An IT Department in a Box

Friday Jun 4th 2004 by Lauren Simonds

Need more networking capability but have no IT staff? No problem. That's what EmergeCore promises with its IT-500.

Small businesses do have a few advantages over their larger cousins — they adapt to change faster, they aren't bound by as many regulations as larger companies, and they have less overhead — plus, the holiday party's cheaper. However, when it comes to IT support, small businesses usually don't have the money it takes to support an in-house IT department.

EmergeCore, a Boise, Idaho-based company offers a product designed for small businesses with up to 75 networked employees. The IT-500, a small box that looks like an external modem on steroids, provides a wide range of networking tools that are both affordable and easy-to-manage.

Small but Mighty

EmergeCore's IT-500
The small IT-500 provides big networking features for companies that don't have an IT staff.
The IT-500 fits easily next to your desktop — measuring 2.9 x 9.8 x 10.2 inches — yet it can handle over 12 networking functions that pretty much cover any network-related service a small business needs. Here's the breakdown of the its major capabilities:
  • File Sharing: Store files centrally and share access to them with other networked computers.
  • CRM: Manage your contacts, track business opportunities; generate sales pipeline and activity reports.
  • Traveler: Manage expense reports, use Smart Phone technology to manage itineraries, store airline, hotel, and rental car data.
  • E-mail: Configure the mailbox size for each employee, multiple aliases, uses common Internet standards such as POP 3 and IMAP, Web-based e-mail (sending and receiving).
  • Firewall: Choose from three pre-configured security levels: low, medium and high.
  • Networking: Easy configuration of hostname, primary domain, and DNS servers. Supports any number of IP addresses and uses Network Address Translation (NAT) to route internal networks to the Internet.
  • Save and Restore: Comes with 60GB of storage and, should data disaster strike, you and the IT-500 can restore the data — a potential cost-saver.
  • VPN: Lets workers securely access the network from off site and can also be used to connect to other networks. — no limit on the number of people who can connect to the VPN.
  • Web Server: Host your own company Web site.
  • Wireless LAN: The IT-500's 802.11g capability lets you connect to the network wirelessly.
  • Web Site Builder: Includes tools to build your own site.
  • Anti Virus and Spam Blocker: Scans all e-mail for viruses and automatically updates the latest virus definitions.

IT Degree

The It-500's graphic user interface
A friendly interface makes it easy to configure the IT-500's network settings.
The device offers a user-friendly GUI (graphic user interface) with easy-to-use management tools to set up and control the various features. According to the folks at EmergeCore, a non-technical person can configure the IT-500's network services in less than 15 minutes. Since the controls are Web-based, you can access them through any computer browser that's connected to the Internet — a handy feature if you need to maintain network services while away from the office.

For the more technically inclined among you, the hardware specs include: a VIA733MHz processor, 256MB SDRAM, a 60GB hard drive, a 15-port Hub switch,10/100 Mbps Ethernet, one WAN for up-link 10/100 Mbps Ethernet, and two USB 2.0, one PCMCIA and one nine-pin COM port connectors.

Worth a Look
Priced at $2,300, the IT-500 packs a lot of value for the price, and offers small business owners networking capabilities that are generally reserved for big companies with big budgets — not to mention a big IT department. If the lack of IT support has kept you from expanding your network capabilities, the IT-500 might just be what you're looking for.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor at SmallBusinessComputing.com

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