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Systems for growing firms: Novell vs Windows NT; choosing a LAN for your business.

Congratulations! Your company is growing. But after your business gets to the point where you need five or more computers, it's probably time to invest in a local area network (LAN) operating system.

Imagine the complexity of the many wires and cables connecting your computers. The network operating system is the software that manages how information travels through those cables to arrive at each computer. In addition to routing information through your office efficiently, a network operating system functions as a file server or centralized repository of your files and data. From the file server, anyone in the office can retrieve any files (with appropriate privileges). The file server eliminates the need to pass floppy disks around the office.

The two most popular LAN operating systems are Novell's NetWare and Microsoft's Windows NT Server 3.5. Prices for both start at just over $1,000 for a five-user license, and escalate to $47,995 for a 1,000-user version of Novell NetWare 4.1. But don't let the up-front cost scare you away. The productivity that these systems offer offsets the higher price.

Novell is far and away the king of the network operating systems. Its NetWare versions 3.12 and 4.1 control an overwhelming 70% market share. Novell has a reputation for being a highly reliable product. That reliability has led most large companies that are downsizing to smaller systems to move data from their mainframes and minicomputers onto Novell file servers. NetWare 4.1 accommodates both simple and complex multi-site, multi-location environments. NetWare 3.12 is better suited to sites with 200 users or less.

Both NetWare versions offer cross-platform support--meaning Macintosh, OS/2, UNIX, AS/400 and DOS/Windows workstations can all communicate and share files. This allows you to preserve your investment in your current hardware, and choose new machines based on need, not on compatibility with your existing environment.

Another built-in feature is the system fault tolerance protection of NetWare. Fault tolerance is the ability of the server to recover from a hardware failure such as the hard drive malfunctioning. Can you imagine an accounting firm losing the hard drive on its file server on April 14? Here's how the fault tolerance mirroring and duplexing functions work. When a user writes data to the first hard drive, a second, "mirrored" copy is written to a second drive (that you can purchase). Now, if the primary drive fails on April 14, Novell automatically switches to the secondary mirrored hard drive without interruption.

Windows NT Server version 3.5 is the best attempt anyone has mustered to compete with Novell's NetWare. Windows NTS is gaining a following primarily because Microsoft uses this network operating system as an applications platform. This means that Windows NTS not only acts as a repository for files, as NetWare does, but it can also be a central repository of other data and the applications that run on your network. For example, with Microsoft's SQL (pronounced "sequel") server for Windows NT, programmers can place a database that is optimized for the NT server. This provides much faster access to the large volumes of data that file servers can store. While Novell allows you to run a database on its file server, it's not optimized as part of the core operating system as it is on the NT platform.

Another benefit of Windows NTS is its ease of installation. Novell is notorious for being difficult for the novice to install. If you understand the basics of Microsoft Windows, you'll understand enough of Windows NTS to get your network up and running.

One additional advantage of Windows NTS is that it supports multiple processors. If your file server appears sluggish and you've bought a computer that accepts multiple CPUs, you can add an additional processor and effectively double your server's performance. While Novell is working on a symmetric multiprocessor version of NetWare, Windows NTS has it today. Realistically, small environments don't need multiple processors, but it is nice to have the flexibility.

If you choose Novell's NetWare 3.12 or 4.1, you'll get the premier network operating system to run your growing business. If you want security, accessibility to files, and shared printers and other network resources, Novell NetWare 3.12 is the way to go.

If you choose Windows NTS, you won't have the raw performance of NetWare, but smaller environments will like it because it's easier to install and administer. While not as efficient a file server as NetWare, Windows NTS does outperform NetWare as an application server, making it an excellent value. If you need a centralized file server that can run a customized sales force management system, telemarketing system, or other types of large shared databases, Windows NTS is worth a look.

Whatever you decide, make sure you talk to a networking consultant before you purchase a network operating system. The couple of hours they charge you for their time will save you thousands of dollars down the road.
COPYRIGHT 1995 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Software Review
Author:Evans, Ron
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Evaluation
Date:Apr 1, 1995
Previous Article:Leon Tupper: turning adversity into opportunity.
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