What Is a Computer-Based Information System?

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Computer-based information systems (CBIS) collate and process raw data so users can access consolidated information to make informed decisions. They are used by businesses, governments and anyone needing ready access to important information.

History of Computer-based Information Systems Information systems have been in use for centuries. For example, they were used by merchants, traders, armies and governments to record transactions and track expenses. Depending on armies of clerks, they were slow and cumbersome. Although various tools, such as the abacus and basic calculator simplified the process, it took days, weeks or even months to get an answer. It wasn’t until the advent of sophisticated computers that information systems became dynamic and able to provide answers quickly.

Birth of Computer-based Information Systems After the first practical computers were developed, they were put to work by companies wanting to streamline accounting processes. As computing capabilities and the ability to store data electronically developed, organizations quickly realized the benefits of computer-based information technology that could provide information to guide decisions. Gradually, organizations developed integrated computer-based information systems that had the capability to manage and monitor the performance of entire organizations.

What Goes into a Computer-based Information System? A CBIS has four key components: hardware, software, data and network. The core of the CBIS is the hardware that makes it all possible. This comprises of computer processors or servers that do the calculations as well as disc drives that store information. Other key components include monitors, printers and input devices, such as keyboards. None of this is of any use without the right software. Apart from core operating systems, CBIS relies on sophisticated and integrated software solutions that have the ability to manage entire businesses. This software processes the data collected from transactions that take place throughout the organization and stores that data in databases. These databases are stored on hard drives on the organization’s premises or in the cloud using remote data centers. In order to collect information efficiently, organizations operate data networks so that information can be collected across all divisions or sections. Many use cloud-based technology to connect different parts of their organization to the central processor.

Uses of Computer-based Information Systems CBIS have largely replaced traditional manual systems for managing organizations. Virtually every organization has some form of CBIS to manage operations. These include software solutions for accounting, payroll, manufacturing, purchasing and distribution. The latest trend is for organizations to integrate their separate software solutions so that it’s possible for management to monitor what is happening anywhere in the organization in real time. This is a significant step up from older systems that use daily, weekly and monthly processes to update files.

CBIS systems are used in many ways. They are used to control and report on expenditure in organizations. Other uses are in traffic management systems and population register databases. The move towards electronic medical records means that physicians are able to view patients’ medical histories online and improve their diagnostic capabilities. The United States Navy uses them to control the defense systems on ships. Managers use sophisticated CBIS analytics to guide decision making.

Key factors that contribute towards the success of computer-based information systems include the ability to capture data immediately using data networks, the availability of data centers that store information before and after processing, powerful computers that process data quickly and software capable of processing this information to provide the answers needed.