ISSUE 476: The high-tech office- Dec 8 1998


Novell's Netware allows the smallest company
to enjoy the advantages of a network right now

In a recent column, we looked at several updates for popular software products.

But, of course, not all updates are free. Just like Gillette, which realized there was a fortune to be made in selling razors cheaply if customers would keep buying the blades, software companies often want to build a big user base so they can keep selling you upgrade after upgrade.

Unlike razor blades, however, one hopes software upgrades provide added features to help you run your business better. Otherwise, you can just keep using the same old software day in and day out.

Today, most business computers are networked. Connecting computers to-
gether has a lot of advantages, even for the smallest of businesses. Next week we'll look at the increasing options for connecting computers in a home office or small business. But this week we're taking a peek at the battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of large business networks.

Until recently, to a large extent, local area networks meant Novell Netware.

As with other product areas, we've seen a major push by software giant Microsoft to redefine the playing field -- in this case, to replace Netware with Windows NT Server. And while more computers are still connected to Netware networks, NT has the allure of the future.

There's been a sense that, as with desktop software such as word processors and spreadsheets, there was no stopping the Microsoft tide.

Microsoft's next-generation product, recently renamed Windows 2000 (formerly NT 5.0), isn't here yet. And efforts to produce a stable product out of its huge 35 million lines of computer code are slow.

Novell has been able to take advantage of Microsoft's delay to produce a new and improved version of Netware. Unlike Microsoft's renamed NT 5.0, Netware version 5.0 is here now, and offers a number of real advantages for businesses that are currently networked and those planning to install a network in the future.

Much of the potential for improving computer networks lies in the rather abstract area of directory services. As business networks grow and evolve, there are increasing numbers of users, computers, printers and other resources.

Ideally, it would be easy for users to access the resources they need. In fact, it's often difficult to keep track of what's located where.

Hence directory services.

Novell's Directory Service already does a better job of this than the awkward capabilities of Microsoft's current NT 4.0 Server. For the future, Microsoft is promising something called Active Directory.

However, Novell accurately points out that its NDS is here now, and that it has already ironed out the bugs that are likely in a first-generation product such as Microsoft's.

In addition, the company has made Netware 5.0 easier to install and bundles with it a starter-pack version of Z.E.N. Works. This latter product is aimed at helping companies control cost of operation by using the network to gather hardware inventories, distribute software, and control which applications various users can access.

Netware 5.0 has been redesigned for an Internet-standard TCP/IP and includes Web server software. This makes it easier to host Internet-like intranets within the enterprise and enables a Netware network to communicate with other networks based on NT or Unix computers.

Netware has always had a good reputation as a solid file and printer server. The new version also better competes with NT as an application server. Actual applications can be run directly from the server on multiple client machines.

And there's a new version of Netware 4.2 aimed at businesses with fewer than 100 employees that don't have much experience setting up networks. This version aims to ease the pain of getting a network set up and connected to the Internet. It is priced at about $2,000 for the first five users, with upgrade pricing for additional users.

The bottom line is that with its new versions, Novell remains a competitive player, offering businesses useful services which, unlike the competition's promises, are available today. *


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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan