Small Office Internet Access and E-mail Solutions that Won't Break the Bank

by Nick Richards

If you're a small office looking for Internet connectivity and e-mail, but don't have a Fortune 500 IT budget there is hope. For those just getting into the game or others who might be looking for an inexpensive solution for a small remote office there are several options out there that can get your office up and running in short order.

Anyone who has taken a look at the cost of implementing dedicated Internet access or an internal e-mail system knows that the costs can be astronomical. If the monthly charges don't get you, the maintenance costs surely will. As an alternative to these high priced options, outlined in this article are a few solutions that rely on standard phone lines and a minimal amount of equipment expense.

Low Cost Internet Connectivity

Talking the Internet connectivity talk can be as confusing as it is expensive. DSL, Router, ADSL, DHCP, Firewall, ISDN, VPN, Proxy, POP, T1, RIP, T3, SMTP, Hub, OC3, ATM, TCP/IP, Ethernet, CLID, ISP, PPTP, RAS, IPX, NetBEUI, and throw in POTS for good measure. If you can't make sense of all the jargon, here are two solutions that can get your office connected with no added telecommunications aggravation other than an additional phone line or two.

For small office Internet connectivity, Ramp Networks offers one of the most compelling solutions on the market with their WebRamp M3 product. The unit allows users on a network to share a pool of up to three modems to browse the Internet or send and receive e-mail. Because the modems and dial-up accounts are shared between users, the cost of maintaining individual dial-up accounts and modems is dramatically reduced.

The WebRamp M3 combines a 4-port hub with three modem ports and other goodies such as DHCP and Security all wrapped up in a single unit. For small office installations you can take advantage of the 4-port hub to network your computers. For larger office installations you can install the unit as a node on your Ethernet network for access by everyone on the network. Simply add modems to meet expanding bandwidth requirements. Since the unit bonds the bandwidth of the individual modems, with three 56K modems the speed rivals what you might get from an ISDN line. The modems use standard phone lines, so no special wiring is required. From the users perspective it's as seamless as launching their web browser. This solution scales effectively from 1 to approximately 25 users depending on use. Ramp Networks also offers a M3t and M3i model which support remote dial in and VPN capabilities.

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