Core Competence, Inc. Internet @ppliance Industry Report:
A Guide to Technology,
Products, and Deployment
David Strom, Inc.

Technauts™ eServer 152-E

Workgroup/SOHO Internet Application, Web and Network Security appliance offers collaboration by combining web, email, file and mailing list services. Use alone for Intranet services, or with a router or communications appliance for Internet and Extranet services. Strong firewall feature set helps protect Internal hosts from public Internet.

Price:
eServer 152-E (two Ethernet) as tested $1995.00
eServer 152-M (Ethernet, one v.90 modem) $1995.00
eServer 150 (single Ethernet) $1895.00

Contact:
Technauts™
106 Pheasant Wood Court, Suite 300
Morrisville, NC 27560
Phone: US Toll Free 1-877-eServer (1-877-373-7837), (919)-462-1713
Fax: (919)-388-2060
Web: www.technauts.com

Reviewed:
December 1998

eServer 152-E

Technauts™ takes nearly everything you could possibly squeeze from LINUX and wraps a nicely conceived and intuitive browser interface around the eServer 152 to provide one of the most flexible appliances we've seen.

With a dial-on-demand 56 Kbps (v.90) modem and 10 Mbps Ethernet, the eServer 152-M can function as a communications appliance, firewall, web host, network file share and Internet application server for a small business or branch office.

Using the same firewall and routing features, the eServer 152-E we tested offers two Ethernet interfaces but no modem, and can be used to segment branch office LANs while supporting workgroup applications and mail-based collaboration.

What's inside?

The eServer runs LINUX RedHat 5.1, with custom web and email servers. The model we tested had a 100 Mhz Intel Pentium processors with 16 MB RAM and a 1.3 GB hard disk. In 1999, eServers will have 133 Mhz Pentium, 32 MB RAM, a 2.1 GB hard disk, and 10/100 Mbps Ethernet. The LINUX command line is accessible using a Telnet application. Die-hard sysadmins can plug a keyboard, mouse and monitor directly into the terminations on the front and back panels as we did and log into the eServer's UNIX shell environment. For greater security, Telnet access can also be disabled or controlled.

Setting up the eServer 152-E
Install and use the remarkably simple First Time Configuration utility, eSConfig, on any PC connected to the same LAN as the eServer's primary network interface. eSConfig examines your Win9x or NT 4.0 registry and gathers all the TCP/IP information typically entered in a network control panel. The utility then searches the same LAN for an eServer, configures all but its IP address automatically, and displays the nearly complete configuration on your PC. Just enter an IP address or you allow a DHCP server assign one. eSConfig checks to see if the IP address is free, then reconfigures and restarts the eServer. eSConfig automatically assigns the eServer the hostname eServer.<your-PC's-domain-name>.com. Click here to view a larger image
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Web and File Sharing Services

The eSConfig application launches your IE 4.x or Netscape Navigator 4.05 (or later) browser so that initial setup can be completed using a wizard. At this point, network configuration is complete; use the wizard to accept the license agreement, create a new system administrator password, set the date and time, and you're in business. Hereafter, log in by entering the URL http://<your-eserver-name>/eserver in your browser.

The eServer's Administrator's Page is the launching point for configuration, maintenance, and monitoring activities. The left side of nearly every configuration page provides easy navigation; the right side is used for configuration. System configuration and services status are provided on this page in a convenient, uncluttered fashion. "At-a-glance" views of mailbox and web visit statistics are available with a single click on the navigation list. Click here to view a larger image
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Much of the eServer menu navigation is intuitive; and we failed to notice the absence of any significant on-line help until we'd spent considerable time exploring and configuring the system. Experienced users won't be troubled by its absence, but more online help will be needed by novice users, especially for features and services such as logging, mail and web server details.

Navigation bar
The bulk of user, group, and services configuration is accomplished via the eServer Configuration Page. The User Menu allows you to create and delete users, and manage their access to administrative features, email, and web publishing. Similarly, create and manage user groups for mailing-list based collaboration from the Group Menu items.

Communication and Security Services

The eServer 152-E comes with two Ethernet interfaces and supports IP forwarding and packet filtering, allowing your eServer 152-E to act as an IP router. For example, in a remote office or growing business, you may choose to use one eServer to divide a busy LAN in two, or use the IP filtering features to control access to a protected ("inside") LAN where you support an Intranet, from an "outside" LAN, where you might support an Extranet web server reachable from the public Internet.

Use the eServer's 152-E's IP forwarding in conjunction with its access controls and Network Address Translation (NAT) to support rudimentary firewall services. The eServer's IP Access Control Wizard provides step-by-step instructions that allow you to implement a security policy. Use this wizard to create a set of "rules" that determine who may access your protected LAN and configure your firewall. Click here to view a larger image
Click on this image to view a larger one

One of the nicest features of this wizard is that it summarizes your policy as you configure, so even a relative novice can understand the consequences of each rule. The default security policy automatically isolates hosts and servers on your protected LAN from outside access, but permits inside hosts access to outside (i.e., Internet) servers. You can even allow and deny access by individual hosts or networks to services on the eServer, and to hosts and specific services on individual hosts accessed via the eServer.

Web and File Sharing Services

The eServer 152-E runs a custom web server and supports Perl 5.0 CGI scripting, MIME type extension, dynamic URL mapping, and web mirroring. It supports Microsoft Windows (SMB) file and print sharing, Domain Name System (DNS), Telnet, FTP, TFTP, and logging servers. It's also a multi-domain email server (SMTP/POP3) that supports SMTP peering with advanced anti-spamming features; for example, you can control which mail servers you will accept messages from, and you can direct the mail server to process only mails that have originated from or are being delivered to its domain. These are a powerful features, but ones that requires an experience mail admin to operate.

Other Notable Features

One of the more admirable qualities of the eServer is the attention paid when performing activities that may have a security consequence. You are warned if your user account is already in use when you log on, and you may override (disconnect) the existing login session. Changes to services selection, configuration and operation, can only be performed if you confirm proposed changes by supplying the administrator password. Webmasters can map names to hide the actual HTML file and directory structure from visiting web browsers. Mail administrators can block IP addresses and domains known to send unsolicited "spam" email, the POP servers from which users can download email, and even limit the size of mail messages and attachments. These security features, combined with extensive application and system logs, should not be overlooked when shopping for a multi-purpose appliance. Some competence in UNIX administration is recommended before you make changes to the default configuration, but defaults are well-conceived and will satisfy many small business environments.

Final Word

The Technauts™ 152-E provides an attractive set of features for the small but growing business and is an excellent choice for branch and remote offices as well. It's one of the most flexible appliances tested. It can be used and appreciated by users with modest expertise, and its advanced features will delight more experienced users and system administrators.

Copyright ©2000 Core Competence, Inc. and David Strom, Inc.
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