KR-OnDisc and KR@Site
Knight-Ridder Information has approached the challenge of the
World-Wide-Web in a number of different ways, including: DIALOG
Web, DATASTAR Web, KR-ScienceBase, DIALOG Select, and of course
not forgetting a heavily visited Homepage, which is fast becoming
the "HomeBase of information professionals. KR-OnDisc
- the CD-ROM product range of Knight-Ridder - is also being made
web-browsable very shortly. Designed specifically for intRAnets
as opposed to the intERnet, the new Webdisc product will form
an integral part of many site solutions. In this paper we explore
how webdisc fits in to the other KRI product offerings, and discuss
its unique strengths in different situations.
Background - The Internet vs the Intranet
1996 was the year of the intERnet. 1997 will undoubtedly be seen as the year of the intRAnet. "ER is an expression of hesitation; of uncertainty; of unpredictability. In contrast, "RA is none other than the Egyptian Sun god; surely a good symbol of clarity; of power, of great control. I find this image particularly appealing when seen in the light of history. After all, wasn't it the great library at Alexandria that represented the seat of all learning for the ancient world for more than five centuries?
Certainly, the very nature of the intERnet - and in particular the world-wide-web - means that you cannot control its reliability - since it is not you that is controlling it. On the other hand, when you have your own private mini-internet -- or intRAnet, then you are again in the driving seat - where you want to be. From recently published reports, the industry is expecting massive investment in intRAnets - in particular, corporate intRAnets. From, "The Durlacher Intranet Report 1997 for example:
It is clear that Knight-Ridder Information - as the world's leading supplier of professional electronic information - has an important role to play in this third wave of corporate computing.
But how do we make sure that we are bringing the right products
to market? Since our development is customer-driven, in trying
to answer this question we MUST start the discussion with that
most important question of all: What do our customers actually
What do Customers Want?
If there was an easy answer to this question, then KRI would have many more competitors! Customer needs are complex and varied, and you need the skills of a market researcher, psychologist, economist, and fortune teller to get it right. Where there is an information professional to assist in defining the needs of the organisation then this helps enormously. However, as information is being pushed out more and more to the desktop, a proportion of the decision making now also takes place here. Many of these "professional end-users rely heavily on the information consultants and the information companies such as KRI to TELL them what their needs are! For both specialists and hosts, our roles as "information consultants are becoming increasingly important.
Because of the enormous complexity and variety of information needs, it is useful to be able to simplify and summarise these customer needs; if only to stay focused and not lose sight of the larger picture when defining the details.
In summary therefore, customers really want three things:
When we look at different products and delivery methods then we can use the above three needs to see how the products/delivery methods compare.
Compared to the CONTENT, the quality and the control should be less significant when a customer is deciding between different products. If content is 70% of the decision, then quality & control can take the credit for 15% each. However, in the current internet/intranet era, both the QUALITY and the CONTROL have become very - perhaps even disproportionately - significant. This is not too surprising. For IT managers in particular, the intERnet is seen as uncontrolled, unreliable, unpredictable (especially in terms of the speed) and potentially an enormous risk to security. IT managers are desperate to get back some of the control they have lost through the intERnet during 1996, and KR@Site - which sits safely WITHIN their firewall - gives them back that control and security. This will be a very important factor in the success of KR@Site.
However, it is clear that traditional CD-ROM networks ALSO give
the customer that control & that security. So - before we
look at KR@Site, we must first remind ourselves - What is KR-OnDisc?
What is KR-OnDisc?
KR-OnDisc provides local, unlimited access to key content for a fixed price. KR-OnDisc consists of nearly one hundred titles. Each title is a collection of information put onto one or more CD-ROM discs. Most are bibliographic citations with abstracts; although many are also fulltext, and some have images. Powerful customised search options for each individual title ensure that highly accurate and effective information retrieval is possible with minimal training. Updates are sent every month, every two months, quarterly, or annually - depending on the content.
It is clear that when the CONTENT meets a well-defined chunk of a customer's information needs, then KR-OnDisc can form an important part of the overall information solution for the customer. The QUALITY (the service, reliability, support) of KR-OnDisc is the envy of the industry, and the CONTROL (cost, searching, speed, security) is very high.
For a single user workstation, KR-OnDisc is therefore often see as an ideal solution.
During the whole of the nineties there have also been very reliable ways of networking CD-ROMs, and the KR-OnDisc software lends itself particularly well to networking because of its highly efficient small-sized search software. KR-OnDisc software is available for DOS, MAC and Windows (all flavours) - so a mixed platform network is also frequently implemented. The Windows software is written in 32-bit specifically for Windows'95 and Windows-NT; and the network pricing for single site, multi-site and multi-organisation - in place since 1992 - are well-established and accepted.
However, the IT overheads when setting up such a network are high, since proprietary software needs to be installed or be made available on each client separately; and normally such networking is restricted to LOCAL area networking rather than WIDE area networking because of the complexity in ensuring compatibility between different parts of the network, and because of the normal limitations in bandwidth where routers are involved.
This is where KR@Site comes in.
What is KR@Site?
We want to give the customer all the advantages of KR-OnDisc, AND at the same time make the networking and sharing of the data as convenient as possible - both for the local and the wide area network.
Client-server solutions such as Silver Platter's ERL technology are certainly a step forward; they can smooth out the biggest wrinkles in even the most complex network. Academic networks can be particularly rough. Mixed platform wide area networking becomes a step easier. As long as both ends understand the same underlying transport protocol then incompatibilities in other layers are no longer relevant.
However, with a solution that uses proprietary clients, it is still necessary to install the separate client software on each machine that will have access.
A new generic solution for client-server is now emerging. Yes - HTTP/HTML with TCP/IP as the transport layer; - your web-browser on your intranet.
KR@Site provides web browser access to all KR-OnDisc databases.
The KR@Site Server software runs under Windows NT-4. Typically,
KR@Site will be used to give access to OnDisc databases on your
intranet; although it can also be used to create mirror sites
and make OnDisc databases available from local third-party servers
over the local internet.
Pricing of KR-OnDisc and KR@Site
The KR@Site software is free of charge. Pricing for the number of users and number of sites is worked out on the basis as for KR-OnDisc.
For a single site of 10km diameter, the pricing depends only on the number of simultaneous users.
When there are multiple sites then the price also depends on the number of sites.
The extra charge - or 'site supplement' - is therefore calculated according to a simple matrix with just two variables and is a percentage of the single user price:
Why Will Customers Choose KR@Site?
All the advantages of KR-OnDisc apply also to KR@Site.
In addition, an intRAnet platform provides distinct advantages:
For the IT manager, providing access could not be simpler. Once the server software is installed, no additional software on the individual clients is needed - assuming that they already have access to standard web browsers.
As more organisations install intranets, they are looking for ways to maximise the value of their investment; and making high quality data available over this intranet is a very effective way of doing this.
Whereas with traditional online services, much of the decision
making was in the hands of the information services manager, we
are finding now that the IT manager is becoming increasingly powerful.
The Changing Customer - ISM to ITM
The Information Services Manager - typically in charge of the information infrastructure and delivery of information throughout the organisation - is finding that technology is rapidly leading to a change in their traditional role.
Previously, all external information was made available to the end-users of an organisation via the 'funnel' of the information centre and its staff - the information intermediaries. To a certain extent, this gave the information centre power - in that they were the only people who had access to the 'ivory tower' of professional information.
Although CD-ROM has widened this funnel, the purchasing decisions for CD-ROM subscriptions are still largely in the hands of the traditional users of professional information. The Information Services Manager (ISM) is still the most important 'champion' for CD-ROM providers therefore.
However, with the advent of intranets, the 'funnel' has been blown wide open. Collection development decisions concerning information on an organisation's intranet can now just as easily be made by upper management who then liaise with the IT department without necessarily involving the Information Services Department at all.
As part of this trend, we are finding that in many organisations the information services departments are being brought closer together to the MIS or IT departments - and in some cases are even merging into one.
For Knight-Ridder Information, our goal has not changed. We are
there to best meet the professional information needs of the organisation.
However, in order to do this, we now need to be aware not only
of the organisation's content needs, but also their technology
needs. The IT manager (or MIS manager) is typically now just as
important in this process as the IS manager.
When is KR-OnDisc or KR@Site the Best Information Solution?
Knight-Ridder Information is not a 'technology' company. We are an 'information solutions' company, and we try to meet the customer's needs in best possible way through a process of careful and ongoing consultation with the customer. In some cases, KR-OnDisc or KR@Site is not an appropriate part of this solution.
Typically, KR-OnDisc or KR@Site are offered:
Of all the KRI solutions, KR-OnDisc/@Site offer the best combination
of these criteria.
KRI - the Integrated Information Solution
KR-OnDisc/@Site is typically only one of the many components that
will make up the 'integrated solution' for a customer. Other elements
might include the online searching of large numbers of databases
on a 'pay-as-you-go' basis; automated alerting services into your
Lotus Notes environment; electronic document delivery with KR-SourceOne
- and so on. Whatever your needs, you can be sure that we will
try to meet them in the way that is of most benefit to you.