Lt. Deborah Cox, who transferred from the mounted police to be unit commander in Central Records, said an integrated fax also saves time. Previously, "when an insurance company or attorney wanted a copy of an accident or incident report, we had to find the paper, take it to the fax machine, hope the fax went through, and get the documents back to the right place. Now, a few keystrokes takes care of the whole job," Cox said.

A side benefit to the automation is that now Cox can easily measure the productivity of each data-entry worker.

Improvements currently being worked on or under consideration include providing attorneys and insurance companies with direct access to the UNISearch system over the Internet; resolving security issues; and allowing remote access to the reports, which is now available to the Fulton County District Attorney's Office.

Cuffie is eager to extend this type of imaging to other areas of Atlanta government. "We want to manage from an enterprise standpoint," he said, "and uptime is also critical to our departments of aviation, finance, purchasing and traffic court. We need technologies like workflow and client/server designs." The Top-Five Networking

Solutions Explained

Sifting Through Networking Acronyms

The number of people using the Internet and other networks has grown dramatically in recent years. Usage of online shopping, Internet telephones, desktop video conferencing and streaming audio have increased by similar rates.

However, networks are simply too slow in their present state to efficiently handle such content. Currently, many old networks are being upgraded and expanded into much faster and cleaner highways to satisfy users' needs for bandwidth and speed.

Five technologies have opened doors to expansion: Ethernet, Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), cable, Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) and Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM).

Local Area Network -- Ethernet

Today's most popular type of local area network (LAN) access is Ethernet. Almost 25 years since its conception, Ethernet has become a solid networking access method for LAN.

Currently, there are more than 100 million Ethernet users worldwide with an equipment market in the neighborhood of $10 billion.

Ethernet's main success comes from providing open standards and multiplatform operability. Users have responded to Ethernet technology with great enthusiasm because it is nonproprietary, inexpensive, flexible and easy to use.

Integrated Services Digital Network

Despite faster access to the Internet -- via cable, ADSL or ATM -- 1997 was a landmark year for ISDN in the United States, according to International Data Corp.

An ISDN pipeline consists of two phone lines that allow users to send and receive data up to 128 kilobits per second (Kbps). ISDN pricing from telephone companies ranges from $30 to $300 a month.

Companies are investigating the use of ISDN technology for portable computers.

Internet over TV Cables

Cable TV providers are beginning to offer telephone data services over the existing cable infrastructure, which is posing a significant threat to telecommunications companies.

In fact, cable networks are better suited to offer high-speed data connections than local telephone networks. For one thing, the cable infrastructure was originally developed as a high-speed broadband network and can send hundreds of channels of television into homes.

In response to the threat posed by cable providers, telephone companies are investigating ways to provide home users with high-speed Internet access and other interactive, entertainment-related services, such as video on demand (VOD).

ADSL the Solution

To counter the cable providers' services, Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) appears to be a logical solution for telephone companies. The technology makes use of the existing copper wires and provides from 256Kbps up to 7 megabits per second (equivalent to 96 ISDN channels) data throughput into a home, with a more modest 512Kbps (equal to 8 ISDN channels) throughput out of