Taking the free hours included in the basic rates of America Online (AOL), CompuServe, or Prodigy and considering a daily mail exchange of 10 minutes a day, times five days a week, times four weeks, I get an on-line hour count of 3 to 4 hours per month. Now, before the flame mail starts again, this assumes that users are composing and reading messages off-line.
The extra 20 percent I added (taking the total to $12 to $14 per month) for perusing other areas of these services is predicated on the typical usage of a bunch of these nontechie users here at my office. Several of you suggested my math wasn’t based on an apples-to-apples comparison. Well, if you run any of the commercial services for 40 to 50 hours per month, yes, you are likely to get a whopper of a bill. I’ve had my share of $200 CompuServe bills in the past, but in my experience, most folks won’t use the services like this.
Of course, it is possible that they will. Give a user a free (or company paid-for) account and the old who-cares-what-the-charges-are attitudes appear. But this is pretty rare, especially after the novelty wears off and after you ask them to reimburse the company for the “nonessential” time.
Quite a few of you took issue with my pricing for Internet access. My provider, Minnesota Regional Networks, charges individuals $40 per month for nearly unlimited time. They place a $10 monthly surcharge for business accounts. Not all markets have a variety of local access providers to help kick off price wars. Also, many of the $29-a-month-for-29-hours products charge extra if use exceeds the allotted time. I guess the best answer is, shop around.
If you have time, I’d be interested to know who you use as a provider, the kind of service you use (SLIP, PPP, permanent virtual circuit, and so on) and what you pay. Drop me a note. (See below.)
One last comment. Yes, I did omit Prodigy in my discussion. It was simply an oversight.
Regarding the column on spoofing and my suggestion that you use external, dial-up SLIP or PPP accounts for users to surf the ‘net rather than install network gateways that would be easier to penetrate, several readers wrote napalm-grams saying this approach exposed companies to even greater risk. (See “Spoofing, security, and the Internet: How much are you willing to risk?” Feb. 6, page 66.)
One went so far as to illustrate how on-line users were simultaneously and successfully hacking each others’ addresses. This is possible, and it raises a good point about removing the default log-in parameters that come with many of the TCP/IP stacks. But remember, most users simply want to peruse the Internet, using a Mosaic viewer and perhaps Gopher.
If you can, force idle-time parameters to 5 to 10 minutes, or less. Doing so will force idle workstations off the Internet (killing the SLIP or PPP link) and reduce risk of penetration.
On the LAN backup issue, most of you asked for more on workstation and security issues. Message received, stay tuned. (See “Developing a LAN-based data backup strategy isn’t getting easier,” Jan. 16, page 66.)
To close this column, I’d like to ask for your help in providing more columns of interest to you in the future. I’m preparing a survey designed to gauge your interest in several topics, including NetWare 4.1 vs. Microsoft’s Windows NT Advanced Server, the routing and switching vs. switched virtual networking debate, remote access and telecommuting, and the Lotus-Novell-Microsoft suite wars.
For now, I just need to know if you would be interested in participating. (I’m looking for 1,000 to 2,000 respondents.) If so, please send an E-mail message to the address below with the subject line NETWORKING SURVEY and a brief description of your corporate environment — company size, number of people supported, and how many LANs and servers.
I’ll compile names and send out the survey in late March. All individual responses will be held in strict confidence. I’ll make the tabulated results available to all who participate. See what your peers are doing and join us!