Share modem-based access to the Internet

If all your company's employees want Web access, but you don't want to purchase more modems, more dial-up Internet Service Provider (ISP) accounts, and more telephone lines, Artisoft's i.SHARE 3.0 might be the solution you need. i.SHARE 3.0 is an Internet-sharing tool that lets multiple users simultaneously access the Web through one dial-up connection to the Internet. i.SHARE acts as a traffic director by keeping track of which user is accessing which site and by routing the appropriate Web data from the remote site to the user.

The product is available in several user-level configurations, from a 3-user license to a 32-user license. However, I found that with the heavy graphics content of many Web pages, supporting more than five users makes the software unusable. This problem is not i.SHARE's fault, but simply the nature of attempting to use a dial-up 56K modem connection when you need a dedicated connection.

i.SHARE is a client/server application. On one machine, you configure the product as a server. In a server configuration, the machine acts as the host that dials your ISP when a user wants to establish a connection. I found that i.SHARE impaired performance on this machine, so installing the software on a lightly loaded machine is the best approach. After you install the software on the server, you install the product's client configuration on the machines you want to have Internet access.

I installed the server configuration on an Acer 200MHz Pentium MMX running Windows 95 with a US Robotics 56Kbps modem with x2 technology. I installed the client configuration on several other computers on my LAN, including a Toshiba Tecra laptop, a home-built Micronics-based dual-Pentium II processor running Windows NT Server 4.0, and an AMI dual-Pentium II running NT Workstation 4.0. When I rebooted these systems, they automatically executed a startup program, the i.SHARE Resource Browser, which detected the i.SHARE server running on my host machine. I selected the default options to let the software use that server.

I also installed the i.SHARE Connection Manager. This component tells the i.SHARE server to connect to your ISP. If you want, you can have i.SHARE Connection Manager automatically establish a connection whenever you launch an Internet application (e.g., Internet Explorer--IE). After your server connects to the Internet, your client computer acts as if it's connected via a local modem. For example, the IE session in Screen 1 looks and feels as if it's using a local modem, but it's using an i.SHARE connection.

i.SHARE's major pitfall is its inability to run on an existing TCP/IP network. According to Artisoft's technical support department, the product uses a proprietary version of winsock.dll (the system library that provides TCP/IP connectivity) that lets i.SHARE clients know how to encapsulate and route packets to the i.SHARE server on the network. Therefore, if you use TCP/IP for your in-house network (which most people use today), you have two choices: Convert your internal network to an alternative protocol, such as NetBEUI, or use another form of multipoint shared Internet access, such as a proxy server with Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) support. To properly test the product in my environment, I had to reconfigure six machines to work with NetBEUI rather than TCP/IP.

If you want to give your company's employees Internet access without increasing MIS costs, consider i.SHARE. However, if you can't live with the networking protocol restrictions and the possible lag in network performance, i.SHARE is not for you.

i.SHARE 3.0
Contact: Artisoft * 520-670-7100 or 800-200-7455
Price: $129 for a 3-user license, up to $349 for a 32-user license
System Requirements: Windows NT 4.0, Windows 95, or Windows 3.11
Network connectivity via IPX, NetBEUI, or NetBIOS
Internet Service Provider (ISP) account
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