A slew of companies ar shipping Internet-access products aimed at SOHO users. Among them is Asanté, with two variations on a theme: the FriendlyNet Dual 56K and ISDN multiuser Internet-access servers. The former has two built-in V.90 modems and a serial port for a third, for up to 168 Kbps of raw bandwidth; the latter sports an ISDN port running at up to 128 Kbps. Both are easy to install in small workgroups, but since the 56K model costs $150 more than competing dual-modem products, the ISDN product is a better performer for the money.
The two boxes look identical, each consisting of a four-port Ethernet hub and two analog phone ports for sharing lines with voice or fax gear. The Dual 56K's Web-based administration makes for easy setup, although it lacks password protection. It gives you ready access to all configuration options and status information, and a wizard mode steps you through configuration. The ISDN unit requires that you install a wizard application that, under OS 8.5, displays blotchy and misplaced text (Asanté acknowledges the cosmetic glitches and says they'll be fixed in a future release).
Both devices use Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol to configure the TCP/IP settings automatically for your hosted computers, whether they're Macs or PCs. Both also use Network Address Translation, so you need only one dynamic IP address from your ISP. On-demand routing initiates dial-up to the Internet whenever a user on your LAN needs access; when traffic warrants, the unit dials up a second (or third, in the case of the Dual 56K) connection.
With either device, you can run Internet-accessible TCP/IP servers, using port mapping to connect incoming connection requests to the appropriate server computer on your LAN. The ISDN model has the added advantage of arbitrary IP packet filtering and routing, useful features for larger organizations. It also supports Telnet remote administration, although neither unit can be managed remotely with SNMP. And neither has dial-in support for telecommuters, a feature found in most competing products.
In Internet download tests, the ISDN model trounced the Dual 56K unit, even when the latter used all three modems. When a single user performs operations that require just one TCP/IP connection, the modem unit can use only a single 56K modem, while the ISDN unit can run at full speed (128 Kbps). Multiple users bring up multiple connections, so the modem model is still effective at providing shared access for several users.
If you can get ISDN, FriendlyNet ISDN is the way to go, despite its more difficult setup; you get better performance for less money. If ISDN isn't available, the FriendlyNet Dual 56K is an optionjust not a very competitive one.
RATING: PROS: Web-based administration; built-in Ethernet hub; inbound Internet server mapping. CONS: Expensive; no remote dial-in capability; no LAN password protection; no SNMP or other remote management. COMPANY: Asanté Technologies (800/662-9686, http://www.asante.com ). LIST PRICE: $799.
RATING: PROS: Built-in Ethernet hub; special application support; IP packet filtering and routing; inbound Internet server mapping; Telnet remote management. CONS: No Web-based administration; no remote dial-in capability; no SNMP remote management. COMPANY: Asanté Technologies (800/662-9686, http://www.asante.com ). LIST PRICE: $738.
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