Spread The Wealth

Gaining Access

Unlike routers, which merely allow several computers to share a single basic link to an ISP, shared-access systems actually walk you through every step of distributing Web browser and e-mail programs to each of your company's computers, assigning e-mail addresses, setting security levels, and helping employees publish Web-formatted documents for internal and external consumption. Everything from the initial setup of the appliance to ongoing administration gets handled through point-and-click Web pages viewable with any standard browser. To get started all you need is to have a standard local area network installed, bring in a high-speed line, connect the appliance and off you go.

Just how fast is high speed? These appliances can work with anything from a 56K modem or ISDN service to the 1 million bps you can get by leasing a T1 line from your phone company. Newer services, such as cable-based access and digital subscriber line service (xDSL), will also work with many solutions. The more bits per second, the merrier, of course, but remember: Downloading Web pages and sending
e-mail requires only small bursts of network traffic, so even a dozen people can share a single ISDN line and still have reasonably fast service.

Contact an authorized dealer or ISP for advice on choosing and setting up a shared link. And make sure to ask what these fast-evolving appliances are going to deliver next. Whistle, for instance, is lining up a broad menu of specialized business information services for delivery via its InterJet appliances, while Ramp Networks offers value-added software enabling virtual private networking, remote LAN access and file sharing. And in addition to providing shared Web access, Flexion has designed its newly released X300 product to route phone calls to desktops, offer remote Net access, provide companywide voice mail, and send and receive faxes. Who knows? Maybe one day we'll see these all-in-one networking boxes advertised on late-night television. "Order now, and you'll also get this Ginzu carving knife..."

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This article was originally published in the July 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Spread The Wealth.

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