Office connections Featured

9:52am EDT July 22, 2002

Technology is great in that it allows for more productive employees and an easy way to share information. Technology is bad in that it sometimes takes a bus full of MIT grads to figure out why the computer won’t print out your memo warning employees not to leave coffee grounds in the sink.

It’s this frustration factor that many technology manufacturers are attempting to address. While the concept of “plug-and-play” has been around for some time, it usually ends up being mostly a marketing moniker rather than an actual description of how a product performs. A complex problem that shouldn’t be complex is hooking up multiple employees to the Internet using one ISP account. But before you dial the computer consultant, consider options you may be able to install yourself.

There are several solutions in the form of an Internet router. In the simplest terms, these are boxes that manage the traffic from multiple computers through a single connection to the Internet. This allows for Web surfing, e-mail and file transfers from each desktop connected, while paying for only one dial-up account.

These do-it-all boxes offer security protection to keep out most intruders, but if you plan on remotely accessing sensitive files, talk to a security expert first. Besides connecting multiple users to the Internet, these systems can also be used to connect a remote office with the corporate network.

Some product examples:

  • WebRamp 200i from Ramp Networks. WebRamp says its product is so easy to install, that if you can’t complete the installation and get on the Internet in 15 minutes, it will refund your money. It has a 56K modem and four-port Ethernet hub that allows everyone to share the modem at the same time. If your company grows, you can add more hubs by plugging it into the original one, and there is a place to add a second modem to speed connections. Users can be limited to using just e-mail if desired. For more information, visit www.rampnet.com.

  • UGate-II from UMax. UGate-II is an integrated Internet gateway and firewall with a four-port Ethernet hub for users to immediately network and access the Internet. There is no software or driver to be installed. Configuration is done through the Web browser. Designed for work groups of up to 253 users, the UGate-II can be configured to use either one or two serial ports, modems or ISDN TAs connected in tandem to provide double the bandwidth for Internet use. It supports PC, Mac and other platforms with TCP/IP protocol. For mobile access, the device supports a dial-in feature that allows users to dial into the office. For more information, visit www.umax.com.