Collax Takes Appliance Approach

Review: Server provides services to Windows, Linux clients.

With its business server, collax takes an appliance approach to delivering key network services to small and midsize businesses.

Collax Business Server 3.0.18, which became available in October, allowed eWeek Labs to fairly easily set up a small network environment that was suitable for serving both Windows and Linux clients with core services, including authentication, file sharing and e-mail.

The installation disk for Collax Business Server is freely downloadable and doubles as a LiveCD, so the product is rather easy to take for a spin. To download product updates, however, a subscription is required. A Collax Business Server subscription is free for up to five users; a 10-user subscription costs $510 for one year or $1,265 for three years. An unlimited-user subscription costs $3,190 for one year or $7,170 for three years.

We tested Collax Business Server on a virtual machine under VMwares VMware Server and on a hardware appliance from Collax.

The Collax hardware appliance we tested, called the Collax Business Server 100, was powered by a 2GHz Intel Celeron processor and had an 80GB hard drive, three LAN adapters and 512MB of RAM. The appliance sells for between $2,520 with a one-year, 25-user subscription and $4,385 for a one-year, unlimited subscription. The 2U (3.5-inch) desktop chassis sported a handy LCD display on the front, from which we could check on basic system status, as well as perform simple duties such as starting and stopping Collax Business Server services and changing the units IP address.

We found Collax Business Server relatively simple to install. On VMware Server, the system asked only for the IP address from which we would access the Web management interface. On the hardware appliance, the system defaulted to an IP address that wasnt valid on our test network, which gave us occasion to use the units front-panel LCD controls.

After we were up and running on both VMware Server and the appliance, we assigned through the Web interface root and administration passwords for our Collax Business Server installations. We then logged in and were presented with a handful of wizards for setting up the system.

The first task we set about to accomplish was configuring directory services for the system, but there was no wizard for specifying those options. Instead, the configuration locations we needed were spread through a few different headings in the systems Settings tab. We would like to see this process streamlined.

Collax Business Server offers decent documentation, with helpful step-by-step guides for some operations. However, in many cases, we found that the documentation erred either on the side of being too high-level or too low-level.

One of the goals of a product such as Collax Business Server is to make server management easier and more approachable, but we found that the systems efforts to make things simpler sometimes ended up confusing us. For instance, while configuring multiple networks on our Collax Business Server appliance, at one point, we puzzled over what the system meant by "remote IP" before figuring out that it was referring to our gateway.

In other cases, though, Collax Business Server does a good job of simplifying things, such as adopting common naming for classes of users to which we could extend or deny access to the systems various services.

Advanced Technologies Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at