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Product_Reviews.gif (5213 bytes)
January 2000


CyberCom

CyberTel, Inc.
1 Bethany Road
Bethany Commons, Ste. 40
Hazlet, NJ 07730
Ph: 732-335-0725;
Fx: 732-335-0726
Web site: www.cybertelinc.com

Price: $100 for the server software (includes one license); $100 for each additional license

ITEd.gif (2875 bytes)

RATINGS (0–5)
Installation: 4
Documentation: 4
Features: 4.5
GUI: 4
Overall: B+


As technology becomes more and more refined, developers are releasing unified messaging systems that are easier to configure and administer. An excellent example is CyberCom’s product, touted as a ‘Pure Play IP’ system — device and network independent. It gives the user the ability to get all fax and voice mail messages at one time, by fax machine or PC using any mail client or CyberTel’s workstation software, FreeCom, which is a faxing software and e-mail client.

INSTALLATION
The server running CyberCom requires a high-end PC, running Windows NT. A minimum of 350 MHz, 128 MB of RAM, and an eight GB hard drive is needed for a basic system, and that has to be increased if using the e-mail-to-speech function. The workstation has much lower minimum requirements, 200 MHz, 32 MB of RAM, and a two GB hard drive.

The installation of CyberCom 2.3 consists of two parts — the server and the workstation. We installed the server software, CyberCom 2.3, on the NT box and the workstation software, FreeCom, on the Windows 98 PC. The NT Server requires Service Pack 4, Option Pack 4, as well as Microsoft Internet Information Server. We configured the server, installed a network card, a Dialogic board, and a Rockwell chipset-compatible modem. We configured the modem to work with NT, and used phone dialer to ensure the modem worked.

Upon launching the software on the CD-ROM, a window opened with several choices, including release notes, upgrade procedure, manual, install, browse, and exit. We chose install (the default) and proceeded with the installation. That launched a wizard, and we stayed with the defaults, as most of them appeared to be sound choices. The first real choice was a “select modem type” window. There were two choices, modem (Rockwell-compatible), and Brooktrout. The next option was the language setup — again, two choices — English system voice files or Chinese system voice files. Since our Mandarin was slightly rusty, we chose the former. Oddly enough, the next window was to set which language we wanted the search engines to be installed in. We had four choices, our original two language choices plus French and Japanese. Again, we went with our native tongue, and chose the American English search engine. (More languages choices are being developed for the setup procedure.)

After the software install had finished, the data source name (DSN) config window opened. We had two radio buttons, Access (the default) and MS SQL Server. There are also five fields to configure: DB server name, network address, service port, DB user, and DB password.

We selected the default, Access, because we weren’t using a SQL Server and also the fields were grayed out while it was in that mode. (They only were active when SQL Server was selected.)

The install finished, and we were prompted to restart our PC. After restarting and launching the software, we had to fill in another series of preferences. These included the phone prefs — nine to dial out, 011 for international dialing, one for long distance, etc., and our mail information — POP3 or IMAP server, administrator, and so forth. Configuring Cyber-Dog was our next task. CyberDog is a maintenance tool for the CyberCom. (More about CyberDog in the features section.) Again, that was easy and we stayed with the defaults. We also had to configure our account information, which required knowledge of networking and IP addressing. This is a complicated task to a novice, but we noticed that the administration of the server was easier than other similar products we tested. The most complicated part was when we had to find our Microsoft Exchange Server’s IP address, enter our user name and password, and configure the other preferences. Finally, we had to configure our preferences within our account (and equally as important, in the default “administrator” account).

The workstation software, FreeCom, was much easier to configure. Again, it was a standard CD-ROM install with a wizard, and not nearly as complicated and in-depth as the server install. We did a standard install, which gave us the English/Traditional Chinese option, and we were required to restart the PC before we could use the program.

Configuring the workstation was simple, as there were few complicated choices. Again, we needed some knowledge of networking and configuring the PCs on the network, We also had to connect to the CyberCom server. We had several options, including fax cover sheets, a phone book (of average quality), and the GUI, which emulated a fax machine, complete with buttons and a send key, and a message “inbox” on the right side. Once we got the preference fields completed and connected to the server, we were ready to test the product.

DOCUMENTATION
There is no hard copy documentation with CyberCom 2.3. The only option we had was to print the manuals from the CD-ROM. Unfortunately, on the NT Server, we did not have a word processing program, and WordPad was selected as the default program to open the file. This gave us several pages of “garbage text” and was useless. We then opened the CD on a machine that had Microsoft Word installed, and we were able to print it.

The Windows 98 manual is short, under 40 pages, and is mostly text based. It is very well organized, thorough, and has a few illustrations and icons that are necessary to understand the program. The manual for CyberCom server is over 80 pages, and like the Windows 98 version, is organized, easy to follow, and contains the necessary graphics to configure the server easily.

FEATURES
CyberCom requires a high-end PC. The minimum recommended for the NT machine is a 350 MHz Pentium II, 128 MB of RAM, eight GB of hard drive space, 10/100 network card, and a class 1 modem, which is Rockwell chipset-compatible. The system requirements are higher if you plan to use the e-mail-to-speech function: 450 MHz, 256 MB of RAM, and 10 GB of hard drive space.

CyberCom gives users the ability to get all fax and voice mail messages at one time by telephone, fax machine, or PC, or from anywhere in the world with a local telephone call. There is a fully functional e-mail client, compatible with any POP3 or IMAP 4 mail server. It features an address book, and gives users the option of creating custom address groups.

The maintenance tool for CyberCom is CyberDog. It analyzes system resources and restarts the server when necessary. It can also automate the Windows NT logon process, and can be programmed to schedule maintenance reboots of the server. Other features of CyberCom include:

  • Ability to fax from a Windows-compatible program from a workstation;
  • With an optional microphone, you can send voice mail files over the Internet;
  • Support for optional four, eight, or 12 fax port configuration;
  • The GUI has a link to a browser;
  • Browser interface “Member On-Line Service” for users to change their e-mail addresses, account passwords, and various personal data by using a Web browser to log on the CyberCom member online Web server; and
  • Address book has ability to import and export data from other mail programs (Netscape and Outlook Express) in CSV format.

OPERATIONAL TESTING
CyberCom can be configured in an ‘a la carte’ fashion, with the ability to select any one or any combination of features. We used a Windows 98 PC for our workstation. We were easily able to connect to both the CyberCom server and our e-mail server, a Microsoft Exchange server. Our first test was simple: To send and receive e-mail with FreeCom. We configured the software and were able to send and receive e-mail from our workstation. A couple of minor annoyances not withstanding (mostly having a bit of trouble opening the enclosures), we were successful in sending and receiving mail.

Our next test involved the faxing aspect of CyberCom. This is the simplest function of the software. We configured the software to fax, and while the quality of the fax was as good as any similar product, the ease of use was not quite at the same level. In order to fax a document with a cover sheet, we had to select (or enter) the fax number, select the cover sheet, and select the enclosure. The enclosed file would then open, and then get rendered, with a window stating “printing document 1,” and then the file would be open on the desktop. However, this blocked the GUI of CyberCom, and we had to close or minimize the window in order to hit the send button.

We then faxed an attachment, after the software had already rendered it. This was included in the mail like any other attachment, and sending it consisted of the same process. As with our earlier fax, it went through without a problem, and the quality was very good. Next we decided to work with the voice mail function. We went with the canned prompts, and dialed in. The file was delivered as a .WAV file attachment in an e-mail titled “you have a (voice) message,” and addressed from the recipient. The attached .WAV file was good audio quality, with the only hitch being that end user workstations require speakers or a headset. A message recorded via a stand-alone microphone or headset mic is delivered the same way, but this seems like too much trouble.

Finally, we called in to retrieve our messages. As with any other text-to-speech products, the results were good but not outstanding. This is an option many people wouldn’t normally use, but to have the ability to do it is nice. Generally, we were happy with the results of our operational testing. All our tests proved that CyberCom is fully capable of delivering a functional unified messaging product, and that the workstation software, FreeCom, is also adequate end-user software.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
CyberCom and FreeCom are solid products, but not without small “room for improvement” areas. One problem is that documentation on the CD-ROM consists of Microsoft Word and Acrobat documents. This assumes that at least one computer at the job site has Word installed in order to properly read the documentation. Another issue is the mail client. The e-mail window sorts by text, so the messages are actually sorted by day of the week, not chronologically, even when the messages are sorted by date. The entire e-mail client is far weaker than any standard mail client (Lotus Notes, Microsoft Outlook, Netscape, or Eudora), but is adequate for light mail and fax use.

As mentioned earlier, sending a fax of a saved document is slightly difficult. The most annoying part is when the selected document opens, and obscures the CyberCom GUI, and closing the window requires an additional step. This is minor, but it is an item that could be improved. Finally, there was a small configuration problem, which CyberTel acknowledged. When configuring the server software, the input for the SMTP server has to be a fully qualified domain name, not simply the IP address. This bug was discovered by CyberTel programmers, and will be addressed in future versions of the software

CONCLUSION
A good unified messaging product, which delivers with better than average results. With the exception of a slightly clunky GUI on the fax portion, and a below-par e-mail client, CyberCom is a good product that delivers consistently. Used with a more powerful mail client (i.e. Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, etc.), we found CyberCom to be more than adequate for a unified messaging server product. We award CyberCom an Editors’ Choice award based on the good features and ease of use of the product.







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