A stock market system often uses a brokerage firm with as few as one or as many as hundreds of employees known as brokers, whose business it is to represent clients/investors in the buying and selling (trading) of stocks. Conscientious brokers study the market thoroughly and generally specialize in a certain area of investment stocks, say, perhaps aviation or alternative energy.
Brokers may have a single client or several if each investor is an active daily trader. Brokers work for fees that may be a percentage of the deals made on behalf of a client, or a set fee for handling that client's account. If the broker is also an advisor, he's an acknowledged expert within a certain realm of the stock market system and his fees be higher than those charged by a broker-only.
A broker-only represents the wishes of his client, who may have established standing orders about a particular stock or group of stocks (what the broker is to do about them under given situations), or may request the broker to call and update him if a certain stock, or even the entire market, starts moving in order to obtain new buy/sell orders.
An advisor/broker generally has more personal leeway in handling his clients' investments. He is, after all, the expert, and must be trusted to make smart decisions, or else the client should take his business elsewhere.
Online brokerages can be all-electronic, in which case the investor has to know what he wants to do and be prepared to do it, or it may be staffed with real sentient beings, who are available to chat, make suggestions, explain things, and guide the investor through certain procedures. To do business with these online brokerages, an investor must open an account and establish his credentials. Online brokerages generally charge cheaper fees than those asked by physical brokerage houses that can be visited in person. -314
Online brokerages are very useful for obtaining immediate stock quotes, although one should be aware that some are providing quotes that may no longer be accurate or current, while some are supplying quotes 15 - 20 behind real-time. In the case of those providing real-time quotes, expect in most cases to be charged a membership fee as the NYSE, for example, does not provide brokerages with free real-time access to their Big Board.