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Office Automation Office Automation Systems (OAS) are those that combine various technologies to reduce the manual

labour required in operating an efficient office environment.


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These technologies include voice mail, email, scheduling software, desktop publishing, word processing, and fax. OASs are used throughout, all levels of an organization. The backbone of office automation is a networkperhaps a LAN, an Intranet over a LAN, or an Extranet. Office Automation Software
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All office functionsincluding

dictation, typing, printing, filing, copying, fax, Telex, microfilm and records management, and telephone calls and telephone switchboard operations are candidates for integration.

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Office Automation Systems

Electronic
Publishing

Systems
Word processing Desktop publishing Copying systems

Electronic Communications Systems Electronic mail Voice mail Facsimile Desktop videoconferencing

Electronic Collaboration Systems Electronic meeting systems Collaborative work systems Teleconferencing Telecommuting

Image Processing Systems Electronic document management Other image processing Presentation Graphics Multimedia Systems

Office Management Systems Electronic office accessories Electronic scheduling Task management

Categories of Office Automation Systems


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What Trends are changing the way we work? The virtual office is only one of several trends that have had a profound effect on the way we work. Others include, but are not limited to, the following: Automation Downsizing and outsourcing Employee empowerment

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The Virtual Office


Part of the redefinition of the workplace involves handing employees laptop computers with modems, portable phones, and beepers and telling them to work from their homes, cars, or customers officesvirtually anywhere.
The virtual office is essentially a mobile office. Using integrated computer and communications technologies, corporations will increasingly be defined not by concrete walls or physical space but by collaborative networks linking hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of people together. Widely scattered workers can operate as individuals or as if they were all at company headquarters. Such road warriors break the time and space barriers of the organization, operating anytime, anywhere.

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Automation

When John Diebold wrote his prophetic book Automation in the 1950s, the computer was nearly new. Yet Diebold predicted that computers would make many changes. First, he suggested, they would change how we do our jobs. Second he thought, they would change the kind of work we do. He was right on both counts. In the 1950s and 1960s, computers changed how factory work was done.

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In the 1970s and 1980s factory work itself began to decline as Western nations went from manufacturing economies to information economies. Diebolds third prediction was that the technologies would change the world in which we work. This is the next great development in computers and automation, he says begun in the 1990s.

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Downsizing and Outsourcing The word downsizing has two meanings: First, it means the movement in the 1980s from mainframe-based computer systems to systems composed of smaller computers in networks.

Second, downsizing means reducing the size of an organization by eliminating workers and consolidating and/or eliminating operations.

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As a result of automation, economic considerations, and the drive for increased profitability, in recent years many companies have had to downsize their staffslay off employees. In the process, they have, in business jargon, flattened the hierarchy. reducing the levels and numbers of middle managers. Of course, much of the companys work still remains, forcing the rest of the staff to take up the slack.

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For instance, the secretary may be gone, but the secretarial work remains. The lower-level and middle-level managers found that with computers they could accomplish much of this work. Downsizing has also led to another development: outsourcing. Outsourcing means the contracting with outside businesses or services to perform the work once done by in-house departments. The outside contractors, can do the work more cheaply and efficiently.

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Employee

Empowerment

Empowerment means giving employees the authority to act and make decisions on their ownbalanced against the appropriate amount of supervision. The old style of management was to give lower-level managers and employees only the information they needed to know, which minimized their power to make decisions.

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As a result, truly good work could not be achieved because of the attitude If its not part of my job, I dont do it. Todays philosophy is that information should be spread widely, not closely held by top managers, to enable employees lower down in the organization to do their jobs better. Indeed the availability of networks and groupware has enabled the development of task-oriented teams of workers who no longer depend on individual managers for all decisions in order to achieve company goals.

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What Options Does Networking Give You?

Networked environments provide users with several options, including: Fax messages Voice mail Electronic mail Videoconferencing and V-Mail Workgroup Computing and Groupware Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Intranets and Extranets Telecommuting The Virtual Office

Networking at Work
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Fax Messages

Fax stands for facsimile transmission, or reproduction. A fax may be sent by a dedicated fax machine, which scans paper documents, or by fax modem, a circuit board inside the computer. The message then travels over a communications link, usually a phone line, to a receiving computer or fax machine.

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Voice Mail

Like a sophisticated telephone answering machine, voice mail digitizes incoming voice messages and stores them in the recipients voice mailbox in digitized form. It then converts the digitized versions back to voice messages, which may be retrieved by dialing in from any phone or via newer microand notebook computers and entering ones user ID.

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Voice mail systems also allow callers to deliver the same message to many people within an organization by pressing a single key. They can forward calls to the recipients voice mailbox, which can be accessed from home, hotel, or on the road. They allow the person checking messages to speed through them or to slow them down. He/she can save some and erase others and can dictate replies that the system will send out.

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Electronic Mail (E-mail)

E-mail links computers by wired or wireless connections and allows users, through their keyboards and the use of a user ID, to post messages and to read responses on their display screens.

If youre part of a company, university, or other large organization, you may get e-mail services as part of an established network.
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Otherwise you can sign up with a commercial online service (UTLonline, AFSAT, MTN, Africaonline, Bushnet, etc) e-mail/ Internet access provider. E-mail software is also included in browser software.

E-mail has both advantages and disadvantages: Advantages of e-mail: like voice mail, it helps people avoid playing phone tag or coping with paper and stamps.

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Advantages of e-mail: A message can be as simple as a birthday greeting or as complex and lengthy as a report with supporting attachments and links to additional online services (including attached video and sound files). It can be quicker than a fax message and more organized than a voice mail message. By reading the list of senders and topics displayed on the screen you can quickly decide which messages are important. Also e-mail software automatically creates an archive of all sent and received messages.

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Sending an e-mail message usually costs as little as a local phone call (or less) but it can go across several time zones and be read at any time. Indeed, some e-mail messages are now received as voice mail and can be played back as such.

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Disadvantages of E-mail You might have to sort through scores or even hundreds of messages a day, a form of junk mail brought about by the ease with which anyone can send duplicate copies of a message to many people.

Your messages are far from private and may be read by e-mail system operators and others (such as your employer); thus experts recommend you think of e-mail as a postcard rather than a private letter.

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Disadvantages of E-mail

Mail that travels via the Internet often takes a circuitous route, bouncing around various computers in the country, until one of them recognizes the address and delivers the message. Thus a lot of messages may go through in a minutes time; others may be hung up because of system overload, taking hours and even days. Last, users should not let their e-mail pile up; all those messages may be taking up space on some systems server. (Some systems will automatically delete messages left on the server longer than the time limit allows.)

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The U.S. Postal Service has begun to offer email with features of first-class mail, including postmarks and return receipts. Telephone companies are offering phones with small screens for displaying e-mail sent through their e-mail centers. And in some cases you can already hear your e-mail via telephone. Octel Communications and Microsoft have introduced technology that combines voice mail and e-mail functions.
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This hardware-and-software product will, for example, allow you to listen to a computerized voice read your e-mail via a car phone on your way to work. You could also phone in messages to the email center, which will then transfer the messages as e-mail to the recipients.

New E-mail Features


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Videoconferencing and V-Mail

Videoconferencing, also called teleconferencing, is the use of television video and sound technology as well as computers to enable people in different locations to see, hear, and talk with one another.

At one time, videoconferencing consisted of people meeting in separate conference rooms that were specially equipped with television cameras.

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Now videoconferencing software and equipment can be installed on microcomputers, with a camera and microphone to capture the person speaking and a monitor and speakers for the person being spoken to. Videoconferencing is still somewhat problematic. The audio- video- capturing abilities of todays computers are very sophisticated; however, traditional phone lines handle only voice transmission well.

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If you cant afford to spend thousands of dollars on a special dedicated line, you will have to live with lessthan-optimal quality of videoconferencing over regular phone lines. And even in this case, the more you spend, the better the quality will be. For instance, relatively inexpensive ($150) Cine Video from CINECOM comes with a black-and- white camera and microphone. More expensive systems, such as Sony Electronics TriniCom 500, run on ISDN lines and cost around $2000.

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The high-end systems that run on dedicated lines such as T1 can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. The requirements for a videoconference over phone lines are a camera, a way to get video on your computer (usually via a video capture card), a modem, a sound card, videoconferencing software, a microphone, and speakers. A relatively new development is an initiative to deliver v-mail or video mailvideo messages that are sent, stored, and retrieved like e-mail.

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One version would use the Proshare Windows-based videoconferencing product, Oracles Media Servera computer storage system developed for movies-on-demand technologiesand ISDN telephone lines.

Videoconferencing and V-Mail


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Workgroup Computing and Groupware

Workgroup computing also called collaborative computing enables teams of coworkers to use networks of microcomputers to share information and cooperate on projects. Workgroup computing is made possible not only by networks and microcomputers but also by groupware. Groupware is software that allows two or more people to work on the same information at the same time.

Groupware

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In general, groupware permits office workers to collaborate with colleagues and tap into company information through computer networks. It also enables them to link up with crucial contacts outside their organizationa customer in Nashville, or a supplier in Hong Kong for example. The best-known groupware is Lotus Notes. Notes has been compared to jazz music. Like jazz, Notes carries a free-wheeling, improvisational quality, says one writer.

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For example, it lets individuals tailor their main menu of options, giving them more control over what information they can retrieve and what programs they can run. It also lets companies easily customize programs. Among its advantages, Notes can run on a variety of operating systems and allows users to send e-mail via several online services. It also lets users create and store all kinds of data text, audio, video, pictureson common databases.

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Notes 4.0 lets users create documents that can displayed on the Web and use a built-in browser to surf the Web.
In addition, Notes has the advantages of offering better security and the ability to synchronize multiple kinds of databases.

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Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)

Paper handling is the nightmare of organizations. Paper must be transmitted, filed, and stored. It takes up much of peoples time and requires the felling of innumerable trees. Is there a way to accomplish the same business tasks without using paper? One answer lies in business-to-business transactions conducted via a computer network.

Electronic Data Interchange


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Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the direct electronic exchange of standard business documentssuch as purchase orders, invoices, and shipping documentsbetween organizations computer systems. For example, Wal-Mart has electronic ties to major suppliers like Procter & Gamble, allowing both companies to track the progress of an order or other document through the supplier companys computer system.

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To use EDI, organizations wishing to exchange transaction documents must have compatible computer systems, or else go through an intermediary.

For example, many colleges are now testing or using EDI to send transcripts and other educational records, as a cost-effective alternative to standard paper handling. Software organizations are urging that such schools adopt a standardized format (called SPEED/EXPRESS) as a common language to facilitate the task.
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Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)

It had to happen: First, business found that they could use the World Wide Web to get information to customers, suppliers, or investors. FedEx, for example saved millions by putting up a server in 1994 that enabled customers to click through Web pages to trace their parcels, instead of FedEx customer-service agents to do it. It was a short step from that to companies starting to use the same technology insidein internal Internetlike networks called intranets. Intranets are internal corporate networks that use the infrastructure and standards of the Internet and the World Wide Web.

Intranets & Extranets


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One of the greatest considerations of an intranet is securitymaking sure that sensitive company data accessible on intranets is protected from the outside world.

The means for doing this is security software called firewalls. A firewall is a security program that connects the intranet to external networks, such as the Internet. It blocks unauthorized traffic from entering the intranet and can also prevent unauthorized employees from accessing the intranet.

Intranets & Extranets


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Taking intranet technology a few steps further, extranets may change forever the way business is conducted. Whereas intranets are internal systems, designed for the members of a specific group or single company, extranets are extended intranets connecting not only internal personnel but also selected customers, suppliers, and other strategic offices.

As intranets do, extranets offer security and controlled access. By using extranets, large companies can, for example, save millions in telephone charges for fax documents.

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Ford Motor Co. has already introduced an extranet that connect more than 15,000 Ford dealers worldwide. Called FocalPt, the network supports sales and servicing of cars, with the aim of providing support to Ford customers during the entire life of their cars.

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Working at home with telecommunications between office and home is called telecommuting. Many companies especially high-technology ones, are encouraging telecommuting because they have found that it boosts morale and improves productivity. The reasons for telecommuting are quite varied. One may be to eliminate the daily drive, reducing traffic congestion, energy consumption, and air pollution. Another may be to take advantage of the skills of homebound workers with physical disabilities.

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Parents with young children, as well as lone eagles who prefer to live in resort areas or other desirable locations are other typical telecommuter profiles.

Another term for telecommuting is telework. However, telework includes not only those who work at least part time from home but also those who work at remote or satellite offices, removed from organizations main offices. Such satellite offices are sometimes called telework centers.

Telecommuting

The term virtual office borrows from virtual reality (artificial reality that projects the user into a computer-generated 3-D space). The virtual office is a nonpermanent and mobile office run with computer and communications technology. Employees work not in a central office but from their homes, cars, and other new work sites. They use pocket pagers, portable computers, fax machines, and various phone and network services to conduct business.

The Virtual Office

Could you stand not having a permanent office at all? Heres how one variant called hoteling, would work. You call ahead to book a room and speak to the concierge (caretaker). However, your hotel isnt a Hilton, and the concierge isnt a hotel employee who handles reservations, luggage and local tours. Rather, the organization is Ernst & Young, an accounting firm. The concierge is an administrator who handles scheduling of available office cubiclesof which there is only one for every three workers.

Hoteling

Hoteling works for Ernst & Young because its auditors and management consultants spend 50 to 90% of their time in the field, in the offices of their clients. When they need to return to their local E&Y office, they call a few hours in advance. The concierge consults a computerized scheduling program and determines which cubicles are available on the days requested. He/she chooses one and puts the proper nameplate on the office wall.

The concierge then punches a few codes into the phone to program its number and voice mail. When employees come in, they pick up personal effects and files from lockers and take them to the assigned cubicles.

Hoteling

What makes hoteling possible, of course is computer and communications technology. Computers handle the cubicle scheduling and reprogramming of phones. Employees can carry their work around with them, because it is stored on the hard drives of their laptops.

Cellular phones, fax machines, and e-mail permit employees to stay in touch with supervisors and co-workers.

Hoteling

So-called blue-collar workers are also now working out of virtual offices. For example, truck drivers may now be required to carry laptops with which they keep in touch via satellite with headquarters. They may also have to take on tasks previously never dreamed of. These include faxing sales invoices, hounding (singling out) late-paying customers, and training people to whom they deliver high-tech office equipment.

Hoteling

Other workersfield service representatives, salespeople, and roving executivesalso find that to stay competitive they must bring office technology with them. Many people, however, find that technology creates an electronic leash (restriction) pagers, cell phones, and e-mail take over their life.

Note: IT is blurring time and space, eroding the barriers between work and private life. Some people thrive on it, but others hate it.

Hoteling

Communications Networks Advantages

A communications network is a system of interconnected computers, telephones, or other communications devices that can communicate with one another and share applications and data.
The tying together of so many communications devices in so many ways is changing the office environment we work in. A computer network requires a network operating system NOSto manage network resources. It may be a completely self-contained operating system, such as Netware, or it may require extending an operating system such as MS Windows XP in order to function. We (1) (2) (3) will consider the following aspects of networks: Types of networkswide area, metropolitan area, and local Some network features Features of networks applicable to office automation

Types of networks: WAN, MAN, LAN Networks are categorized in three sizes: Wide area network WAN is a communications network that covers a wide geographical area, such as a state or country. Some examples of organizations operating computer WANs are URA, Banks, NSSF, Communications companies (MTN, UTL, ZAIN, WARID, ORANGE). The Internet links together hundreds of computer WANs. All telecoms companies are WANs. Metropolitan area network MAN is a communications network covering a geographical area the size of a city or suburb. The purpose of a MAN is to avoid long-distance telephone charges. Our cellular networks began as MANs but have grown into WANs over time. Local network: A local network is a privately owned communications network that serves users within a confined geographical area. The range is usually within a mileperhaps one office, one building, or a group of buildings close together, such as a university campus.

Local networks are of two types:

(1) Private branch exchanges (PBXs) (2) Local Area Networks (LANs)
All these networks may consist of various combinations of computers, storage devices, and communications devices. Some Network Features: hosts and nodes, downloading and uploading Many computer networks, particularly large ones are served by a host computer. A host computer, or simply a host, is the main computer in a system of computers and/or terminals connected by communications links. The host is responsible for overall control of the system. On a LAN, some of the features of a host may be performed by a server. A server is a computer shared by several users in a network.

A node is simply a device that is attached to a network. A node may be a microcomputer, terminal, storage device, or some peripheral device.

As a network user you can download and upload files. Download means that you retrieve files from another computer and store them in your computer. Upload means that you send files from your computer to another computer.

Advantages of Networks The following advantages are particularly true for LANs, although they apply to MANs and WANs as well. Sharing of peripheral devices: Laser printers, disk drives and scanners are examples of peripheral devicesthat is hardware that is connected to a computer. Any newly introduced piece of hardware is often quite expensive, as was the case for colour laser printers. To justify their purchase, companies want them to be shared by many users. Usually the best way to do this is to connect the peripheral device to a network serving several computer users.

Sharing of programs and data: In most organizations, people use software and need access to the same information. It could be expensive for the company to buy one copy of, say, a word processing program for each employee. Rather, the company will usually buy a network version of the program that will serve many employees optimally. Organizations also save a great deal of money by letting all employees have access to the same data on a shared storage device. This way the organization situations in which for instance, data inconsistencies whereby some employees update customer addresses on their own computer while other employees remain ignorant of such changes, are avoided. Finally, network linked employees can, using groupware, work together on shared projects.

Better communications: One of the greatest features of networks is electronic mail. With e-mail everyone on the network can easily keep others posted about important information. Thus, the company eliminates the delays associated with standard interoffice mail delivery or telephone tag. Security of information: Before networks became commonplace, an individual employee might be the only one with a particular piece of information, stored on his or her desktop computer. If the employee was dismissedor if a fire or flood demolished the officeno one else in the company might have any knowledge of that information. Today such data would be backed up or duplicated on a networked storage device shared by others. Access to databases: Networks also enable their users to tap into numerous databases of a company or the public databases of online services.

LANs, PBXs and Office Automation Although large networks are useful, many organizations need to have a local networkan in-house networkto tie together their own resources: equipment, software, and data. The most common types of local networks are PBXs and LANs. Private branch exchange (PBX): is a private or leased telephone switching system that connects telephone extensions in-house. It also connects them to the external telephone networks. A public telephone system consist of public branch exchanges thousands of switching stations that direct calls to different branches of the network.

A private branch exchange is essentially the old-fashioned company switchboard. You call in from the outside, the switchboard operator says How may I direct your call? and you are connected to the extension of the person you wish to speak to.
Newer PBXs can handle not only analog telephones but also digital equipment, including computers. However, because older PBXs use existing telephone lines, they may not be able to handle the volumes of electronic information found in some of todays organizations. These companies may be better served by LANs.

LANs: Local Area Networks While PBXs may share existing phone lines with the telephone system, LANs usually require the installation of their own communication channels, whether wired or wireless. A local area network (LAN) is a local network consisting of a communications link, network operating system, microcomputers, terminals, or workstations, servers, and other shared hardware. Such shared hardware might include printers, scanners, and storage devices. Types of LANs: Client-Server and Peer-to-Peer A client-server LAN consists of requesting microcomputers, called clients, and supplying devices that provide a service called servers. The server is a computer that manages shared information or devices, such as laser printers. One piece of the NOS resides in each client machine and another resides in each server. The NOS allows the remote drives on the servers to be accessed as if they were local drives on the client machine. The server is usually a powerful microcomputer with a lot of RAM and secondary storage capacity. Client server LANs are the most common type of LAN.

There may be different servers for managing different resources files, programs, databases, e-mail, faxes, printers. The one you may hear most is the file server. A file server is a computer that stores the programs and data files shared by users on a LAN. It acts like a disk drive but is in a remote location.

A database server is a computer in a LAN that stores data.


A print server is a computer in a LAN that controls one or more printers. It stores the print-image output from all the microcomputers on the system. It then feeds the output to one or more printers one document at a time. Fax servers are dedicated to managing fax transmissions. Mail servers manage e-mail. Communications servers translate packets on a network and allow all nodes access to its modems.

Peer-to-peer: The word peer denotes an individual who is equal in standing with another (as in the phrases peer pressure or jury of ones peers) . A peer-to-peer LAN is one in which all microcomputers on the network communicate directly with one another without relying on a serverthat is, the NOS allows each station to be both client and server. Thus, files stored on one peer machine can be accessed by other peer machines. Peer-topeer networks are less expensive than client-server networks but work effectively for up to 25 computers. Beyond that they slow down under heavy use.

Thus, they are appropriate for networking in small groups, as for workgroup computing. Software used includes LANtastic by Artisoft, Localtalk by Apple, and Microsofts Windows NT Workstation, and Windows 95/98.
Many LANs mix elements from both client-server and peerto-peer models.