Forward Migration Kit: ISP management software

(For those new to the column, Forward Migration is our term for companies moving from Wintel machines to Macs -- or at least adding or increasing the number of Macs they use. A forward migration kit is an overview of Mac OS products for a particular occupation, such as dentistry, accounting, etc.)

This week we're looking at Mac compatible software for managing Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Optigold ISP

Far and away, the product most recommended by MacCentral readers was Optigold ISP from Digital Point Solutions. It supports both the traditional Mac operating system and Mac OS X.

"We use Optigold," Stephen Webber, president of Interlink L.C., told MacCentral. "We have used it for two years and run the database on a Power Mac G3/233 MHz system. It's a FileMaker Pro based solution that has met all of our needs for billing and customer management."

Wayne Walrath of Acme Technologies first learned about Optigold when Digital Point Solutions licensed their real-time credit card processing plug-in for use in OptiGold.

"They've become a very important partner for us both because of their strong sales of our product, as well as helping to drive our technologies forward," he said. "While their product runs on both Mac and Windows, it is based on FileMaker Pro which was originally a Mac-only database application. Moreover, I've never seen a more sophisticated FileMaker solution than Optigold."

Optigold ISP offers features that cover such areas as billing/invoicing, server provisioning, commission/referral, international support, virtual ISPs, usage based billing, and a customer interface. Tech support and upgrades for life are included with all licensed copies of Optigold ISP.

"Optigold ISP is actually the largest installed package for any platform with over 5,000 installations around the world in 50 states and 91 countries," Shawn Hogan, president of Digital Point Solutions told MacCentral. "Our closest competitor (which runs on MS SQL Server) has approx 900 installations, but most are in the 100-250 installation range."

Other products were also mentioned, though not as frequently as Optigold ISP.

Mac OS X Server

Need we even mention Mac OS X Server, which has been covered extensively on MacCentral? It is, of course, Apple's industrial-strength, UNIX-based server operating system. Last month it was upgraded to version 10.1 and received system-wide performance enhancements, increased reliability and substantially faster file transfer times. Philip Schiller, Apple's vice president of worldwide product marketing, said during a keynote address at the Seybold San Francisco conference that version 10.1 launches server-side apps faster, speeds up printing times, increases administration response and cuts down on file transfer times.

Mac OS X Server now delivers flexible storage options and data redundancy with software RAID support, Schiller said. This means RAID support for disk striping (RAID-0) and disk mirroring (RAID-1).

It offers educators increased system reliability and responsiveness through enhancements to NetBoot and Macintosh Manager 2.1, Schiller said. Macintosh Manager 2.1 provides support for local administration from Mac OS X Server. Support for the latest Mac systems are due to the inclusion of Mac OS 9.2.1 within NetBoot. What's more, Mac OS X Server v10.1 integrates "the most recent and reliable" Open Source components, including Apache, Samba, PHP, MySQL, Tomcat and OpenSSL, as well as a new release of QuickTime Streaming Server, version 3.0.2, he added.

Mac OS X Server v10.1 software and Macintosh Server G4 can be purchased now through the online Apple Store, at Apple's retail stores and through Apple Authorized Resellers.

The Mac OS X Server v10.1 software upgrade package is available for $19.95 and includes the Mac OS X Server v10.1 upgrade CD, the Macintosh Manager 2.1 CD, the NetBoot CD and a Developer Tools CD. U.S. and Canadian education customers can receive the Mac OS X Server v10.1 upgrade free of charge by calling 1-800-800-2775.

Mac OS X Server is designed to run on Mac Server G4, Power Mac G4, Power Mac G4 Cube, iMac, Mac Server G3 and Power Mac G3 computers with 128MB RAM and 4GB of available disk space.

Men and Mice Routing

Men and Mice routing develops DNS (Domain Name System) software for the Internet. First marketed in 1996, Men and Mice's QuickDNS for Mac OS delved into DNS administration with its DNS level load balancing and fault tolerance technology for Web and FTP servers. QuickDNS is now available for the classic Mac OS, as well as Mac OS X (and other platforms, for that matter).

In addition to developing the QuickDNS DNS Management System which is now available for multiple platforms, Men and Mice has produced other DNS related products and services. This includes DNS Expert, the powerful DNS analysis and troubleshooting utility, the web-based DNS Health Check Service and international DNS training. QuickDNS Management System is a multi-platform DSN management system that also supports both the traditional and current Mac operating systems. DNS Expert is available for the Mac, but hasn't been Carbonized for Mac OS X.

Men and Mice is also noted as the founder and publisher of the International Domain Health Survey and its sibling, the DNS Spring-Cleaning Project. Both are operated in accordance with Men and Mice's primary objective to increase awareness of DNS issues and as a contribution to improving the status of the domain name system on a worldwide basis.

Riccisoft

Riccisoft writes custom software agents for ISPs that wish to create CD-ROMs to give away or otherwise distribute to Mac users running Mac OS 8.6 through Mac OS X.

"Our software takes care of setting up the users' machines with the correct parameters for connecting to the ISP, plus any other fancy thing that the ISP may want, such as user authentication, registration through online forms, dynamic selection of local access numbers, software installation and so on," Alberto Ricci of Riccisoft told MacCentral. "We have written custom installers/setup agents for many large ISPs throughout Europe."

Session Reporter

21 Year Old Software Pty Ltd has a small package that they update periodically called Session Reporter. Basically, it takes MacRadius accounting logs and summarizes them out into text and/or HTML files on a per user basis.

"It's useful for smaller ISP's like ourselves if you are doing time or data transferred billing," Craig Philips, chief technical officer of 21 Year Old Software, said. "It also has the best price for small ISPs: it's free to use."

You can find Session Reporter online at the product Web site.

WebSTAR

WebSTAR Server Suite from 4D Inc. is a set of Internet servers for the Mac OS that lets you serve Web pages, host e-mail accounts, publish databases and share files all with the same software package on one Mac. Its components include the WebSTAR' Web server; WebSTAR Mail, a POP, IMAP and SMTP e-mail server with Web-Mail access; WebSTAR FTP, an FTP server for instant file-sharing over TCP/IP; WebSTAR Proxy, a caching Proxy server that accelerates Internet access and increases security; and WebSTAR Lasso Publisher that allows online publishing of 4th Dimension databases, FileMaker databases and ODBC data sources.

4D WebSTAR Server Suite V is completely redesigned to take advantage of the benefits of Mac OS X's multiprocessor support, preemptive multitasking and faster networking, which result in amazing server speeds, according to Brendan Coveney, president and CEO of 4D Inc. Beyond multi-thread processes, a redesign of the caching architecture makes all server modules radically faster, he said.

With 4D WebSTAR Server Suite V, administrators can delegate administrative authority to virtual hosts quickly and easily with reusable settings for realms including allow/deny security access, without compromising administration integrity or security of the entire system, Coveney said. Remote administration is now more flexible than ever, and secure via SSL. A wide range of logging options provides even easier server monitoring, he added.

Security is preset out of the box with secure default settings, easily configured SSL for encrypted traffic, flexible access control with realm matching designed for HFS plus volumes, and MD5-digest authentication. 4D WebSTAR Server Suite V comes with a faster Search engine, an integrated FTP server and integrated WebDAV HTTP file service support, Coveney said.

WebSTAR 4 won't be ported to Mac OS X. And WebSTAR V will not be ported to Mac OS 9.

Miscellaneous

A few months ago, Dave Brightbill, CEO of Technology Transfer Associates, and one of The MacGuys started building a FileMaker Pro management solution on spec for a regional ISP. Unfortunately, the ISP decided to go with a different product so Brightbill put his work on the virtual shelf.

"The database is relational and so far includes modules for client information, data line provisioning, and IP number assignment," he said. "I have planned for and have hooks in place for managing virtual server directories and for client billing. I'd be delighted to take it back off the shelf and finish it if anyone is interested."

Are you? If so, drop Brightbill an e-mail.

Have a Forward Migration story? Send it my way.

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