602Pro LAN Suite 2003 $59.95 (Anti-virus Edition, five users) Software602 www.software602.com Rating: 4 CPUs
Setting up a shared Internet connection for a small business can be one of those little projects that quickly snowballs into a great big project. You may need a router, firewall, mail server, proxy server, and perhaps a fax server. 602Pro LAN Suite 2003 can turn the chore into a relatively simple endeavor. Rather than choosing, installing, and configuring a half-dozen servers, LAN Suite does it all in one package.
The multifaceted app includes a software router, which allows one PC with a dial-up or broadband connection to share that connection with your other PCs. The app also provides a firewall, mail server, spam filter, Web server, and server for sending and receiving faxes. (You'll need a fax modem attached to the PC.) Plus, it can serve as a proxy for HTTP, FTP, telnet, Usenet, and SOCKS connections, allowing your server to connect to Internet services on behalf of other PCs on the LAN and pass data on to them. The HTTP proxy includes a cache server.
Indeed, it works. After a few minutes of setup and barely a glance at the built-in help, I had LAN Suite working as a DHCP router, firewall, mail server, and Web server. The interface is minimalist but effective, consisting primarily of a console log window and configuration panel. Configuration is generally intuitive, with a tabbed pane for each of the program's core functions. For remote tweaks a Web-based administration tool is also available.
The potential problem with a suite that tries to do so much is that it may be broad but not deep, lacking the functions you need in a mail server, a firewall, and so on. LAN Suite avoids this pitfall. Although you won't get the myriad of bells, whistles, and esoteric options that a standalone mail server, firewall, etc. would offer, the program covers the basic functions that most administrators would need from each tool.
The majority of LAN Suite's users are businesses with 10 to 100 computers, according to the company. Their primary use is the mail server, followed by firewall protection and Internet connection sharing.
The mail server supports POP3 and SMTP (but not IMAP) protocols. Users can read their mail using their favorite email client or LAN Suite's Web-based mail interface. Spam filtering is built in, too. The Web mail interface includes a basic address book, spell checker, support for sending attachments, and other necessary functions. An antivirus tool, available in LAN Suite's Anti-virus Edition, scans incoming mail for viruses using BitDefender. Infected messages can be delivered with a warning or quarantined in a special mailbox.
Even though it can be convenient to have a single application running the show, you may want to choose other applications for certain features. You can selectively enable or disable LAN Suite's various functions. LAN Suite's Web server is adequate for a quickie Web site, even supporting personal pages, but wouldn't any business that's serious about running its own Web server go with Apache or Microsoft's server, which are better supported by third-party plugs-ins and the community at large?
Software602's business model resembles a drug dealer's: Your first hit is free. There's no charge for the five-user version of LAN Suite. (By users, the company seems to mean individuals with unique email addresses, not the number of PCs on the network.) If you need more than five users, you need to pay. A 10-user license costs $99.95, 25 users costs $199.95, and unlimited users costs $399.95. The Anti-virus Edition, which includes one year of updates to the virus filter, costs $59.95 for five users and as much as $699.95 for unlimited users.
LAN Suite works with Windows 98/Me/NT4/2000/XP/Server 2003. Firewall functionality is only available in Win2000/XP/Server 2003.
Although you may eventually outgrow the basic functionality of its individual parts, LAN Suite's value is its ability to get the patchwork of services that a LAN requires running, and quickly. For that LAN Suite is a winner.
Reprinted with permission from Computer Power User magazine.