Everyone knows it's good to share, but sometimes that's hard to do. Microtest's DiscPortVT-28 thin server lets users on a network share a library of CD-ROM- and DVD-ROM-based applications with zero hassle. The DiscPortVT dishes up data to Mac, Windows, and Unix clients; supports network access to disc burners; and keeps it all simple with Web-based administration. Although it's a bit pricey, the DiscPortVT is nifty and very easy to use.
The 6.0-by-9.0-by-2.5-inch DiscPortVT is essentially a small file server that plugs into the network via an integrated 10/100-Mbps Ethernet adapter. By attaching drives to the server's SCSI-2 port, the administrator can create a virtual tower of shared devices without a costly custom enclosure. Better yet, the DiscPortVT "caches" discs by copying entire disc images to an internal hard disk. With compression, you can typically fit more than 30 CD-ROMs onto the DiscPortVT-28's 15GB hard disk. (Two other configurations are available: the $2,495 DiscPortVT-14 holds roughly 14 discs, and the $1,995 DiscPortVT-7 holds about 7.) That gives users access to a wider range of resources and, via caching, drastically improves performance.
You upload disc images from a Mac to the server via an attached device; from a Windows machine, discs can also be uploaded over a network. Although the Disc-Port supports HFS, ISO 9660, and other common formats, it doesn't serve audio CDs.
The DiscPortVT supports AppleShare, Windows NT, NetWare, NFS, and FTP file-sharing protocols and can even serve files via HTTP. Discs are shared in a single network volume or independently; the DiscPort supports up to 248 volumes. You can secure each shared volume by using an internal users-and-groups database or by integrating the DiscPort with an existing Windows NT or NetWare directory. Macintosh users access shared volumes via the Chooser; Windows users, through the Network Neighborhood. Users on any platform can download files via a Web browser.
Savvy administrators could approximate the DiscPort's functionality by using existing resources, but Microtest's thin-server technology is ideal for environments that demand ease of use. We connected the DiscPortVT-28 to our test network and to a LaCie CD-R drive in less than five minutes. We also integrated the DiscPort into our NT environment, and it automatically added NT accounts to its database as necessary. Both Mac and Windows clients ran CD-ROM applications off the server without a hitch; we even used the DiscPort to copy a CD from a laptop to a burner in another office.
The DiscPortVT offers a simple way to share CD and DVD resources on a network. It's not cheap, but it works and will save nontechnical folks a lot of headaches.
RATING: PROS: Easy Web-based administration; supports Mac, Windows, NetWare, and Unix clients; supports CD-R devices. CONS: Expensive; no audio support. COMPANY: Microtest (800/526-9675, http://www.microtest.com ). LIST PRICE: $2,995.
August 1999 page: 54