SAN FRANCISCO (03/28/2000) - Now that almost all Macintosh network services-including personal file sharing under OS 9-operate over TCP/IP, network administrators are discovering the travails of managing IP addresses in large networks. With TCP/IP, every user must have a unique IP address, subnet mask, gateway address, and DNS server address. You can administer about a dozen users manually, but beyond that number IP address management becomes a nightmare. Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) ends the bad dream by doling out IP address information to end users from a central server. Alas, while Macs can act as DHCP clients, no version of the OS has built-in DHCP server support.
Vicom Technology Inc.'s Vicomsoft's DHCP Server 6.5 fills that gap, competing with commercial DHCP servers that run on Windows or Unix or as part of a dedicated network device. Vicomsoft's server boasts a low price and the ability to run on low-end Mac hardware (68040 processor, 8MB of RAM, and Mac OS 7.5.3 or higher). And unlike an embedded DHCP server, such as the one built into SonicWall's firewall, Vicomsoft's server doesn't forget all of its DHCP assignments when rebooted-a significant advantage on a large network with dozens or even hundreds of users.
DHCP Server comes preconfigured to deliver 253 addresses in a standard private IP address range and subnet mask. You need only specify the IP address of your Internet gateway, a company domain name, and the addresses of as many as five DNS servers; DHCP Server then configures your clients-Mac, Windows, or Unix-with these values. A Gateway extension lets you run other TCP/IP services, such as DNS, e-mail, and Web servers, on the same machine. An optional $29 remote-administration application enables you to configure and monitor DHCP Server from anywhere on your network.
Some machines, such as servers, require fixed IP assignments so users can locate them. DHCP Server has a workable, if ungraceful, provision for fixed addressing: you list these servers in a text file as IP-Ethernet address pairs.
DHCP Server then uses the specified IP address instead of choosing one dynamically.
DHCP Server supports multiple Ethernet interfaces, letting you use a single server for more than one physical network. It also permits multiple IP address ranges on a single Ethernet interface-handy if you use IP addressing and a local router to separate user groups into different IP address ranges. DHCP Server can deliver as many as 1,024 IP addresses, so it can support even large networks.
DHCP Server does its job well but lacks two advanced features needed to make it a truly enterprise-class product: dynamic DNS and automatic fail-over. Dynamic DNS is a standard for maintaining domain-name associations with user IP addresses even when those addresses change. Without dynamic DNS, users must contact each other in advance to learn their IP addresses when they want to exchange files via personal file sharing. Automatic fail-over lets you run a backup DHCP server that maintains a copy of the DHCP database, so failure of the primary server won't cripple your network.
Macworld's Buying Advice
If you're running TCP/IP for a growing network, IP address administration is a nasty chore you can't ignore. If you have a network with several hundred users, Vicomsoft's DHCP Server 6.5 will simplify your life. Although DHCP Server lacks some advanced features, the advantage you gain by keeping this administrative function in the Macintosh fold makes it a good choice for basic DHCP.
RATING: 3.5 mice
PROS: Inexpensive; supports multiple address ranges and Ethernet cards; remote-administration option.
CONS: Lacks dynamic DNS support; no automatic fail-over; awkward interface.
COMPANY: Vicomsoft (800/818-4266, http://www.vicomsoft.com).
LIST PRICE: $95.