A Guide to Benchmarking on the Internet


The Internet is one of the largest potential research resources available to individuals and companies. The Internet provides immediate access to volumes of information that may or may not by available through normal research channels. The Internet is not only a source of information, but it can help expedite the research process, providing quick links to a range of supplementary or supporting sources. In addition, it can provide additional references on or off the Net. Finally, the Internet offers direct communication with companies, agencies, individuals, etc. who can also help with research efforts.

The following guide is intended to help students understand the Internet and its capabilities, and to provide an example of how to find information on benchmarking practices.

A Brief History of the Internet

The following history has been provided by searching the Internet through gopher. In 1973, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) initiated a research program to investigate techniques and technologies for interlinking packet networks of various kinds. The objective was to develop communication protocols which would allow networked computers to communicate transparently across multiple, linked packet networks. This was called the Internetting project and the system of networks which emerged from the research was known as the "Internet."

In 1986, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) initiated the development of the NSFNET which, today, provides a major backbone communication service for the Internet. With its 45 megabit per second facilities, the NSFNET carries on the order of 12 billion packets per month between the networks it links. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Department of Energy contributed additional backbone facilities in the form of the NSINET and ESNET respectively. In Europe, major international backbones such as NORDUNET and others provide connectivity to over one hundred thousand computers on a large number of networks. Commercial network providers in the U.S. and Europe are beginning to offer Internet backbone and access support on a competitive basis to any interested parties.

"Regional" support for the Internet is provided by various consortium networks and "local" support is provided through research and educational institutions. Within the United States, much of this support has come from the federal and state governments, but a considerable contribution has been made by industry. In Europe and elsewhere, support arises from cooperative international efforts and through national research organizations. During the course of its evolution, particularly after 1989, the Internet system began to integrate support for other protocol suites into its basic networking fabric.

Both public domain and commercial implementations of the roughly 100 protocols of TCP/IP protocol suite became available in the 1980's. During the early 1990's, OSI protocol implementations also became available and, by the end of 1991, the Internet has grown to include some 5,000 networks in over three dozen countries, serving over 700,000 host computers used by over 4,000,000 people.

A great deal of support for the Internet community has come from the U.S. Federal Government, since the Internet was originally part of a federally-funded research program and, subsequently, has become a major part of the U.S. research infrastructure. During the late 1980's, however, the population of Internet users and network constituents expanded internationally and began to include commercial facilities. Indeed, the bulk of the system today is made up of private networking facilities in educational and research institutions, businesses and in government organizations across the globe.

Why You Would Want to Use the Internet

The Internet has two main benefits: convenience and access. Any person using the Internet from his or her computer can tap into current and unavailable information quickly and easily. This information can be viewed on screen, printed to hardcopy form, or downloaded onto disks.

Internet Features:

The Internet - This is a world-wide network of computers that you can tap into with your personal computer. The Internet links people and computers at government sites, corporations, and universities around the world. There is no one network known as the Internet; rather, regional nets like SuraNet, PrepNet, NearNet, et al., are all inter-connected. People on the "net" can communicate in real time with the other users. Many databases exist that allow people to retrieve all types of data. Users can also exchange views with each other through thousands of usenet newsgroups or bulletin boards.

Usenet - Usenet is the set of machines that exchange articles staged with one or more universally-recognized labels, called newsgroups (or "groups" for short).

How to get an Internet Account - Internet accounts can be accessed through your school or office. Some people also hook up by modem through Internet service providers. You can obtain a provider list and other startup information by calling the InterNIC (800 444-4345). The Electronic Frontier Foundation (202 347-5400) also makes available The Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet at no cost.

Icon - A "button" on the computer screen which, when selected with the mouse pointer, jumps you to an indicated area..

Access to the Internet -One can only connect to the Internet through an Internet access provider, like America Online, a local university, or a government agency. These entities maintain and pay for their connections to the Internet. They can be considered in essence, gateways to the Net. These gateways can be tapped via direct network connections, or through remote connections using a modem. In order touse the World Wide Web, one of the more navigatable and useful parts of the Internet, a user also needs a Web browser like Netscape Navigator. Browsers are just applications. They are tools to navigate the Web.

From a university computer, one can access the Web by clicking a browser icon. This then opens the application. The browser immediately knows to seek and establish a connection with the Web bvy going to a gateway on the university computer's server.

World Wide Web -The WWW is a subset of the Internet and has its own operating language called html. The WWW is one of the more useful parts of the Internet because with the aid of Web browsers, the WWW presents information in a user-friendly graphical environment.

Search Engine - Typically there are several tools which can help you search and explore the Net under "Netscape Navigator." The best known browsers are: Yahoo (business related), Excite or Lycos (general information), InfoSeek (educational information), and the WebCrawler (all types of information). The Gopher is another search vehicle and is described below. For more detailed information on search vehicles, see the section entitled Net Search.

Gopher - Gophers are another type of tool which helps you search and explore the Net. These are powerful computers on the Net that offer a menu of other places you can jump to and thus help you to get around. Many Internet service providers setup their own Gophers or let you connect to others around the world.

Telnet - Telnet is a way to connect to other computers via the Internet as opposed to regular phone lines. Telnet providers a way to use other computers from a remote location.

Home Page - The Web is made up of millions of "pages," which are small collections of text, pictures, and graphics, and references to other pages containing related material. A home page is a kind of book cover or table of contents to organize and introduce other pages and material at that site. Web pages also have links which are spots marked on the Web page. When you click on them with your mouse, you jump to an entirely different page, possibly to a whole different Web site, which has material related to the link. Links usually appear on a page in the form of underlined words or phrases in special colors or small pictures or graphical icons. Each link has imbedded in it the address of another page.

Web site - A Web site is an address- a location, that contains Web pages or applications, for example, an image or sound byte.

Talk - Two users who are logged onto the Internet can literally see each other type on each other's screen. At the home prompt, to talk with Bart Simpson at Connecticut College, you would type:
talk bart@cc.conncoll.edu, which would cause a message to appear in Barts screen which would say Message from talk@ your address. If Bart wants to talk to you then he would type in talk@ your address and the connection would be established and you guys can talk online. To leave talk or 'disconnect' you would simply type Ctrl-C (hold down the control key and press C).

Address - In order to visit a given home page on the World Wide Web, you must enter an address which may take the form http://www.name.com. This address directs your computer to the location on the Internet of any Web page. The "http" refers to a protocol or communications method. The "www" stands for World Wide Web and "name.com" refers to a particular computer. The suffix "com" means the site is commercial. Colleges use the suffix "edu" and government agencies use "gov." If an address points to a page located outside the U.S., it also includes a two-letter country code, like "uk" for United Kingdom. The Web gives you access to sites in virtually every country in the world.

Steps to Search for Benchmarking Information:

    1. Turn on your computer
    2. Open the internet access program (Netscape, Mosaic, etc.)
    3. Click on WWW Search Engines
    4. You will have a choice of four search engines
    5. There will be a box called search. You may type in a key word or concept related to your benchmarking topic

You will receive a list of summaries based on your search requirements. You may click on any word highlighted in blue to look at the summary in more detail or move to other related pages. In order to review a previous screen, click on the icon labeled back at the top left hand corner of the screen. You can print the information you find or save it to a disk as a word document. In order to save to a disk, select the save option from the file menu and label your document as name.doc.

Steps to Locate Our Benchmarking Resources Homepage:

    1. Follow steps 1-3 above
    2. In the location box at the top of your screen, type in the address http://uhavax.harford.edu/~bowman
    3. This homepage was created by UHA AMSPA '96. You may follow the instructions on the homepage to aid you in your benchmarking search. The homepage will include suggestions for benchmarking websites using 360 degree feedback as an example.

Background on 360 Degree Feedback

Back to the "Benchmarking 1.0" homepage.