uses the internet to grow its business. It's important to be where your customers are...online!

  • TouchGraph Web Page Relationships
  • Web Site Ownership