eSoft – Team Internet 100 review

Internet appliance for SMEs
Photo of eSoft – Team Internet 100
£1,533 + VAT (as tested, includes ISDN adapter)

If you have a small to medium-sized local area network and you want to connect your users to the Internet, there are now plenty of simple and inexpensive solutions for enabling Web browsing or managing e-mail. However, as the availability of unmetered Internet access spreads (slowly) across the country, later to be followed by the (alleged) roll-out of broadband Internet access, the opportunity to do much more than simply browse the Web and check your e-mail should become more attractive.

Although eSoft’s Team Internet 100 product is the company’s entry-level Internet appliance, its repertoire is very comprehensive. Inside the box you get fully configurable Internet access management, both an e-mail and a Web server, remote access support, an integral firewall, an FTP server, plus support for virtual private networking (VPN). Linux is the software core of the Team Internet 100, however eSoft has ensured compatibility with most flavours of Windows, Novell networks, Mac OS and UNIX.

You can use a Team Internet 100 for simple network collaboration through the use of a system of shared folders. VPN allows economical connections via the Internet to other locations, while remote access provision provides direct access for road warriors or home-workers as well as remote management.

From a hardware point of view, the Team Internet 100 box won’t to win any fashion show awards, but inside you’ll find a reasonably powerful Pentium-based platform using industry-standard components. The configuration of our review model included a 10/100 Ethernet interface and an ISDN 2 adapter. eSoft is able to supply DSL connectivity or you can use one or both of the two standard serial ports for connecting external modems.

The bottom line is that the eSoft Team Internet 100 Internet appliance is a very comprehensive starting point for anyone requiring Internet connectivity for their LAN users. The complexities of Linux are ably masked by a simple and straightforward Web-based user interface. In other words, the system is basically easy to set up and manage. Unfortunately, we feel that there are serious issues that need addressing with regard to the documentation and utilities that assist users in initially setting up the system.

The problem is that the vagaries of IP networking configurations will challenge the ability of many potential Team Internet 100 customers – not because they aren’t smart enough, but because at this price level these customers will often be network novices who would prefer to install the system themselves rather than employ an expensive trained engineer.

Although eSoft has obviously recognised this hurdle and provided some tools to simplify basic installation, we felt the start-up software would be intimidating and confusing to some users. The start-up documentation also attempts to simplify the understanding of basic network configurations, however it can be over-simplistic on one page and suddenly overly technical on another. Alas, all that is really required to solve this problem is a simple set of examples demonstrating typical configurations, plus a more consistent text in the installation booklet.

Company: eSoft

Contact: 020 8261 4456


Verdict
The eSoft Team Internet 100 is an excellent product once it is up and running. However, unless the documentation is improved, we would advise potential buyers to prepare themselves for a chat with eSoft's friendly and enthusiastic technical support team or enlist the help of someone who knows their IP networks backwards.