INNOVATION and willingness to succeed have always been the mainstay of Shetland's commercial success. In Shetland, businesses have always had to look to new ways of overcoming geographical boundaries separating them from lucrative markets. Technology has moved on and many Shetland firms are embracing new opportunities for attracting and selling their product. The Internet is increasingly being used for selling produce direct to customers all over the world.
The Internet is increasing in size at an incredible rate and is becoming the primary selling route for many companies. It is now commonplace to find an Internet address on a company's notepaper, on a TV advert or in a newspaper. It is no wonder that people often feel 'left behind' but never fear - the companies in this feature are all in a position to give help and advice to even the most novice of users.
Many local firms also use the Internet to communicate by e-mail. This is much more cost effective than mail, fax or telex and is very reliable. Word processed files, pictures, accounts and sounds can all be sent around the world without any loss of quality. Fishing boats too are beginning to see the advantage of e-mail for ship to shore communications.
Shetland has generated a reputation for being at the forefront on the Web. You too can benefit from the Internet. The costs are low and the potential is unlimited.
The Shetland Fishing News took the decision to use the Internet almost a year ago and has already benefited from a higher profile and many new readers. We have received e-mails of support from Canada, Australia, Croatia, Russia, USA, Belgium, France, Norway, New Zealand and Japan, as well as from numerous places all over the UK. The 'online' version of the Shetland Fishing News has full colour photographs and also carries many additional features such as up-to-date shipping forecasts, links to fisheries related subjects and a debate forum for fisheries topics. Why not kick-start your Internet involvement by placing an advert which has the potential to reach a world-wide audience?
MANAGEMENT at MES Business Equipment in Lerwick are well aware of the opportunities presented by the Internet. In the following paragraphs, MES sales executive, Fiona McDougall, explains how the Internet has grown and how Shetland businesses are already using it to their advantage.
"In the beginning ...the Internet was not the Internet but ARPAnet, a Department of Defence (DoD) Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. This network was initially used to link researchers with remote computer centres allowing them to share computational resources and was used as a defence network system during the cold war. At the end of the cold war the Internet began to grow and became more and more popular, especially in the early 1990's. At present it is estimated that the Internet's growth stands at about 10% per month with more than 30 million viewers already tuned in.
"It's not surprising then that companies big or small are now also turning their interests towards the Internet. There are several major reasons as to why the network is having such a dramatic impact on the scope of business. Not only is the Internet universal in the sense that businesses can interact with any other business on the net, it is also global, highly robust and reliable. Internet costs are surprisingly low and so with all this appeal many businesses have embraced the Internet as a tool to help them get ahead and achieve a competitive advantage.
"websites have also been progressively getting more and more impressive. In a business sense these pages allow you to advertise, promote, provide company and product information as well as dealer/distributor/user support. Information is up to the minute and accessibility is such that customers can see as much detail as they need while you can monitor the subjects of most interest to your customers to use this in marketing strategies.
"Advertising is one of the most widely used mediums on the Internet. It's economical and establishes your business as being progressive and aware of current technology as well as enhancing your image. It is also an excellent way of publicising your speciality to those that have a specific need.
"Business communication through e-mail is also another positive aspect to the Internet. Not only do businesses manage to interact on a daily basis with information which is easily edited and managed, e-mail provides accessibility to whoever you need to be in touch with on a world-wide basis."
"These days technology is becoming more and more advanced, to the stage where you can go shopping without ever leaving your own home. Many companies therefore have turned to the idea of selling their goods literally through the Internet where customers can place orders easily and quickly without the usual hassle of phoning and faxing. This appeals to those buying goods from the other side of the world and of course e-mail steps in to make sure your order is placed without complications.
"In Shetland there are growing numbers of businesses that are actively selling their goods more efficiently through the Internet, which in turn leads to financial success. The fishing industry is one of the most traditional industries in Shetland and has the potential to use the Internet to more of an advantage than other industries due to the global impact they have experienced in the past decade.
"So what makes me such an expert on the Internet? I suppose it's due to the fact that I have seen the benefits it has provided to so many Shetland companies. The Internet is relevant to any company of any size. It allows companies to reduce costs, shorten product cycle times, market more effectively and enable new ways of doing business, after all the proof is in the pudding, why do you think we install the Internet and provide support for Internet users?"
A comprehensive service
Besides supplying a wealth of general office equipment, MES provides a comprehensive computer and Internet service. Computers can be built and network systems designed to meet exact customer specifications and a customised software service is also available.
MES also operates as an Internet provider and can 'hook you up' for a competitive set-up fee and monthly charge. Not only do they provide this service to land-based customers, but have installed an Internet capability on the pelagic trawler, Research. This enables the vessel to communicate via e-mail, using a mobile phone line, and with technology constantly improving, MES expect this to become a popular option for fishing vessels in the future.
"Increasingly, the Internet is becoming the marketing tool of choice for businesses local and global. As a communication tool, e-mail is streets ahead of the alternatives, mail or fax, in that one can transmit far more information - text, voicemail, images spreadsheets, etc. - at a fraction of the cost. As the new technologies become more accessible (user-friendly), there is a growing market for direct retail sales through the Web, which is good news indeed for small rural companies such as our own.
"We have seen a real growth in Internet related traffic, both through our website and from professional newsgroups and online clubs, such ashttp://www.businessauctions.com and http://www.seafoodrus.org . Relationships are being developed and nurtured, using the Web rather like the ultimate business card. A typical scenario would be a manager or buyer from a retail group or wholesaler seeking a new supplier of smoked fish. He or she would use their Web browser to initiate a search on the words "smoked fish" and a list of potential suppliers would be returned. The more specific the search, the closer the match would be, and if the designer of the website has done his job properly, that site should appear in the first ten on the list.
Importance of good design
This is where good design and an understanding of how the search engines work becomes a real advantage. It is of little use to put hours into designing a website if nobody is going to visit it, and again there is a lot of help available on the Web on how to get your site noticed. A particularly good source of advice can be found at http://www.virtualpromote.com. Swapping links with other users is another good way to get related business to visit your site. Another option is posting to professional newsgroups, although you have to be careful as newsgroups do not like the idea of "spamming", which means sending advertising to hundreds of speciality newsgroups without permission.
"Even at this time it is possible to do financial transactions on the Internet and in the USA there are online fish auctions, with credit guarantees, financing etc - indeed all the accoutrements of the commercial seafood business. The next few years are going to see big developments in this sector, where satelite telecoms are going to make it possible for fish to be sold direct from fishing boats via the internet.
Quality through technology
"We at the Shetland Smokehouse are very committed to the new technologies. We run a fully networked process and control system throughout our factory, with centrally monitored temperature control, yield control and cleaning schedules all logged through the system. This enables us to trace our products right to the source and recall any particular batch if there were to be a problem. We can even access the system remotely through the telephone line. This kind of control is necessary to maintain product integrity and indeed it is now mandatory to have the HACCP system in place for customers in the USA. We use our website(http://www.zetnet.co.uk/smoke) to advertise new product developments and get direct sales. One new venture is our "Basket in Box" fresh fish pack which is aimed at the catering market, where we can pack prime pre-prepared cuts of fish in a 4 kg modified atmosphere package. The old story that a picture is worth a thousand words certainly holds true with a concept like this and the Web is a great way to show what is meant.
"In the age of Information Technology, where information is power, it makes sense for companies to keep up with these developments and use them to increase market share and awareness, indeed the consequences for not doing so would be dire."
INFORMATION Technology Systems, based at the Kirk Business Centre in Scalloway, was established in 1996 to provide high quality business computer systems at very competitive prices.
ITS proprietor, Roland Hawkins, agrees that the Internet provides real potential for many Shetland businesses, especially for those looking to sell their products abroad. "There are many options for Shetland companies looking to promote themselves abroad using the Internet, including the possibility of websites in multiple languages to reach a truly international audience," said Mr Hawkins.
ITS provide computers and computer systems supplied to the customer's exact specification. As part of this service, ITS considers backup service to be particularly important in Shetland and prides itself in providing a comprehensive service for all customers, ensuring technical support and on-site service is available throughout Shetland.
Alternatively, if you already have a computer system which is having difficulty coping with the software you are using (or is unable to cope with the software you would like to use) why not consider upgrading? ITS can provide a complete range of upgrade services at a fraction of the cost of a new computer.
As well as providing tailor made systems, ITS can offer local on-site support for specialist systems and software supplied by companies outside Shetland. This is especially relevant for the fish processing and fish farming industries for example, where specialist systems are becoming more popular. ITS also provides a complete range of complimentary products for your computer system, from hardware items like modems and laser printers to software which could increase the productivity of your business. Further, if no off-the-shelf software is available to suit your needs, ITS can supply a custom written software package to suit your exact requirements.
With the explosive growth of the Internet, e-mail has become a popular method of communicating, both amongst individual and business computer users. ITS expect this trend to continue and can supply all that is required to get you started in communicating and promoting your business on the Internet.
If you're considering enhancing your business with Internet access, why not get your accounting system sorted at the same time. ITS is an authorised dealer for Sage accounting systems. In association with Kevin Learmonth of Desktops, ITS can provide the complete Sage accounting solution including everything from software and equipment to training and ongoing support.
For more information on what's available, or to discuss your requirements, contact Roland Hawkins on 01595 880 805.
THE SHETLAND News started initially as a trial project on 23rd November 1995 and was the brainchild of local journalist Jonathan Wills, and photographer/computer designer Graeme Storey. The idea of putting Shetland's daily news on the Internet in an easy to read and user-friendly format, along with features and articles of interest to readers far afield had not been tried before, but it was felt that a large number of Shetlanders now living abroad would be interested in the 'goings-on' back on the 'Auld Rock'. The subsequent discovery that The Shetland News was the first daily, Internet-only news publication in the UK served to encourage these early efforts to put Shetland on the map in a truly global sense.
From early beginnings of 1,000 visits to the website each day during week one, the online news-magazine has come a long way since those first, tentative steps into the unknown world of international publishing. Nowadays the readership is as high as 18,000 each day, and the countries from which people are checking in to look at the publication would make any travel agent's mouth water, with over 80 countries showing accesses to the site. Some 64 per cent of all readers are from outwith the UK, with around half of those from the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Readers letters have clearly shown that a large percentage of people who regularly browse the pages are either expatriate Shetlanders or have had close ties with Shetland in the past, maybe having worked here at some time or other.
Proof positive of the wide coverage any advert would get in The Shetland News can be seen from a quick look at the free, voluntary, business directory which has seen hundreds of companies from around the globe take the time to fill in the online form and have themselves included. When it comes to actually deciding to venture into these new markets, The Shetland News can offer a complete range of advertising deals to give sponsors a wide range of cost versus exposure options within the structure of The Shetland News website, enabling any business to be properly represented on the Internet. Specific sections obviously attract specific readers, so if you have products or services to offer one section might be more advantageous than another for the link to your website. The Shetland News are able to offer the rental of Web-space and the setting up of e-mail accounts, for instance, as well as the more obvious adverts on the website.
Customers of ours have seen a clear return from their commitment to the new technology and the new horizons the Internet can offer them for their mail order businesses, while travel companies and many others have been extremely impressed with the 24-hour, seven days a week promotion they can achieve and yet still have quick recourse to make changes if wanting to promote a special offer. Advertising on the Internet is not 'cut-and-dried' in the way that a printed brochure defines. A well constructed website should be far easier to find your way around, and to glean information from, than any printed leaflet. It can be 'interactive' in the true meaning of the word with beautiful colour images, animation, if required, and even short clips of video and sound. The Shetland News are brokers for the Web-authoring services of Force 10, the company with more commercial experience in this field than any other in Shetland. Force 10 are also responsible for the overall development of The Shetland News website, and have been instrumental in ensuring the wide, constantly returning readership we have. We will gladly pass on any enquiries to them as needed.
With an expansion of the company recently through the appointment of new directors, a dramatic, new look to the website under development at present, and long-term plans to put Shetland even more firmly on the Internet map, The Shetland News looks forward to helping introduce other companies to the advantages of marketing abroad through a medium that is fast gaining acceptance as a primary focus for selling and promoting products worldwide. Longer experience of this type of work than anyone else in the field, as well as a proven track record of assisting its customers benefit from advertising with them, means that The Shetland News has a lot to offer all manner of businesses in Shetland, especially those who are ready to expand into the rest of the UK, or develop outlets for their products and services elsewhere around the world.
If you are interested in what we can do for you, then please contact the company, either by phoning our sales representative John Waters on Lerwick (01595) 692661, by e-mail at email@example.com or by visiting our website at www.shetland-news.co.uk and e-mailing us from there.
WITH OVER 25 years experience of computer and e-mail communications, over 5 years helping with developments in the digital imaging field, and over 3 years doing commercial Web-design and authoring, Force 10 is in an unrivalled position as a Shetland-based company to offer advice, and help you develop an Internet presence of your own. Company founder and owner, Graeme Storey, has been actively involved at the leading edge of the Internet community since before it became a feature of Shetland business life, and was instrumental in helping with the early establishment of Zetnet Services Ltd, by acting as communications consultant for them. Now employing three other people on a part-time basis to help with authoring work, the company is undergoing an expansion in its services, and is even better able to help meet the needs of local industry in grasping the new, international marketing challenges available today.
Up to the early 1990's the Internet had only really been able to provide a text-based environment for the sharing of information and computer files, and had little to persuade the corporate sector to spend money on marketing their products and services there. As the Internet became more graphics-based, Force 10 was able to adapt its photographic and digital imaging knowledge to best help with the presentation of information in a bright, easy to understand way. One of the primary considerations for anyone using the Internet is that the images, and pages in general, are quick to load even though all the digital information is being sent along phone lines and through modems (the bits of computer equipment that translate what is transmitted down the phone lines into computer-friendly information).
The commercial sector of the Internet has grown from an estimated five per cent in early 1993 to over 85 per cent at the moment, and is clearly set to continue to dominate the new sites being planned and implemented for the foreseeable future. Indeed, without the commercial sector's backing the Internet would have remained the virtually exclusive province of the academic institutions, where it found its birthplace in the early 1950's, and would have little current appeal to the general public.
It is within this commercial sector that Force 10 has made marked progress in promoting many companies on a world-wide basis over the last few years. With a client base that includes Shetland Islands Tourism, The Shetland News , Lerwick Harbour Trust, Tait and Peterson, ZetTech, Shetland Jewellery, Bolts Car Hire, P and O Scottish Ferries, and others within and outwith Shetland, Force 10 has developed a reputation for good, clean-looking, appealing websites, that encourage Internet 'surfers' to return many times over. Mail-order companies and those who wish to get their message to as wide an audience as possible, such as tourism based enterprises, have been voluble in their praise of the positive effect their Internet presence has had on trade.
Many firsts have been achieved along the way:- The UK's first Internet-only, daily newspaper (The Shetland News), the first P&O website in the world, the first harbour authority website in the UK (Lerwick Harbour Trust), etc. These innovative developments have shown the potential of Internet advertising and e-mail sales and promotion to be well worth the initial expense of having the work done professionally. Force 10 does not in any way pretend to be the cheapest company for Web-authoring, but you can rest assured that they will never do a 'cheap' website. Only the best quality graphics and layout meet the standards required, and any business using Force 10 can be assured of personal attention to detail so that the final website is a proper representation of the business concerned.
Force 10 can be reached through their website at www.force10.co.uk or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or by telephone on Lerwick (01595) 696201.
ZETNET Internet Service was formed in 1994 in Lerwick. Local businessman Ghufar Razaq started the company with the idea of setting up a Bulletin Board Service (BBS) for residents in Shetland. Ghufar has lived in Shetland since he was three and originally followed in father's footsteps into the family's retail business. He has always had a keen interest in computers and in the early 90's got involved in the Bulletin Boards and the Internet. Ghufar and a local photographer, who is no longer involved with Zetnet, then came up with the idea of setting up a Shetland based BBS.
Once the idea was conceived, Ghufar then recruited the Technical advice of Tim Cole, an ex-RAF aircraft communications fitter. Tim brought good sound technical advice with good ideas and the new company was born. After Tim left the RAF, he became very involved in computers and programming. He had been communicating with various people through a Bulletin Board and was invited to go Shetland and meet with Ghufar. He contacted Paul Martin, a friend of his, and together they wrote the Zetnet Information Management and Control System (ZIMACS) software and the Zetnet System software.
On 13 October 1994 Zetnet Internet Service began trading and soon started to attract customers from the UK mainland. The directors decided to set up an office in Manchester to provide a Point of Presence (PoP) for the UK mainland customers. This was achieved in 1995 but the Lerwick PoP still serves Shetland customers, and is used for system development and testing. The Lerwick office remains as the company's headquarters.
As part of the company's development Zetnet are planning more PoPs throughout the UK - LoCall rates are available for all other customers. An experienced Technical Support team has been established in Lerwick with more equipment and a separate telephone line has been added to assist customers and improve technology.
Zetnet aims at high quality customer care, supplying all the software needed to connect to the Internet. Staff are always on hand to listen to customer needs and to provide the exact service required. The company now offers six account options, including the Low User Account at £50 per year, the Economy Account at £90 per year, inclusive of free Web space, and the standard account at £100 per year, with various attractive facilities. There are also e-mail only accounts. Most accounts offer annual or monthly payment facilities.
The newest and perhaps most significant development on the Internet has made it dramatically easier and more attractive to use than ever before. The World Wide pages look like magazine pages, only they can contain video and sound as well. Some words will be highlighted, usually by a different colour, and if you click on these links you get another page from WWW. But this second page may be held anywhere on the Internet and will of course have links to other pages and so on and so on.
Zetnet also offers a unique filtering system to filter out the more unseemly side of the Internet. At the customer's request, the company can filter out Newsgroups, the Web or both and schools and youth organisations have automatic filtering. Unlike many ISP companies, Zetnet has no connection or cancellation fee and all prices shown are inclusive of VAT with no hidden extras. Zetnet connect you to the Internet for the cost of a local telephone call.
Zetnet currently has just under 7,500 customers. They hope this will rise to 10,000 by mid-1998 and are aiming for a target of 100,000 by the end of the century - still with the same high quality, professional service.
DOUGLAS Bentley of Viking Computer Services also believes there is much potential for Shetland companies making use of the latest Internet technology. "There has been a huge growth in the Internet since it became established and it is fast becoming one of the key requirements of modern commercial organisations both for e-mail services and website usage," says Mr Bentley.
Viking Computer Services was established five years ago and operates from The Computer Shop on Lerwick's Commercial Street. As well as supplying a wide range of computer equipment and software for the home user, Viking Computer Services can offer a comprehensive service to the business user. This includes the supply of computer hardware and software, graphic design, software production and development as well as service and repair. All this ensures Viking Computer Services has the capability to provide large multi-function commercial networks and a full Internet access package. In addition to the necessary Internet hardware, Viking Computer Services can now provide a full Internet authoring service to customers planning on starting up their own website.
"We can supply user-ready computer systems for both home and business Internet use," said Mr Bentley. "Already we have supplied a considerable quantity of Internet products to offices in Shetland and judging from the positive feedback we're getting, all those businesses are now heavily into the Internet and making good use of the services it has to offer."
Even as a source of information, Mr Bentley explained that his customers are discovering just how useful Internet access can be. "Customers quite often approach us with a particular problem or question on Internet use and we can advise them on the possibilities. For example, one business approached us recently, looking for information on specialised machinery connected with fish processing. I advised them that the Internet may well have all the information they were looking for and, sure enough, the machinery manufacturer had its own website with all the required information, available virtually instantaneously. This highlights the advantages not only of the Internet as an information source for businesses, but also demonstrates the competitive advantage which can be gained from providing potential customers with product information at the touch of a button."
"It is usually in this way that customers realise the opportunities which the Internet presents. If a business already has an existing computer system, it is a simple, and relatively low cost task, to provide Internet access. All that is required is the addition of a modem and an Internet account with any one of a number of service providers. An Internet access account usually involves a monthly fee of around £10 plus call charges at local rates when you're online.
"Even if you don't already use a computer or have a system in place, don't be daunted. We can provide fully operational, ready-to-use systems and can also supply basic training to get you started. We can also arrange training on the use of various software packages."
Mr Bentley believes the Internet will play an increasingly important role in the Shetland seafood industry in the future. "The success of the Internet can only grow and I'm sure it will grow to the benefit of the users since they'll be able to obtain information from it and at the same time supply more information to enhance their businesses. This will make the seafood industry even more international than it is at the moment and may help local companies develop contacts in places they never expected. This would certainly be a positive thing for the industry."