SAN FRANCISCO (08/28/2000) - Your business started with one or two PCs--now your employee and computer counts are taking off. You need to share files, an Internet connection, and a printer, but you don't have an IT department to tackle the problem.
Intel Corp.'s new InBusiness Small Office Network package may be just what you need. It enables a Windows-based workgroup to share a printer; files; and an inexpensive dial-up, cable modem, or DSL account. The high-end version includes a server computer (licensed for up to 25 clients), a network hub, two network cards, software CDs, installation instructions, and assorted cables. In our tests, we found it extremely easy to use.
The server computer on the $2149 shipping model I tested looks like a conventional tower PC gussied up with postmodern styling and an LCD status display. And it's crowned with a large indicator light that everyone in the office can see, showing whether the server is online. The server runs a special version of Windows NT Server 4.0 called Microsoft Corp. Windows for Express Networks, set up with a firewall, proxy server, file server, and print spooler.
The internal configuration includes an Intel 533-MHz Celeron with 64MB of RAM, two 13GB hard disks (one mounted in a removable carrier), two 10/100 ethernet network interfaces, and a 56-kbps modem. There is no monitor, keyboard, or mouse involved. (Intel also makes a $1499 version, for 56-kbps connections only, with 64MB of RAM, a 500-MHz Celeron processor, and no backup hard disk.)Setup involves connecting everything and running several installation programs from a CD-ROM. Depending on the type of Internet connection you have, you must enter telephone numbers, IP numbers, DNS server addresses, and the like. You'll also perform connection tests and set up printers and security policies during this sequence.
Each client PC undergoes a similar installation procedure. After rebooting, each computer contacts the appliance to configure itself; then it can browse the Internet. In their Windows Network Neighborhood, users will see a server named Expressnetwork, displaying the printer and a shared "Document" folder.
The basic installation process enables only browsing. To do more, run the Computer Setup Wizard and select Use Shared Internet Connection. This installs a program called the Microsoft Proxy Client, which is necessary to route protocols such as e-mail, FTP, and AOL through the preconfigured firewall.
Easy To Use--Mostly
I ran into a few minor problems--typical for instal-ling a network server, and all easily solved by downloading an update from Intel's Web site. The entire process, including troubleshooting, took me about 4 hours. Ongoing administration will require some diligence. The hard disk is removable, making off-site storage for safety very easy. Also, you can use the dial-up modem as a backup connection to the Internet when your DSL or cable modem connection fails. The InBusiness network's firewall is simple to use. It also functions as a shared cache to minimize redundant traffic.
The package has some weaknesses. Its network hub operates only at 10 mbps, while the network interfaces can go ten times faster. There is no simple way to recover an accidentally deleted file. And if your equipment includes a Macintosh or Linux computer, InBusiness can't support it.
Overall, however, the InBusiness Small Office Network creates an easy-to-use, familiar interface to files, printing, and Internet services for your business needs.
InBusiness Small Office Network
PRO: Easy to set up; good backup features on high-end version.
CON: Windows only, slow hub.
VALUE: An economical alternative to a professionally managed Windows NT Server installation.
List price: $2149 or $1499, depending on featuresIntel800/538-3373www.intel.com/network/smallbiz