Axentra Net-Box H-85

  • Editors' rating
    6.8 Good

Pros

  • Integrated wireless networking
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2.1
  • Web portal and groupware facilities

Cons

  • No antivirus scanning
  • no VPN server

Axentra’s Net-Box H-85 is a remarkably affordable server appliance, aimed primarily at the home networking market. It could also be used by a small business, although the company offers more powerful OfficeSeries products, starting at £699 (ex. VAT), that might be more suitable.

Some compromises have been made to achieve the low price -- especially when it comes to remote access and security. Despite these, however, the Net-Box is a comprehensive server solution supporting the usual file sharing, email and web services with useful groupware functionality thrown in for good measure.

The hardware involved is x86-based, the exact processor being dependent on the model, as is the amount of RAM and disk space. Our test system had an AMD Duron CPU with 256MB of memory and a 120GB hard disk plus two 10/100Mbps fixed Ethernet adapters and a 54Mbps 802.11g wireless interface -- all remarkable value given the price.

We were also surprised to find Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2.1 on the Net-Box, with the usual Web-based interface for management plus additional applications from Axentra and others.

A browser also provides the main client interface, a portal service giving easy access to email, shared folders and calendars. An LDAP server supports the shared address book facility and there’s even an instant messaging server. Of course, you can also access mail using an independent client such as Outlook, but only using IMAP4 (where the messages remain on the server), with POP3 retrieval currently only supported on the OfficeSeries models.

Basic spam filtering (SpamAssassin) is available to email users, but this is set at the client level and there’s no antivirus scanning. Given the price, that’s not surprising, but it is a concern -- as is the lack of a VPN server. However, the Net-Box can be configured to give remote users portal access secured through SSL browser encryption.

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Backups can be taken automatically to either local or USB-attached storage, and there’s Samba-based file sharing as well as WebDAV. The management and monitoring facilities, though, are somewhat limited. For example, access to networking services, such as the email and FTP servers, is controlled globally, with no facilities to manage access at the user or group level.

The Net-Box is designed to act as an Internet gateway and has a built-in firewall with port forwarding facilities plus the usual DHCP and DNS servers. You also get an Apache Web server that can support multiple domains and a simple Web publishing tool to enable users to create their own Web sites.

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