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Product Reviews.gif (14305 bytes)
October 1998


602PRO Office Server

Software 602, Inc.
One Independent Dr., Ste. 3125
Jacksonville, FL 32202
Ph.: 904-356-6020
Fx.: 904-353-2602
Web site: www.software602.com

Price: Server $499.00; 5-User $748.00; 10-User $948.00; 25-User $1498.00; 50-User $2248.00; 100 nodes $3,498; 250 nodes $5,498 

Ratings (0-5)
Installation: 2.5
Documentation: 4.5
Features: 4
Operational Testing: 3.5
GUI: 3.5
Overall: B


Software602 started as a computer club in Czechoslovakia in 1989. As with all such clubs, they were assigned a number by the government. This number was (you guessed it) 602. When politics in the country changed and private businesses were allowed, Software602 had a strong base of clients, so they decided to keep the name. These days, Software602 focuses on bringing more security and effective ways for small- to medium-sized companies to use global information resources. Software602's leading US offering is the 602Pro Office Server, a complete integrated messaging solution for networks providing fax, voice mail, e-mail, and encrypted data to a single inbox at each network user's desktop. This is done through phone lines, LAN/WAN, or Internet tunneling. Also, the company network is provided with the added advantage of concurrent Internet access through a single Internet Account.

INSTALLATION
The installation of the Software 602PRO Office Server presented us with some difficulties and took far longer than we had expected. The first obstacle that presented itself had nothing to do with Software 602 at all. This hindrance was actually the result of a damaged CD that was shipped with the software package. In order to complete the review, we ended up calling our representative at Software 602 to ask that another package be sent our way. She answered the phone, "Happy Tuesday." Strange, yet somehow very pleasant, we thought, and by the next day, another Software 602PRO Office Server package arrived at TMC Labs.

The physical installation, itself, was not terribly involved. We inserted the new CD into the drive, and an HTML page launched automatically. From here, we were able to select to install the PRO Office Server 32-bit version. This guided us through several prompts and some information-gathering questions and we were able to choose the components of the software we wanted to install. We choose to custom install and selected all the software in the package. Just a few minutes later, the software was installed on the computer, a Pentium II 266 MHz computer with 32 Megs of RAM running Windows 95. (The minimum requirements for the 602PRO Office Server are an Intel Pentium 75 MHz with 16 MB of RAM running Windows 95/98 or NT, one network card, a modem, and file sharing protocol. The 602Pro Mail Client requires an Intel 486DX with 8 MB of RAM running Windows 95/98 or NT, a network card, and file sharing protocol.)

The configuration of the PRO Office Server proved to be much more troublesome. We started, harmlessly enough, with the 602PRO Wizard, which offered us the choice of creating a new Post Office or managing an existing Post Office. Since this was our first time running the software, we had to create a new Post Office. We selected a LAN-based Post Office and the directory in which it would be saved. Following this, we provided passwords, encoding strings, and network information, which the configuration process accepted without incident.

It was not until much later - when we attempted to start the 602PRO Mail Client - that any issues surfaced. The program asked us for our user name and password, which we entered exactly as we had during the configuration process. However, when we clicked OK, an error message popped up alerting us that the user name was wrong. This sent us on a pointless exercise where we attempted to figure out the user name and password by varying capitalization, hoping that it was case sensitive, and that a simple change would allow us to access the program. It turned out that the user name was not case sensitive. We shuffled through the Quick Installation Guide and found a specific note annotated towards the bottom of a page. It warned us that we would have to enter "supervisor" as the user name for the first login. So we did this, and we were finally in to the program, but only after an agonizing period.

DOCUMENTATION
In contrast to the installation shortcomings, the documentation for the PRO Office Server was a pleasant surprise. In fact, it was the Quick Installation Guide that saved us from having to place a call to Software602. This small pamphlet covered the installation of all portions of the PRO Server and also dealt with connecting pre-existing Post Offices. In addition, it described the necessary conditions and requirements for both faxing and receiving voice mail. Finally, it summarized Remote Mail Client Installation and MAPI support.

After the Quick Installation Guide, we took a look at the 602PRO Office Server User Guide, which is a much more comprehensive manual. This guide covers all issues for the Office Server other than the installation. The manual is rich with descriptions of the features available in the software and is also replete with graphics and screenshots, so we were pleased with this aspect of the PRO Office Server.

FEATURES
First and foremost, the Software 602PRO Office Server delivers e-mail for each user on the network. It includes LAN/WAN e-mail with the option to send and receive attached files for any user on the network, regardless of the operating platform (Windows 3.1x or Windows 95/98/NT). The Server allows for mail exchange over telephone lines for those companies without existing intranets via Z-Modem protocol, data exchange over LAN/WAN Type1 connection (communication server) or Type 2 connection (exchange directory between two Post Offices), and data exchange via Internet Tunneling (TCP/IP network), including the Internet. In addition, the PRO Server is an SSL-compliant Web Server that delivers Internet access to every computer on the network with firewall security. The encrypted Central Archive and local mailboxes provide security with three types of data encryption.

Users also gain the ability to send and receive faxes from the desktop as the solution includes a fax server, which allows sending single faxes or undertaking large fax mailings. The Office Server accepts faxes into the corporate network and delivers them directly to the recipient's desktop. The server can send faxes from almost any application with the supplied fax driver. In addition, the 602PRO Office Server is a cost-effective voice mail solution. By utilizing DTMF detection, the specific extension can be determined before the voice mail message is received, so that it is delivered directly to the intended recipient.

The server enables access to messages remotely over telephone lines, a LAN/WAN connection, or the Internet. It allows users to transmit a list of messages first, then select the messages to download to the local computer. With MAPI support, any MAPI-compliant application can send and receive information through the Post Office. E-mail can be read with any MAPI-compliant mail reader such as MS Outlook 98 or Windows Messaging.

The 602PRO Post Office is the central point of the e-mail system. It represents an addressable space on a shared network, and with an independent module, the 602PRO Administrator, organizes the administration of the Post Office. Every user has their own e-mail address managed by the administrator. For the present, the Administrator module can be used with Windows 3.1x, 95/98, and NT platforms. The administrator can gain access from any computer on the network, and, with the appropriate user name and password, gains access to the following abilities:

  • Configuration of the Post Office.
  • Maintenance of user rights and the list of users and licenses.
  • Post Office telephone numbers and TCP/IP address.
  • Retransmission of messages.
  • Time limitation of the connection.
  • Archiving of messages in the secured central archive.

OPERATIONAL TESTING
From the administrator standpoint, our testing of the PRO Office Server essentially began when we were configuring the original Post Office. Without reiterating our configuration complaint that we touched upon in the Installation section, we would like to make clear the overall repercussions of improperly configuring the system. Essentially, this could lead to disorganized Post Office configurations and for the most part, general confusion relating to the product. With this understanding, we continued our examination of the Office Server.

As a straight e-mail server program, there are better ways to read your mail. The GUI   is not as manageable or attractive as it could be. With MAPI compliance, of course, a user could ordinarily use their favorite e-mail program. Faxing is handled in much the same way as the delivery of e-mail messages, but with a slight twist. Each mailbox has its specific address, but most faxes are sent to a number without specifying an extension. This causes the faxes to default to the Post Office in the Unsorted Fax Messages folder, burdening the administrator with the task of distributing these messages. This can consume time if a program must scan the content of the message to determine its routing destination. Voice mail, luckily, is handled in a much more natural manner, since phones are far more prevalent and the use of extensions to distinguish between recipients is far more common.

We sent e-mail messages (between the supervisor and a secondary mailbox that we had created) to test the e-mail functionality of the TCP/IP network. To our delight, it was operating properly. In addition, we connected a phone line to the modem in the computer with the Post Office and configured it to answer the line for incoming faxes and voice mail. We sent faxes and left voice mail messages in the Post Office and found that they ended up in their intended destination directories. For the voice mail messages, we left one in the Post Office for the administrator and sent one to the client mailbox, both of which were routed properly. Of course, this is where we realized that we did not have an easy way to get a fax to the client (without knowing the client's phone extension). The fax message ended up in the administrator's unsorted fax messages folder and we had to manually distribute the message to its destination.

The Administrator module does have a number of configurable settings. From this module, names, passwords, and access rights can be maintained. Many network-wide parameters can be set, including the type of network involved (LAN/WAN, TCP/IP, Modem, etc.), auto-checking parameters, and queue settings. All the settings here can be accessed from one screen (Figure 8), a screen that begs some interesting questions. The module consists of a menu bar with a toolbar and a body. The puzzle is the reasoning behind the body. Every icon and menu choice - upon selection - brings up a new pop-up window and nothing ever seems to appear in this section. It just seems completely unnecessary.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
While the Software 602PRO Office Server is certainly ready for the marketplace, there are some areas in which it can be improved. Probably the most suspect portion of the program is its ability to deliver faxes to the appropriate recipient. While DTMF detection works and identifies the recipient (assuming the extension number is entered correctly by the sender), the fax invariably ends up in the unsorted fax message folder. Undoubtedly, this folder can fill up extremely quickly if someone does not attend to it. Essentially, some other tool for the delivery of fax messages needs to be supplied with the Administrator module. This tool would most likely function as a type of automatic call distributor by scanning the fax for its content and sending it to the appropriate outlet.

While the delivery system that forms the backbone of the system operates properly over different protocols, it is certainly much more reliable over a dedicated network. When the IP addresses of the Post Offices are not static, which would be the case if an ISP automatically assigns IP addresses upon login, the references between Post Offices communicating over the Internet must constantly be updated. This can lead to periods where other mailboxes are inaccessible for the Post Offices to find each other over the Internet. This may cause problems with large file transfers.

Another of the shortcomings we would like to address lies within the administrator interface. Outside of the minor waste of desktop space, the fact that everything comes up as a pop-up window leads to a certain amount of disorganization. It is difficult to remember where or how to access specific pieces of information. It would be a major improvement for the module if this space were utilized in a manner to organize the different procedures. We believe this can also help to improve the configuration process that consumed some of our time.

CONCLUSION
The Software 602PRO Office Server offers a unified messaging solution for networks of many different sizes. Each client has the ability to send and receive e-mail, faxes, and voice messages from the desktop. Whether the network is TCP/IP based, a LAN/WAN system, or connected via modem, the 602PRO Office Server has the ability to unify messaging across the entire network. MAPI compliance gives users the option to continue using their favorite e-mail programs, with the added benefits of being able to fax and receive voice mail. If two different Post Offices exist, the PRO Office Server has the ability to interconnect between different Post Offices to create larger, more widespread communications networking solutions.







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