is local, remote, on a LAN, the Internet or an intranet. "Our goal is to parallel that convergence strategy," remarked Mullin, "so that we can have our products look, feel and act as if they are part of whatever user environment they are employed in."

Mullin went on to say that FileNet's Internet strategy is to provide the tools and resources necessary to manage all the information on the back-end of Internet applications. "That's what's really important," Mullin pointed out. "Once you open up any imaging application to the Internet, you need a back-end that is robust enough to support both the LAN environment and the Internet with its wider span of users. We're building our strategy based on mission-critical standards."

Andrew Swenson, an imaging manager for Indianapolis and a FileNet customer, said he's excited about the potential for using the Internet to access images. What intrigues him is the possibility of developing an application for an intranet -- where software security allows only certain users access to Web pages -- as a way to experiment, and then to extend the application to the public via the Internet once it's reliable. "It really opens up your programming environment," he said.

But Swenson is looking at the Internet with his eyes wide open. "Right now, we're taking a wait-and-see attitude. I know that there are some limitations concerning the use of document imaging on the Internet," he pointed out.

LIMITATIONS

Those limitations include performance, image quality and security among others, according to Shegda. In a presentation made at the AIIM conference in Chicago last April, Shegda detailed the drawbacks to using an Internet-based imaging solution:

Performance can be a significant problem. During peak periods, response time on the Internet can be agonizingly slow.

Security remains a prime concern on the Internet, although headway is being made. The problem that needs to be addressed is how to restrict access to certain text and image files to curtail unauthorized use.

Performance can also be affected by image file size. Image files are large, typically 50Kb per page, slowing down their access and display.

Users may not be able to view images with a particular browser. Often, special image viewers (such as TIFF) are required.

The Internet may also affect image fidelity, requiring special processing software to prepare the images for access via the Net. Shegda recalled IBM's development of advanced software to prepare images from

the Vatican's library for display on the Web.

Protection against the digital alteration of original documents is another concern. Shegda said that vendors are beginning to address the problem through digital watermarking, date stamping and digital signatures.

The bottom line, according to Shegda, is that imaging on the Internet is still in its infancy. Government agencies, like other imaging customers, should tread carefully and familiarize themselves with their vendor's Internet strategy before taking the plunge.

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