Small firms have a tough time managing network equipment and are often at the mercy of their network administrators or value-added resellers since equipment and applications are Greek to manage. EmergeCore Networks LLC is trying to break this cycle with its EC Reactor 5000, an all-in-one network device (or IT in a box, as EmergeCore likes to say) it demonstrated at the recent NetWorld+Interop 2002 Las Vegas.
The box is built around a switch, router and application server. There are 24 10/100M bit/sec and two Gigabit Ethernet ports. A variety of WAN (wide area network) interfaces are available, depending on your needs. Features include a Web, FTP (file transfer protocol) and e-mail server, VPN (virtual private network), firewall and backup. You can share files and printers, and get your mail via POP3, IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) and Web-based e-mail clients. Optional are IP (Internet Protocol) telephony, virus scanning, content filtering, proxy services, Web caching and other applications.
The setup requires an IT expert (or EmergeCore will do it for you), but because the management software is easy to use, EmergeCore says day-to-day administration can be handled by a less-experienced IT person, and tasks such as adding an e-mail domain or new users can be handled by a nontechnical user, such as an administrative assistant. A Web-based management interface lets you save and store systemwide configurations, so the expert can preconfigure the box before installing it in a small or remote office.
The box costs about US$10,000, which includes setup, training and support. Dave Brown, EmergeCore vice president, is quick to point out the cost of maintaining traditional equipment and two experienced administrators can reach $113,000 per year.
Mitel Networks also announced at Interop the availability of its office-in-a-box IP communications product, the 3100 Integrated Communications Platform (ICP), which brings enterprise-class telephony features and an application server to small and branch offices. On the voice side the ICP provides 24 IP and 10 analog voice lines, auto attendant and voicemail. On the data side, it offers e-mail, print and file sharing, Web server, virus protection and an IP Security VPN. There are also collaboration tools and Web-based management. The cost of the ICP, including IP phones is $560 per port based on a 24-port configuration. Mitel also released details of the baby brother to the ICP, the 3050, which supports up to eight users, due out by October.
While these days, mobile execs can connect to their corporate networks from anywhere, printing is still a problem. When traveling or visiting a client site, you need to find the nearest printer, get its model number, locate the corresponding driver on your system and hope it loads properly - what a time sink. To speed the process, Hewlett-Packard is offering the new Mobile Printing Driver. Download it once, and you can print to any networked PostScript-enabled HP printer. The driver is free, available at www.hp.com/go/mobileprintingdriver.
HP also announced at Interop two 802.11b wireless print servers, one internal, one USB (Universal Serial Bus), both available in June (pricing not yet available). Not only do you lose the network cable, wireless means you can tuck the printer out of the way, freeing up valuable space. Mobile execs with the Mobile Printer Driver loaded on their systems need only access the client's or business center's wireless LAN and click print to get the job done.