$599 and up eServer.share / $1,299 and up eServer.net
In a Nutshell
* Easy set up and configuration
* Good Web-based management interface
* Some difficulty managing eServer with Internet Explorer 5 on Windows
|Manage Me: eServer’s Web-based management interface is fast, efficient, clean, and responsive.|
* eServer.publish is dedicated to Web publishing
* eServer.mail is a POP3 e-mail server
* eServer.share is for network printer and SMB-style AppleTalk and NFS filesharing
* eServer.net does all of the above
We all love Linux as a server OS. It’s light on system resources and performs like a charm, it runs on all kinds of commodity hardware, it’s open source, and best of all, it’s cheaper than dirt. However, it’s not the easiest OS to set up and administer. In small businesses, that attribute alone can deep-six any hope of implementing Linux.
Enter Technauts, a relative newcomer to the server-appliance industry. With the release of its eServer line of smart appliances, Technauts hopes to challenge Cobalt (makers of the Qube and Raq server appliances), IBM’s Whistle division, and Rebel.com (which has acquired Corel’s NetWinder).
Linux Magazine was supplied with two eServer units, the eServer.share and the eServer.net. Both of these devices come in a rather undistinguished package: eggshell-white miniature PC cases the size of a cable TV set-top descrambler. From looks alone, you wouldn’t expect much from these wimpy-looking plain-wrapper boxes.
The eServer.share came with a 20 GB hard disk and the eServer.net Professional came with an 8 GB disk. Both units use 166 MHz Pentium MMX processors and come standard with 32 MB of onboard RAM. The eServer.net also came with a built-in 56K modem, which is a nice feature if you need to dial in to get your e-mail or access your network from the road.
Up and Running
Configuration was a snap using Technauts’ supplied Microsoft Windows-based configuration utility, which uses a low-level MAC (Media Access Control) layer broadcast protocol to communicate with and find eServers on your network. We also had the option of hooking up a keyboard and monitor to each of the eServers and answering a few questions on startup to set the IP networking information.
One thing we liked about these units was that the Web-based management interface was clean and responsive and made efficient use of Java applets. This was in strong contrast to our experiences with Cobalt’s interface, which was sluggish in comparison. Our only complaint is that when using Internet Explorer 5 on Windows 98/2000-based workstations to manage the eServer, we would occasionally crash our browser when viewing some of the Java-based pages using Sun’s JRE 1.2 (which is included with the eServer).
A major area in which Technauts distinguishes itself from the rest of the appliance-server crowd is the built-in redundancy of the units — if you have more than one eServer installed on your network, you can have one machine act as a backup for another’s e-mail or Web services. With the eServer.net, you can also mirror and cache external Web sites, which is great to have if your Net connection is slow or is shared by a lot of people.
If you want the cheapest basic Internet and file services you can find, you can always use commodity hardware and a free Linux distribution. But there’s nothing easier than just dropping one of these boxes on your LAN and following a few Web-based wizards. For all types of small business, the eServer is an ideal solution.