Review: Novell NetWare 6 - Page 2
New Features: The 'I's Have It
As I mentioned at the beginning, the major focus of the new release is on the anywhere, anyhow access. The new features that provide this functionality are from both the users perspective and administration. Two of the most vaunted user features of NetWare 6 are the iFolder and iPrint. iFolder is a "revolutionary data synchronization technology" that allows files to be synchronized between devices. That means that files on multiple devices can be synchronized with files on the server through the iFolder. All that is needed for this functionality is an NLM, a very small client component, a data repository location on the server, and a connection to said server.
For mobile users or those that use multiple devices, iFolder offers a great way to keep work synchronized. In use, it certainly seems to be slick and easy to use. In fact, after a while you almost forget that there is any synchronization taking place and start taking it for granted; it's operation is literally that transparent. Another twist for iFolder over other synchronization systems is that only changes to files are synchronized, which saves bandwidth. For all it's good points, though, for non-mobile users, the benefits of iFolder are hard to see. Ask yourself how many people you know who Microsoft's Briefcase and you'll see what I mean.
While iFolder helps jazz up the file serving function, iPrint brings some interesting new angles on network printing. Not only can users use a web browser to access printer functionality, via the Internet Printing Protocol, it is even possible to use graphical maps of the office layout (or a geographical map) to allow the user to find the most convenient printer. When the target printer is selected, the background driver download is completely automatic. Again, though, the advantages of iPrint may be lost on many organizations. While the graphical element is a useful addition, most users tend to only use one or two printers and do not hop to other printers unless there is a failure. For these users graphical printer selection is a novelty that is likely to wear off.
Another 'i' feature is iManage, a web based management utility that allows you to perform a variety of tasks through a browser interface. The overall gist of the utility is the configuration of DHCP/DNS and iPrint services although you can add and delete users and groups through here as well. Working with iManage is both fast and functional, and a great deal of thought appears to have gone into the construction of the various pages. Of most note is the lack of clutter which makes the purpose of each page area very clear. Outside of iManage, you still have the Web Manager for working with eDirectory, which is a more likely route, as there is more functionality available.
In the conclusion of this review, we will look deeper into the feature set and issue some caveats.
Drew Bird (MCT, MCNI) is a freelance instructor and technical writer. He has been working in the IT industry for over 12 years and currently lives in Kelowna, BC., Canada.