By Francis Chu  |  Posted 2004-10-04 Print this article Print

Element Computer Inc.s Compact Fusion 3400 server appliance offers a comprehensive set of features, Web-based management and an affordable price, making the system a good choice for workgroup environments with limited IT staff.

eWEEK Labs tests show the Linux-based Fusion 3400 offers quick out-of-the-box deployment in small companies, but the system doesnt scale or support integration with Microsoft Corp.s Active Directory. IT managers with deeper pockets who need a server appliance for branch offices should check out Microsofts Windows SBS (Small Business Server) 2003.

Elements Fusion 3400, which shipped in August, is priced competitively with other Linux-based server appliances and is less expensive than servers running SBS 2003.

The $1,299 Fusion 3400 we tested has a small 1U (1.75-inch) form factor and is powered by an Intel Corp. 2.4GHz Celeron processor with 512MB of memory and an 80GB hard drive. The appliance has three network connections: on-board Gigabit and 10/100M-bps Ethernet NICs, as well as a standard 802.11b wireless access point PCI card. The appliance doesnt have redundant power supplies, so users must buy backup software or tape drives.

For added redundancy, optional software RAID is available for $199. The base system serves as many as 100 users. Larger environments can upgrade to support 250 users for $599.

Although the Fusion 3400 doesnt come with the most up-to-date processors and internal components, the appliance performed well in our tests. We configured and ran most of the on-board features without a glitch.

The appliance supports a wide array of services, including networking, Web and e-mail, and file and print services. Small sites might not use every feature but will likely appreciate the built-in flexibility of having the features available on the base system.

Element Computer developed its own hardened Linux operating system, also called Fusion, for the 3400. In terms of network security, the Fusion 3400 features a stateful firewall, intrusion detection and prevention capabilities, DMZ support, and VPN IP Security and Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol support. The system has built-in anti-spam features and supports SMTP, POP (Post Office Protocol) and IMAP e-mail. An optional anti-virus engine is priced at $7 per month for five mailboxes.

The Fusion appliance can be managed using a standard Web browser. Initial setup is speedy; we used Microsofts Internet Explorer to access the user interface and configured network settings with a few mouse clicks. The user interface is clean and easy to navigate, but more detailed help for some of the trickier configuration tasks is needed.

The reports portion of the Web user interface provides handy statistical graphs and reports. We could see useful network load and CPU statistics, but we could not export the data.

Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at francis_chu@ziffdavis.com.

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