Zybert Computing – Z1 GEM review

quirky but clever Linux-based server appliance
Photo of Zybert Computing – Z1 GEM
£1,499 + VAT

If you’ve seen one Linux-based server appliance, you’ve seen them all – right? Well, perhaps not, as the Z1 GEM from Zybert Computing is a little different. Yes, you get the usual file and print sharing facilities, and yes, it includes integrated e-mail and Web servers and a browser-based GUI to manage everything. In addition, however, careful attention has been paid to data security, with a unique disk-to-disk backup and recovery system built in as standard.

The Z1 is a striking-looking product, housed in a cube-shaped case which can be had in a range of vivid colours. And inside it’s not your usual Intel processor either, Zybert opting instead for an x86 compatible chip from Via called a C3 Nehemiah.

Clocked at 1GHz and accompanied by 512MB of memory, it’s not exactly state of the art but is, nonetheless, adequate for a small business server. It also requires a lot less power and produces less heat than most server processors, making for a very quiet solution that won’t cause offence, even in an open-plan environment.

The cables required to connect the Z1 GEM to a network are included in the box, with two 10/100Mbps Ethernet interfaces available; one for the LAN, the other for an optional WAN connection. As such it can be configured as a standalone server or as an Internet gateway complete with dedicated firewall, proxy and DHCP servers.

A deceptively simple Web GUI is used to configure and manage the server, with the same interface also used to provide access to some of the built-in user options.

In terms of functionality there’s the obligatory Samba-based SMB/CIFS file sharing, with each user given private and shared folders plus access to an open area accessible by anyone on the network. Windows networking is assumed but support for Apple Mac and Linux clients is also available.

Next up comes a mail server, accessible using either the browser-based client (SquirrelMail) provided or POP3/IMAP4 software such as Outlook. Mail can be sent and received using SMTP mail plus there’s a useful option for scheduled POP3 retrieval from external servers, if required.

Anti-virus scanning (ClamAV) and spam protection (SpamAssassin) are both pre-configured, with any e-mail messages passing through the server also archived automatically.

Plus there’s a whole lot more, including an Apache 2.0 Web server, MySQL and PostgreSQL database servers and a clutch of groupware tools, including a bulletin board (YABB) and an Intranet portal (PostNuke).

Of course you could assemble all of this yourself, with a lot of the software involved bundled with the leading Linux distros. Buy the Z1 GEM, however, and it all comes ready loaded with an easy-to-use GUI for management. Plus you get some unique extra storage, backup and recovery options, to really mark it out from the crowd.

To start with the server comes with three disks rather than just one. Identical in capacity, with a choice of 80-500GB per disk, these are configured in special hot-swap carriers. Only one (the master disk) is used to hold the O/S and user data. The other two are for backup, with the active backup disk automatically synchronised with the master every 24 hours, while the third disk is used to keep an offsite copy for belt-and-braces security.

Because it’s all disk-based, the backup process is very quick with no user intervention required other than swapping the disks when needed. Moreover, should the master disk crash the server can simply be booted from either of the backups. The files on the backup disk are also accessible read-only at any time, with the backup software automatically maintaining an archive of any changes. And that means easy self-service recovery should a user accidentally delete a document or need to revert to an earlier version.

Add a journaled file system and it’s pretty hard to lose data from the Z1 GEM. Plus you don’t really have to think about it too much, making the Zybert server an ideal solution for small organisations that rely on their data to do business.

Company: Zybert Computing

Contact: 0121 455 0204


Verdict
A little quirky in places but a super little small business server nevertheless, and one that's both easy to manage and ultra reliable thanks to the unique disk-to-disk backup and recovery technology that comes built-in, as standard.