To boldly network where no one has networked before

We all love those clients with 100 rack-mounted servers sitting in the

locked, lights-out, secure server room. That many servers means lots of

switches, routers, network adapters, workstations, printers, operating

systems, and applications - stuff that is sure to go wrong from time to

time and need our world-class, fee-based expertise.

No argument from me. But what about all those businesses with no

servers? My last statistical tally suggests there are, well, zillions of

these businesses out there. A small CPA firm, a retailer selling custom

curtains or window shades, a woodcarving studio, a driveway paving

company, an electrical contractor, and more. It could be a company that

digs artesian wells, installs fences, or paints houses. How many of

these businesses are there? I live in suburbia, yet my local yellow

pages is nearly three inches thick. Do the math.

No doubt doing business through a dial-up, cable, or DSL connection,

these small operations have no centralized file storage, no real e-mail

system, and no virtual private network. Many have never set up a Windows

or Macintosh peer network, rely on an ancient mechanical switchbox to

share a printer, and still dance the floppy shuffle to share files.

Pitch the idea of a network to the owners of these businesses, and

you'll see the unmistakable look of terror in their eyes.

To these businesses, an affordable, non-threatening solution has come

from the land of russet baking potatoes (that's Idaho). Enter a clever

product, the IT-100 from EmergeCore. Billed as an IT department in a

box, the $1,395 box is far smaller than a PC but includes a 20-gig hard

drive, ports to connect a broadband modem and wired devices (PC or

printers) if required, a parallel port, and two USB ports. There's a

built-in e-mail server that supports Web-based e-mail. Web hosting and

software for building a simple corporate presence Web site are included,

too. But wait, there's more. A router, four-port switch, firewall, and

802.11b wireless access point are built in. Proxy, DHCP and FTP servers

are in there, too. Connectivity to PCs, Macs, Unix workstations, and

PDAs are fully supported.

The IT-100 can be installed and configured (through an elegant graphical

interface) in just minutes, at least according to EmergeCore. I'm sure

that's a bit on the rosy side, but nevertheless, even if it can be set

up in an hour - about as long as it takes to bake an Idaho spud - this

is a good way to bring big productivity gains to the smallest of


So why would a big-time solutions integrator like you, MCSE certified

and selling those top-dollar Compaq servers, be interested in the

smallest of the small? I can think of a couple reasons.

Get in there with the $1,400 IT department in a box, and you're sure to

see many hopelessly outdated PCs and printers, old versions of Windows

(3.1!!!) and applications, lack of UPSes, absence of any data backup

procedures, and more. So it's not really EmergeCore you're selling, that

is simply a clever, affordable solution that gets your proverbial foot

in the door. And, as I've been saying for years, small businesses get


Certainly, I'm not endorsing EmergeCore or the IT-100. There may even be

similar products available. But I'm certainly endorsing the inspiration

of putting the entire data-center operation in a single box.

This is no half-baked idea.

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