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Paolo G. CordoneIf you thought it was impossible to condense into one volume all information related to our electronic communication age, think again, because this latest book by Hossein Bidgoli has come closer to it than anything else so far. Although the work is described as a "handbook", in light of the wealth of information that it contains it would seem more appropriate to term it an encyclopedia of everything related to business applications, the Internet and other computer-based software and hardware.
The author has divided the book into four separate parts covering, in turn, the Internet and the basics of data communications, all popular types of networks, the design, implementation and management issues in a network environment as well as the various applications of data communications and of the Internet itself, with each of these parts being sub-divided into chapters, describing in more detail a particular subject.
The amount of information presented in a clear, concise way is simply astounding. In just over 500 pages, the professor of management information systems at California State University manages to cover topics such as modems, Internet services, netiquette, domain names, transfer protocols, search engines, e-commerce, coaxial cables, error detection, LANs, WANs, network hubs, online banking, backup devices, routers, gateways, NT and Novell NOPs, Linux, database software, wireless networks, security issues, encryption, firewalls, intranets and extranets, office automation, even copyright and privacy issues: all without giving too much unnecessary technical information, yet making each section appropriately useful for an understanding of the particular technology or aspect of data exchange.
Each chapter is introduced by an industry profile of a leading data communications and networking company, providing the reader with a real-world perspective to the text that follows. Moreover, information boxes, tables, and relevant illustrations complement the material presented. One very interesting feature of the book is the inclusion, at the end of every chapter, of review questions as well as projects to carry out (visiting a particular company's web site, for example, or experimenting with different types of email addresses), in order to consolidate one's understanding of the products and services offered, to gain a more direct knowledge of the various communications technologies and techniques employed, and to entice thought-provoking discussions on many topical events. A handy acronym glossary nicely rounds up the book.
Throughout the volume, I found very few inaccuracies or incomplete information which, considering the scope of the book, is not a small feat! For example, the author mentions that Netscape Navigator is available for both the Windows and Macintosh platforms, but fails to mention that Netscape always invested considerable resources in porting its software to an incredibly large range of operating systems, including half a dozen flavours of UNIX. The other pitfall of books dealing with the computer industry is the difficulty in keeping the information up-to-date up to the very moment the title is actually published. Thus, when mentioning FirstClass, Bigdoli still refers to it as software owned by SoftArc, when recently the Toronto-based company merged with an educational provider to form Centrinity. Moreover, the large quantity of URLs provided means that it is more than likely that at least some of them will have become invalid by the time the reader holds the handbook in his or her hands. However, these are really just minor faults with which arguably every single technology book has to live. The hope is that the author will keep revising and updating the content as new technologies emerge.
Overall, Handbook of Business Data Communications makes a perfect companion not only for the manager who wishes to become more informed about the various technologies, but also for the seasoned expert who wants to have a concise reference book in which to find a quick answer to a nagging questions (such as what EBCDIC stands for). More importantly, however, for the interested layman this could finally be THE book to read, in order to become more acquainted with the many facets of our electronic world and to become more conscious of what the digital revolution is really about.