Is researching companies online really that much better or easier than doing it the old-fashioned way at a library? It sure is. The Internet has revolutionized investing, giving folks on Main Street many of the resources used by the folks on Wall Street. With a computer and a modem, you can access just about all the information you need to make financial decisions -- information that a few years ago might have cost you thousands of dollars per year but is now mostly free, or at least rather inexpensive.

One of the first places to look is (humbly submitted) our website at Fool.com, featuring commentaries on companies in and out of the news, deep discussions of various investing strategies, and lots of data -- such as dividend yields, ratios, historical financial information, stock charts, and an earnings report calendar. In the Fool Community of discussion boards, you can have your financial questions answered 24 hours a day by Fool staffers and contributors across the country. Pop in to the Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) discussion board and you'll find Fools dissecting lots of news stories about the firm, while Fools discuss Amazon.com's (NASDAQ:AMZN) latest developments on the Amazon board.

Perhaps most valuable for investors are a company's financial reports, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and available online at the Fool's Quotes & Data area. Because the SEC requires companies to include certain key information, reading a few 10-Qs (quarterly reports) and the annual 10-K is often the most efficient way to figure out a company in a few hours. The 10-K reports include detailed company discussions, as well.

If you're looking for a company's history, financial information, and addresses, take a look at Hoovers.com. (There's a fee for some of this info.) Also, don't neglect to visit a company's own website, where you'll often find a host of information on its history, products and services, and stock. (Look in the corners for links titled "About Us," "Our Company," "Investors," etc.) The Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:SUNW) website, for example, has a link on its main page at Sun.com titled "Investors," while at Starbucks' (NASDAQ:SBUX) Starbucks.com, if you hover over the "About Us" link, you can click over to "Investor Relations."

Keep up with a company's happenings at the Fool's Quotes & Data area, where you can access recent news stories about most companies. Your local newspaper is likely to have its own website, too, complete with business section. (And one of the wonderful things about cyberspace is that you can read other cities' newspapers online, too!)

Of course, there are many other resources available to investors online. Consider yourself invited to pop over to our discussion board for this column, where you can list some research sites that you use and recommend. Or at least pop in to see what others have recommended. (We offer easy free trials to our boards.)