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AppleShare IP 6.3

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Mac administrators familiar with the AppleShare IP will find version 6.3 a modest upgrade. New features address many of the minor weaknesses found in previous versions, and the newly bundled Apple Network Assistant software is a welcome addition. Unfortunately, kludgey administrative tools and a few omissions keep this upgrade from being a complete success.

AppleShare continues to support file sharing over AppleTalk and TCP/IP, and adds Service Location Protocol (SLP) support to make it easier for Mac users to find TCP/IP servers. Sherlock indexing provides full-text searches of server volumes. Server Message Block (SMB) support allows Windows users to connect as well, though we had problems with Windows 2000 clients. The FTP server allows downloads to Internet clients and uses the same security as the file server. File sharing performance has been improved, and supports up to 500 simultaneous users.

Web services remain fast, steady, and simple - but Apple has thrown a few new features into the mix. AppleShare now provides built-in support for up to 50 virtual Web sites, and new plug-ins offer full-text search and file upload capabilities. Alas, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) support is still missing.

AppleShare's mail server provides POP and IMAPv4 mailboxes with full-text searching, courtesy of Sherlock. Administrators can distribute users across multiple mail servers, share mailboxes between multiple users, and automatically track emails from certain sites. AppleShare can use the Real-time Blackhole List (RBL) to check incoming emails against a list of known spammers; however, its ability to create sophisticated relay filters pales in comparison Qualcomm's EIMS and Tenon Intersystem's NetTen.

The print server, historically the bundle's weakest component, remains largely unchanged with support for30 printers shared viaAppleTalk or LPR/LPD protocols. Print queues can be registered with SLP, and security has been enhanced by adding support for name or name/password combinations (only for Macintosh users). Unfortunately, AppleShare still does not support standard SMB sharing for Windows clients.

Apple Network Assistant performs software inventory, distribution, and reporting functions, and provides remote control capabilities to ease troubleshooting tasks. Many educational and small business environments will welcome its addition to the AppleShare IP suite, while larger, multi-platform environments may require tools with Windows support.

The Appleshare IP 6.3 mail server can check all incoming emails against the Real Time Blackhole List in an effort to block spam.

While we applaud the new ability to share a user database between up to 10 servers, we were otherwise disappointed by AppleShare's revamped administrative tools. Installation itself was quick and relatively painless, but one good setup wizard could easily replace several disparate utilities. A new Web management interface proved simple, attractive, and useful for basic tasks; however, the lack of encryption could be a security risk. The Mac OS Server Admin application also supports remote administration over TCP/IP, communicating with a special module that runs on the server. We found the Admin application uses too many small and inefficient windows, and we were surprised that managing the print server and "firewall" (acutally nothing more than TCP filtering) features requried separate applications. In addition, the Admin program felt oddly sluggish when starting and stopping servers and actually crashed a server running Sustainable Softworks IPNetRouter, a Network Address Translation utility that caused no problems with a variety of other intranet server products.

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