• United States
by James Gaskin, Network World Global Test Alliance

EmergeCore IT-100: IT in a box?

Jul 07, 20035 mins

Yet our reviewer finds the good barely balances out the bad

EmergeCore Networks’ IT-100 promises small-business owners a complete business-technology system – Web hosting, e-mail services, file sharing, firewall and built-in wireless access point and router – so easy to set up and manage that they won’t need IT help. And the price is right: At $1,395, the hardware and software system costs less than comparable software servers from Microsoft and Novell.

But its good features – fast performance; quiet, fanless operation; and Web-building tools – barely balance out the underdeveloped and shallow management features, poor documentation and help screens, and convoluted administration.

EmergeCore says you don’t need Microsoft Exchange Server, which saves $1,500. But the capabilities of POP3 and Internet Message Access Protocol mail server don’t integrate with Outlook’s calendars, task lists and address books. In a world of file and print sharing, the IT-100 doesn’t include software to support its printer port. EmergeCore estimates $1,700 in systems-management cost savings, but it’s hard to imagine the little management available would be worth that much. Backups through the included USB ports don’t copy data or Web pages, only the system configuration files. An EmergeCore support tech admitted that it’s not really a backup.

The 14-page Express Setup Guide echoes the installation screens, adds nothing else, and ends before explaining how to add users and mailboxes. An on-screen question-mark icon promises online help, but provides scant explanation below each option. There are no details about your choices or guidelines for making them.

The IT-100 builds domains for both the Internet services (Web and e-mail) and local file-sharing access via Windows network protocols. Defining users requires four screens to do what could be done on one or two. You create users through the Domain menu heading rather than the Users heading. But the Users heading controls only administrators. You can connect the IT-100 directly to your WAN (via cable or DSL modem) or to an existing router. When we connected the box to our cable modem, the IT-100 grabbed the network information correctly and automatically initiated network address translation (NAT) to support internal network addresses. This was the first installation step that delivered on EmergeCore’s promised ease of use.

Files, fast

The IT-100 beats competitors in file performance. For this test we transferred a 340M-byte WAV file via FTP to each of the three servers.
Unit Transfer time
EmergeCore IT-10041 seconds
Snap Server 110055 seconds
NetWare 6 on a Compaq ML330,1-GHz Pentium III, 9.1G-byte SCSI disk97 seconds

The server administration screen shows an excellent summary of WAN, LAN and wireless traffic reports, and data such as CPU load and disk space. From the summary page you can reach some, but not all, system configuration screens; the rest are reached via a menu. The IT-100 also automatically created individual user home directories, a nice touch. The “public” file area, accessible to anyone, is a common feature. Uncommon was the inability to set file access rights, either by user or directory.

The IT-100 includes NAT, a firewall, proxy services, and VPN client and server support. Firewall settings consist of off, low, medium and high. That’s it for options, except for a denial list to block entire IP address ranges. The box also includes VPN client and server support geared to remote offices. A small business might find this adequate, but larger firms deploying the box in remote offices will want more control.

The IT-100 can be configured as a proxy server. Although there’s no mention of caching support in the manual, the box caches Web pages. The Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol server intelligently separated wired and wireless address pools, and upgrades are a one-click affair. The SpamCop filtering service can be enabled or disabled for the entire e-mail system, but not for individual users.

One can argue the wisdom of putting a public Web site on an internal file server. But at least EmergeCore gives users a good head start on building brochure-ware sites. There are 60 site templates, including stock photos and marketing verbiage for 28 vertical industries.

IT-100 features

Processor: Transmeta Crusoe TM5600, 533-MHz

System memory: 128M bytes SDRAM Storage: 2.5-inch IDE HDDD, 20G bytes Networking: Four-port switch with 10/100 M bit/sec Ethernet; one WAN uplink 10/100 Ethernet; 802.11b wireless access point

Operating system: CoreVista (heavily modified Slackware Linux distribution)

The components snap together easily. A few include Flash coding that scrolls company name and information across the screen. Customized data, such as the company name, address and years established, weave in and out of the pre-written page content.

However, the directory of site files is hidden, forcing us to use the provided HTML page editor. Adding pages and images was poorly explained. Help pages exist, except for the ones with placeholders that said “help goes here.” The HTML editor doesn’t work with a Netscape 7 browser, although all the other management tools did.

EmergeCore IT-100’s performance is strong, and the administrative browser-based tools are attractive and well done. But it doesn’t drill down enough. An Advanced button on every administrative page that provided more management-control levels would make all the difference.

EmergeCore IT-100


Company: EmergeCore Networks, (208) 947-8555 Cost: $1,395. Pros: Fast file performance, quiet, good bundle of DHCP, NAT and firewall. Cons: Superficial management, no troubleshooting tools or printer support, few security-configuration options.
The breakdown   
Manageability 25%  3
Features 25%  4
Setup/installation 20%  3
Documentation 20%  2
Reporting tools 10%  3


Scoring Key: 5: Exceptional; 4: Very good; 3: Average; 2: Below average; 1: Consistently subpar

Gaskin is a Dallas-area consultant and author who has been helping small and midsize businesses use technology since 1986. He can be reached at