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Book Contents

Ch. 6
Understanding DSS Architecture, Networking and Security Issues

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It is absolutely essential that a Decision Support System have an appropriate architecture, network design and level of security. Managers need to realize that the more widely accessible a DSS, the more security problems that can occur. Managers also need to recognize that the greater the importance of DSS data, the greater the level of security that is needed. By connecting to the Internet it is no longer a case of "if" a system will be broken into but rather "when". Despite the risks, it is my opinion that we have no choice but to use the Internet for building Inter-Organizational DSS and Web-Based DSS.

A well-defined DSS architecture has many benefits. Developing a DSS should therefore include adequate attention to the many architecture issues. Networks provide the magic of high-speed data transmission that many of us have come to depend upon. So we need to understand the basics of how networks function. Security is not some specialistís responsibility. We all need to learn about security issues; security for DSS data and systems is a shared responsibility. Managers need to remember that passwords are the first line of defense against unauthorized use of a DSS. Also, DSS users themselves often weaken the defense provided by passwords. There are a number of strategies that can be used to increase the effectiveness of passwords, but the most important is user education. Educate DSS users and remind them regularly of the importance of passwords.

Security is also related to the management of networked servers. The file system structure and file permissions are the fences of multi-user operating systems like UNIX and Windows NT. If used properly permissions or rights to access files and directories and data can keep users in their own restricted areas on a server. The system administrator needs to monitor and maintain the rights and permissions granted DSS users. Finally, the network is especially important to protect. We have become very dependent on the public Internet and we need to be vigilant in our use of it. Attacks on a companyís network must be anticipated and prevented when possible.

The Internet is more than a physical network connecting millions of computers that can continuously exchange information. The Internet allows us to transfer information around the world quickly. The Internet is also an information resource. And the Internet is a community of 400+ million individuals. These real people chose to interact, discuss, and share information online. Some small cadre of Internet users are anti-social and they can disrupt our computing systems.

The future of distributed DSS capabilities is only limited by a company's technology infrastructure. Technology for DSS is expanding and improving rapidly. Networking technologies will become better, faster and cheaper. Future technology will provide much higher speeds for video teleconferencing. Communications links will become wireless increasing speeds to greater than 500 Mbps. Such wireless communication links include satellite transmissions. The price for video teleconferencing will decline. The Internet has proven it can connect managers globally. The security issues associated with the Internet are being addressed proactively and the Internet is now an integral part of distributing DSS capabilities to users.

Architecture, network and security issues must be examined together during the planning for a new Decision Support System. Once a DSS is implemented, network and security monitoring must then become an ongoing activity.

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