Product review: NWSB powers up small networks management

Don't let the name fool you -- there's nothing small about NetWare for Small Business (NWSB). Released this week in the US, version 4.2 ships with six CDs and includes enough add-ons to keep most large networks happy. Although I was a little surprised to find NWSB is based on NetWare 4.11 rather than Novell's newer Version 5.0 product, released almost two months ago, I nevertheless recommend it to network managers of any single-site network with fewer than 50 nodes, especially those already familiar or comfortable with NetWare.

NWSB was designed specifically for networks of 50 users or less; it really isn't aimed at multisite or enterprise networks. Although you can have multiple NWSB servers on the same network, the software is not designed to coexist with IntranetWare or NetWare 5. However, should your company outgrow NWSB, you can easily upgrade to NetWare 5; the directory will already be in place.

Despite the fact that NWSB is geared for those with little or no NetWare experience, it is not a "lite" or scaled-down version of NetWare. In fact, the less customers know about NetWare, the more they will need to rely on their VARs for support, because NWSB uses the same code base as NetWare 4.11.

Novell Directory Services (NDS) remains the same in NWSB, with the exception that the partitioning capabilities have been removed. In fact, considering all of the utility software and additions included with NWSB, the software actually requires more resources than does the average NetWare server. And the more utilities you install, the greater the hardware requirements will be. Therefore, I wouldn't recommend using anything less than a Pentium Pro 200 server with a 4G-byte hard drive and 128M-bytes of RAM. By doing so you will avoid having to upgrade your hardware when installing add-ons down the road.

To install NWSB I rebooted my computer with the included boot disk and the CD in the drives. This sets up the partitions, auto-detects server hardware, loads the appropriate drives, creates the volumes, and copies the program files for you. It took less than 30 minutes to get my test server up on a Pentium Pro 200 with a 4G-byte disk drive and 128Mbytes of RAM.

Once the server is running, you will need to install the client software, which comes on a CD that starts automatically when inserted into the drive. NWSB uses the same client as NetWare 5, which I installed on both Windows 98 and Windows NT workstations.

There are three applications that can be initially launched from this window -- Internet Connection Wizard, Install GroupWise, and Easy Admin -- and you should run them all. The Internet Connection Wizard is a dream-come-true utility for connecting your new NetWare server to the Internet, which it will do in minutes. Choose the capabilities you want to provide (browse-only, or browse and e-mail) to the network, and enter your ISP-specific information as you would when connecting a Windows 95 computer. The wizard creates a script file that then runs on the server.

The Install GroupWise option lets you install the GroupWise client to your workstation. Once installed, you will immediately be able to send and receive e-mail, both locally on your new network and across the Internet using your new server-based Internet connection.

Finally, Easy Admin is a scaled-down version of NetWare Administrator, offering simplified basic user, group, and printer management. Those familiar with NetWare Administrator can still use it for more advanced management tasks.

In short, NWSB is a powerful tool that is easy enough for non-NetWare-savvy employees to use. I recommend it to small businesses looking for the strength of NetWare in a more focused package.

Dennis Williams is a free-lance writer and product consultant, in Alpine, Utah. He can be reached at Dennis@ProductReviews.com.

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