DSS Architecture, Networking and Security Issues

Organizations are decision-driven. The success or failure of each decision impacts a company’s strategy directly or indirectly. If organizational decision making is aligned with the right kind of artificial intelligence system, chances are that the performance of the organization will improve to a great extent.

The alignment of human intellect with computerized decision support systems has become essential for rapid, more appropriate and agile decision making. Given the pace of change and continuous economic turbulence, it’s become vital to combine strategy, human cognition and technology. And this is why computerized decision support systems have become an integral part of organizational decision making.

This means that each organization needs to build some sort of IT infrastructure to support decision making. Though they realize its importance and also put a lot of effort in building one to fulfill their needs. However, in some organizations, a DSS is built in an inept and incompetent manner. The design process is shortened and is carried out in a hasty manner.

While this is understandable because of the cut throat competition, ever changing business environment and economically unstable setting, but companies need more time to gather creative inputs, work on design and infrastructure of a DSS along with DSS analysts and programmers and identify potential security and networking issues. This will help in building a strong, more appropriate and highly effective decision support system.

Unless each component of a DSS is carefully designed and developed, it’s impossible to create a standalone computer system to support decision making. This requires equal involvement of decision makers and DSS analysts, designers and programmers. Each of the DSS architecture components requires a careful approach and stanch support from all the parties.

How are DSS architecture, network and security interrelated ?

DSS architecture, network and security are interconnected. The study of DSS architecture involves obtaining an in-depth understanding about how a user is going to interact with the system and how information will flow from one point to another. DSS network is concerned about how hardware is organized, how data is distributed throughout the system, how DSS components are connected and whether the information is fed/accessed using internet, extranet or intranet.

While DSS architecture is concerned about conception of the structure, model and behavior of a system which is to be developed, networking is all about connection between the components – software and hardware.

Security is central to any computer software system and a DSS is no exception to the rule. A virus attack, a hacking attempt or information leakage can cause damage to the system as well as the organization. As a decision support system contains secret information, it needs to be 100% safe and secure. It’s also necessary for safeguarding employee and customer data.

Let’s take a close look at these components.

DSS Architecture

There are four fundamental components of DSS architecture:

  • User Interface
  • Database
  • Model (context or situation representation)
  • Knowledge
  • User Interface

    In the previous article, we learnt what it takes to design and build an effective user interface design. Since it’s a full-fledged subject of study, we looked at the prerequisites of a good user interface design, concerns pertaining to dialogue development, flexibility, mode of feeding information, interface design rules and factors influencing the success of a user interface design.

  • The Database

    Next, comes the database. It serves as the storehouse of information. It contains:

    1. Personal/internal information – details collected from within the organization, from employees, customers. It may include ideas, your own thoughts, experiences and insights.

    2. External information – information collected from outside sources, like independent researches, internet, government organizations, etc.

    A DSS accesses information directly from the database, depending upon your needs and type of decision you are making. A decision support system architecture scheme focuses on

    1. Type of database required for a particular decision making system model

    2. Who’s responsible for different types of databases

    3. How to maintain accuracy and security of database

  • Model

    This component of DSS architecture takes care of:

    1. DSS model and
    2. DSS model management system

    While a model is a representation of context, a situation or an event, a DSS model management system stores and maintains DSS models.

    A model makes an important component of DSS architecture because it allows you to carry out a particular type of data analysis that you need for a particular kind of decision-making. For example, you need to understand what happens if you change a particular variable. A spreadsheet-based model will help you conduct what-if analysis.

    A model management system just stores and manages DSS models. But it doesn’t help you decide the best model for a decision type. Decision makers can use their expertise to decide the model for resolving a particular model.

  • Knowledge

    This element of DSS architecture provides information about the relationship among data, which is too complex. It manages the knowledge and provides decision makers with alternative solutions of a problem. It also sends signals to decision makers when there is any mismatch between forecasted and actual results.

What Does a DSS Architecture Scheme Address ?

A well defined DSS architecture scheme addresses:

  • A problem definition that a DSS is expected to resolve
  • The objectives of a DSS
  • Components of a DSS and connection between them
  • Development and maintenance schedule
  • Skills, tools, funds and other support required for DSS development
  • Anticipated enhancements
  • Project participants and their roles

DSS Networking

A decision support system is connected to various computers (workstations), databases and servers. This connection is important for a DSS to work; however, this can give rise to a number of networking and computing issues.

Also, the increasing trend of internet-based DSS system may add to the intensity of networking and security issues. In this section, we’re going to learn about basic networking concepts and related issues.

DSS architecture is based on the physical connection among its various components as well hardware. And the way in which components or systems are networked define how information flows. However, before we discuss this in detail, let’s understand what a network is and how it can be established:

Network: A network is an assortment or a group of computers that are connected with each other or in a specific way, in order to communicate with each other. This connection facilitates the sharing of information among the connected computer systems.

To communicate among the connected systems requires:

  • An agreement upon language of communication
  • Unique identifier for each host/networked computer
  • Physical connection, such as modem or Ethernet
  • A network protocol (rules and formats for information sharing)
  • A technology for information sharing (LAN, Internet, Remote Access Dialup Servers and private Integrated Services Digital Networks (ISDN)

Resource Sharing

A computer network is established with a core objective of sharing information. The most common technology for connection and resource sharing is LAN (Local Area Network). It serves hosts within a restricted geographical area.

The resources are managed through an operating system, which is known as NOS (Network Operating System). It acts like a traffic controller that regulates the exchange and flow of information/resources.

WAN (Wide Area Network) is another technology for resource sharing. The difference between LAN and Wan is that the latter is much larger and connects a group of LANs.

Resource Connection

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet Protocol) is a set of standard networking protocols, to enable computer systems to communicate with each other. It defines the rules and formats for the diffusion and reception of information or resources.

The TCP sends data between programs using IP (Internet Protocol). It assigns a unique IP address to each workstation and sends information from one host to another in the form of packets.

The information or data is sent through internet because of its omnipresence and cost effectiveness. However, the information may not be transferred through a secured root. In order to maintain security, it’s essential to address related issues and concerns.

Addressing Security Issues for Decision Support Systems

Given the increase in the rate of cyber crime, virus attack and information theft, it has become important to make additional arrangements to ensure data security. The process begins with evaluating security needs and identifying problems and goes through determining appropriate solutions to implementing them.

The Process for Addressing Security Issues

  1. Identifying security needs: Before finding solutions to problems, DSS users and analysts must brainstorm to identify security needs. This step requires evaluating potential threats.

  2. Determining how important security is: The next step is to determine how important security is for your DSS. You need to ask yourself following questions:

    • How important the data secured in it is
    • How sensitive your data is
    • What kind of decision-making it is going to support
    • Who all is going to use it
    • Does it require transfer of information to remote locations
    • How much cost it will incur

    Once you find answers to all these questions, you can determine whether the security needs are to be addressed or not.

  3. Remedying problems: After you decide the level of security required for your DSS, it’s time to fix the problems. The solutions may be in the form of:

    • Strengthened password
    • User education
    • Firewalls
    • Enhanced privacy
    • Logging and use statistics

  4. Implementing solutions and observing their impact: Implement the decided solutions and observe if they effectively address the problems. The job is not over; rather it’s an ongoing process. There may be some security holes at any given point. Keep a track of them and change the passwords and strengthen firewalls on regular basis.

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