• United States
by Steve Taylor and Joanie Wexler

Get the most out of the WAN: Communicate!

Jan 30, 20033 mins

* OSI Layer 8 protocols

Earlier this week, we began a discussion of  “OSI Layer 8,” our term for the ability of humans to express themselves and communicate effectively. Without human communications, there would be no reason for OSI networking Layers 1 – 7. 

Interactions over the WAN are increasing in volume. But does this mean we are communicating better? Some of these communications – particularly e-mail – are becoming obscure and confusing the issues they are trying to help solve. Some messages are downright abusive. Increasingly, we see people sending messages with content that we doubt they’d ever say to another person if not for the shield of anonymity.

Sure, those of us in America have the first amendment right to basically say whatever we want. Does that mean we should? We’d argue in favor of deploying some protocols at Layer 8 for manners, good behavior, etiquette, professionalism – whatever you want to call it – at least in the context of the business world.

So we’re offering these suggestions for effectively using the WAN. They might not apply to you, but you could surely pass them along to someone for whom they do:

1) Be sensitive to cultural differences. Case in point: You’d be surprised how many requests we get from students looking for us to write their term papers or theses. But these requests often come from cultures where the student’s work being original isn’t as important as it is in the U.S.

2) Just because the network allows you to respond instantaneously to someone, that doesn’t mean that you should, particularly when a message is emotionally charged. A good response will wait.  A “flame” may seem a little less urgent in an hour or a day.

3) Follow your company’s rules for public relations when making professional contacts outside your company.  You might not agree with your company’s official position, but when in the role of company spokesperson, it’s your responsibility to follow the chain of command.

4) Assume that e-mail is going to be read by both your boss and your mother.  Before spreading inflammatory sentiments outside the company, consider that the odds are great that the person you’re calling an idiot may well be your boss’s best friend.

5) Never assume confidentiality.  Electronic media allows for the rapid replication of information, so there’s no telling who is going to be seeing your messages. We all have horror stories of somebody mistakenly hitting “reply-all.” Dilbert is alive and well – and Catbert is just waiting for you!

Next week, we’ll return to our more typical WAN technology discussions.  But for now, spend a minute to think about why we built these sophisticated WANs in the first place. What is communicated matters much more than whether messages are carried over the Internet, an IP VPN, ATM, frame relay or some other network.