'Continuous innovation is central to the success of the automotive trade so it's surprising just how conservative the industry can be at times. Nowhere is this more evident than in attitudes to the web.
Despite the fact that the internet has so much to offer businesses, many in fleet management still consider it something of a bete noir, resisting its attractions with almost Luddite fervour.
Ask 10 fleet managers what they consider to be the biggest challenge in migrating systems online or to mobile technologies, and the chances are that eight of them will come back at you with 'security issues', possibly accompanied by a knowing shake of the head.
The thing to make clear here is that they are right and wrong at the same time. The issue is not ensuring security per se, but treating it as a barrier to the migration of systems online is a distraction from the fact that inefficient administrative systems are in part responsible for eroding already low margins and costing the industry millions.
The internet has felt the full brunt of the media since the dot.com bubble burst a few years ago and it's true that computer viruses, chat-room stalkers and corporate sabotage by ex-employees make much more exciting copy than ground-breaking developments in encryption software.
However, this coverage is one-dimensional and does much more to feed public paranoia than it does to educate people about the real situation. As a result, many perceive the internet to be intrinsically unsafe, populated by cyber-terrorists hell-bent on bringing the online portion of their business to its knees.
The reality is quite different. Brian Maccaba, chairman of one of the biggest American ASP providers Cognotec, said recently: 'Undoubtedly the biggest challenge associated with the internet has been the quality and reliability of the service. Users want to have the equivalent performance that they have had on their fixed line networks.
'While the net still does have weaknesses, online security techniques have improved significantly over the past two years, to the extent that the internet is actually safer than fixed lines.'
In short, security should be no bigger a problem online than anywhere else in the business. With a firewall (Virtual Private Network) and encryption software, your online and mobile information is safer than that on the PCs in your locked and alarmed office. You're more likely to be burgled than successfully hacked.
The costs incurred implementing effective security measures are far outweighed by the benefits and savings to be made. Paper and PC-based systems are expensive to administrate, inherently inaccurate, inefficient in the retrieval of data and slow to update.
Security concerns should not distract anyone from the fact that introducing online and mobile systems will undoubtedly make your business vastly more efficient and profitable.
FD Tek develops systems to deliver workflow solutions to the industry. Its flagship product Checkwizard interfaces with hand-held PCs and PDAs using wireless technology to remotely upload and download information.
We believe companies employing these technologies have greater access to the information and more efficient employees who, with repetitive paperwork eliminated, are able spend their time more productively.
The central component to delivering these efficiencies is to make systems live and available online. The installation of a firewall, updating of anti-virus software and implementation of a good practice policy will keep data secure and avoid the kind of chaos the media likes to associate with the internet.
Don't forget about internet security, but put it into context – it should be a component of your online strategy not an excuse to avoid having one.'