Networks - Part Two options

In the previous issue we introduced you to Networks by explaining what a network system is, what benefits you can gain from implementing a network system and some of the security issues surrounding a network. In this issue we will look at the most common networks available today, identifying the advantages and disadvantages of each.

 

Before deciding which Operating System you are going to use, you will need to decide whether to use a peer-to-peer network, or a client/server network.

 

In a peer-to-peer network a number of workstations are linked together (along with printers etc.) with one of the workstations being the ‘server’.

 

In a client/server network workstations are linked to a central dedicated ‘server’ which stored the data centrally for sharing.

If you have decided upon a client/server option then you need to decide which operating systems to use on both the server and the clients.

 

Windows 95/ 98

You’ll almost certainly run Windows 95 or 98 on your workstations if you’re setting up a new PC network.  Windows 95/98 is an excellent network client, nearly twice as fast in that role as the older Windows 3.x. Windows 95 works well as a peer-to-peer server also, without requiring any additional software.

 

Windows Suitability

Widely Compatible - Windows 95/98 works with just about every hardware device available, and its software compatibility with older Windows 3.x and MS-DOS programs is good, too.

 

Easily Networkable On A Client/Server Network - As a network client, Windows 95/98 can connect to just about any kind of server including another Windows 95/98 machine, Windows NT (Workstation or Server), Novell IntranetWare, LAN Manager.

 

Easily Networkable On A Peer-To-Peer Network - The built-in peer-to-peer networking in Windows 95 is easy to set up and manage using ‘share-level security’. It’s also mature and reliable, having evolved from Windows for Workgroups.

 

Easy To Troubleshoot - You can perform remote troubleshooting and management of Windows 95 PC’s - from across the network or even over a dial-up connection - with Windows utilities such as the Remote Registry Editor and System Monitor, as long as you use Windows 95 in a client/server network. (You can’t run the Remote Registry Editor in a pure peer-to-peer LAN.)

 

Easy To Link With A Modem - The ‘dial-up networking’ (DUN) feature of Windows 95 /98 lets you connect to most network servers over a modem link, and works well. You can set up a Windows 95 machine as a host for incoming connections, allowing employees to dial in to your network from the road or a home office.

 

Easy To Install New Hardware - Windows 95 makes installing hardware easier with Plug-and-Play, a technology that enables you to set up new devices with less fuss and muss than with Windows 3.x.

 

Easy To Install - Installing Windows 95/98 is accomplished with a ‘wizard’, a program that asks you a few easy questions and then configures the system based on your answers. Also, Windows automatically detects about 2000 different devices during set-up, so just about any piece of hardware you have connected when you start installing Windows 95 will be recognised and ready to roll when you’re done.

 

Windows 95 Doesn’t Really Have Its Own Security System - Although you can restrict what users can do on their own workstations with a utility called System Policy Editor, Windows 95 leverages the security database of another network server (IntranetWare or NT Server) for access control in its user-level security mode.

 

Windows NT Workstation

More and more often, companies are now considering Windows NT Workstation (NWT) in place of Windows 95/98 for desktop use.  NWT makes a fine client operating system and can function in a peer-to-peer network just like Windows 95/98 (actually, probably a little better, because it’s closer to being crash proof). NWT uses the same graphical user interface that Windows 95 does, so it’s comfortable for those familiar with Windows 95.

 

Why does Microsoft sell two workstation products? In a nutshell, the Windows 95/98 products are for general business use and work with just about every conceivable peripheral device, while NTW is for users who require very high reliability, security, and data processing power.  As NTW is aimed at the business user it probably comes as no surprise that the other key difference is that NTW is more expensive.

 

The key differences of NTW over Windows 95/98 are:

 

More Stable - NTW crashes far less often than Windows 95/98.

 

More Secure - NTW offers its own reasonably airtight security system, while Windows 95/98 depends on network servers to impose workstation security.

 

Offers More Limited Choice Of Peripherals - Windows 95/98 works with a much wider variety of hardware, and with Plug-and-Play, can usually figure out how to install and support new hardware automatically.  Try installing hardware that isn’t on the Microsoft Hardware Compatibility List on NTW, and you’ll have problems.  This is something to be aware of if you are purchasing a new system – do not assume that existing printers etc. will be compatible with NTW.

 

More Difficult To Install - Windows NTW is a bit more difficult to install than Windows 95/98 for non-technical users.

 

Windows NT Server

Although it has a separate name, package and price, Windows NT Server (NTS) isn’t all that different under the covers from its workstation twin. Frankly, the main difference is in how Microsoft licenses the product and what extra software Microsoft throws in.  In addition, the NTS version supports four CPUs rather than the two allowed with NTW, and it offers “domain services” to enable you to divide up your network (NTW doesn’t let you set up domain services, although it can certainly use them if an NT Server is running on the same network).

 

Although NTS is a relatively young product as Network Operating Systems go, Microsoft has devoted a great deal of time, energy, and talent toward enhancing. it since its debut with versions 3.1 and 3.50.  NTS 4.0 is proving to be a strong and popular choice for a small business.

 

Some of the key features of NT Server over and above those detailed against NT Workstation are:

 

Capable Of Running Different File System - NTS can run the FAT ( File Allocation Table) file system (a method of organising disk space), which DOS, Windows 3x, and Windows 95/98 use.  However, NTS comes with its own preferred file system, NTFS (NT File System), which offers the advantages of file-level security and disaster recovery.

 

Solid Security - NTS offers solid security.  You can set up users, groups, workgroups, and domains, and you can set up directory and file-level security. NTS comes with the C2 Manager to implement its security model.

 

Easy To Integrate With Novell - NTS integrates very well with existing Novell IntranetWare servers, allowing NT clients to see IntranetWare resources and allowing IntranetWare clients to see NT resources.

 

Helps Manage Ip Addresses - NTS comes with most of the utilities you need to handle IP (Internet Protocol) addressing issues.

 

Supports Remote Access For Your Employees At Home Or On The Road - The NTS “Remote Access Service” (RAS) is a mature and competant communications tool for outbound and inbound access.

 

Lots Of Compatible, Useful Software - Microsoft makes a number of companion products available for NTS in the BackOffice product family, including a database (SQL Server), e-mail server (Exchange), and management software for larger networks (Systems Management Server).

 

LANtastic

Until Windows 95 came along, LANtastic from Artisoft was a very popular choice for a peer-to-peer small business network.  The built-in networking capabilities in Windows 95 make LANtastic a less compelling choice than it used to be, and the company has undergone some painful downsizing as a result.  The product does, however, include some features that Windows 95 doesn’t.

 

LANtastic software offers the following capabilities:

 

Convenient Installation - You can conveniently install LANtastic on workstation computers using a single diskette that you create on the first workstation you set up.

 

E-Mail Software Included - You get an e-mail package, too, although it requires at least one computer on the network to run Windows 3.x or DOS.

 

Remote Management - LANtastic includes a DOS-based utility for remote management (so that you can administer the network from a dial-up connection), but only of DOS, Windows 3.x, or dedicated LANtastic servers.

 

Good Security - LANtastic offers much more in the way of security than the Windows 95 peer-to-peer network. You can set up logon security with password and time-of-day restrictions, network accounts at one of the four management security levels, and file and directory security that overrides account security-much like you can do on client/server networks like Windows NT Server or IntranetWare.

 

NetWare

The Novell NetWare product family has been synonymous with small business networking for many years.  NetWare is no longer the only choice that it once was, though, and Novell has lost some market share in recent years to Windows NT Server.

 

Today, Novell has written off its dalliances with WordPerfect and UnixWare, and is more focused on what it does well.  Novell still has a strong asset in the form of its NetWare Directory Services (NDS), and the IntranetWare for Small Business (IBS) bundle is very competitive with Windows NT Server in terms of capabilities and price.

 

Novell has also taken some strong steps to make the IBS product easier to install, an area that was never NetWare’s strong suit in the past (one of the reasons Windows NT Server made inroads in the markets, in fact). Novell is making IntranetWare more Internet-friendly, and less closely tied to the IPX/SPX network language that it developed to run with NetWare. Finally, there are still many more NetWare experts out there than Windows NT Server experts, so the pool of consulting and support resources is bigger.

 

IntranetWare 4.11

IntranetWare 4.11 (IW 4.11) is a full featured, industrial-strength, mature, and highly scaleable NOS.  Like all versions of NetWare,IW 4.11 runs on Intel and Intel-compatible processors only.  The networking nuts and bolts are basically the same as those in what Novell used to call NetWare 4.1, but Novell has added software for Internet and intranet features and given the product a new name in the process.

 

With Novel it’s a case of with capability comes complexity, and IW4.11 is not the sort of the software you pull out of the box and install in one afternoon.  Novell designed this product to be able to support hundreds of users per server and several servers per network.  IW 4.11 is arguably the an extremely solid NOS for such a large Local Area Network (LAN), and its NetWare Directory Services (NDS) method of organising LAN resources handles big networks better than the Windows NT Server domain model.

 

NDS is a single database containing information about every user, group and printer on the network, along with all access permission information.  However, if you are a small business you won’t have a large LAN, and IW 4.11 is probably overkill.

 

Here are some of the salient features of IW 4.11:

 

Users Conveniently Log On To The Entire Network Using A Single Account Name And Password.

 

Easy Application Distribution - An administrator can distribute new application software to IW 4.11 users relatively easily with the NetWare Application Launcher (NAL).

 

Many Printer Connection Option s- You can set up network printers that connect to an IW 4.11 server, to the network itself via a “ Network Interface Card”, to the network via a parallel-to-network conversion device or to a workstation.

 

Easy Internet Connection For Workstations - IW 4.11 includes an IPX-to-IP gateway that lets you run your LAN on the IPX network language and connect to the Internet, which uses the IP network language, without having to install IP software on each workstation.

 

File Compression - The IW 4.11 automatic file compression options enable efficient use of disk space, and are more sophisticated than those of Windows NT Server.

 

High Reliability Features - The network comes with features to ensure reliability, such as automatic recovery from disk defects, “disk mirroring” and “disk duplexing”. At extra cost, you can even create mirrored servers for very high reliability.

 

No Need To Shut Down - In contrast to Windows NT Server, you can make a lot of changes to an IW 4.11 server while leaving it up and running.

 

IntranetWare For Small Business

IntranetWare for Small Business (ISB) is basically IntranetWare 4.11 with the following changes:

 

In addition to the NWADMIN management tool, ISB includes a simplified version, the “Novell Easy Administration Tool (NEAT)”.  You also get a little program called QuickStart, which steps you through the process of setting up network users and groups. You use QuickStart to set things at first, and NEAT to make changes later on.

 

ISB includes an 8-port version of NetWare Connect, which is software for inbound and outbound communications.  NetWare Connect (which does not come with IntranetWare 4.11) makes it easy for your NOS reseller to log on and perform maintenance functions remotely, and many Novell VARs (Value Added Resellers) provide such services.

 

ISB does not include the IPX-to-IP gateway that regular IntranetWare includes, nor does it include the MultiProtocol Router.  However, if you want to link to the Internet, you can get IPX-to-IP gateways from other companies.

 

Novell deactivated some of the more complex features of NetWare Directory Services in order to make the network tree easier to understand and navigate in a single server environment.

 

Licensing is different in that you can purchase individual licences, although there is an upper limit of 25 users.

 

There are other options but we have detailed above the major systems available.  Which route to go is still your choice but hopefully this feature has answered some questions and helped you with your decision.  If you are looking at, or already use, a different system and would like us to review it please let us know.