Review: Small-business server bake-off

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Review: Small-business server bake-off

Net Integration's Nitix Linux small-business server packs every bit of the feature punch of Microsoft's Small Business Server 2003 R2, but at less than half the price, according to a CRN Test Centre review.

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Net Integration's Nitix Linux small-business server offering packs every bit of the feature punch of Microsoft's just-launched Small Business Server 2003 R2, but at less than half the price, according to a CRN Test Center review.

In a Test Centre bake-off of the newest small-business server offerings, Nitix bested Linux players Xandros and Novell and ended up in dead-heat tie with the software giant on functionality.

The powerful Nitix feature set topped Microsoft in installation and disaster recovery, but Microsoft captured the top spot in intranet and remote-access functionality.

That said, the Nitix product is priced at US$599 for five users compared with US$1,299 for five users for Microsoft Small Business Server. Nitix opens the door for solution providers to target cost-conscious small-business customers.

Xandros finished just behind Nitix and Microsoft, besting all comers in the groupware category, where it holds a decided advantage because of its AJAX-based Web client, according to Test Centre engineers.

Xandros, priced at US$499 for five users, also posted strong scores in disaster recovery with its support for client systems.

The Novell Open WorkGroup Suite, launched on 9 May, finished well behind Xandros. Even though Novell is positioning the product as a small-business offering, Test Centre engineers found that it shows its roots as a workgroup solution as opposed to an all-in-one offering for a small business.

Its lack of backup and nonintegrated installation make it more suitable as part of an overall workgroup solution, engineers found. The Open WorkGroup Suite, priced at US$80 per user per year, is the replacement for the Novell Linux Small Business Suite.

THE CRITERIA

To properly select a server for a small business, one has to understand the typical requirements associated with bringing an advanced IT solution into that environment.

A viable solution must provide ease of installation, groupware, intranet functionality, backup and remote access.

Microsoft has set the standard with SBS 2003. Here's a look at how the others stack up.

INSTALLATION

Winner: Nitix

2nd: Microsoft

3rd:Xandros

4th: Novell

Installing any one of these products proves to be quite easy, as long as one sticks to the list of supported hardware. That is an area where Microsoft excels' SBS 2003 readily supports most of the hardware on the market and makes it easy to add new hardware via the product's device manager and plug-and-play wizards. Microsoft also automates most of the software component installation, installing products such as Exchange, SQL Server, IIS, SharePoint and so on with the initial install.

Novell takes a different tack with Open WorkGroup Suite, which is broken down into separate components that each require their own installation. Although the elements all seamlessly interact, the product is clearly made up of several stand-alone technologies.

Among the contenders, Nitix boasts the easiest server installation. The product's installer is fully automated and successfully bundles in all of the integrated software. Once the basic install is accomplished, users complete the configuration via a Web browser on a client PC.

Xandros follows suit, as the product's installer is wizard-driven and requires minimal information to complete. As with the other Linux products, using supported hardware is the key to making installation easy.


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