Plug In and Play on the Internet

You don't need a systems administrator to connect your LAN to the Web

The Product: Whistle InterJet, from Whistle Communications, in Foster City, Calif. (888-494-4785; $1,995)
Requirements: For administrator: Windows 95 or Mac OS 7.1 or higher. For client: minimum 386 processor, minimum 8MB memory, Windows 3.1 or higher
Reviewer: Kevin Owens, cofounder and CEO of Select Design, a custom-corporate-apparel company in Burlington, Vt.

Timing, I've heard, is everything. Well, I'd have to agree. Our company recently lost its systems administrator, who left our network in total disarray on his way out. At about the same time, our router decided to go on permanent vacation, leaving us with an Internet connection on only one machine. Enter Whistle InterJet, promising to be "an affordable all-in-one Internet solution for small business." The thing was supposed to give us internal E-mail, external E-mail, Web surfing, external Web publishing, and intranet Web publishing all in one small package. OK, little box, let's see what you've got, I said.

First things first. I unpacked the shoe-box-size gizmo. The instructions looked simple enough, but having assembled a gas grill, I knew enough to be a little apprehensive about the "easy" claims. Well, this was no gas grill. It took me five minutes to have the unit set up and plugged into our network. (We have 17 Macs on our local-area network.) After two more minutes, using the keypad on the front of the unit, I had input the configuration information (the registration number and the phone number of the Internet service provider). The rest was automatic. After some whirling, ptsing, and smtsing, and a funny little whistle sound, the display informed me that we were configured and ready to roll.

I'm no computer guy, but I knew enough to be frightened at this point. I had put a total of 10 minutes into this thing, and it was telling me that I was ready to roll? It seemed like a good time to check the manual. The next step was to load the software (one floppy) onto my machine.

Minutes later, with the software loaded and my Mac restarted, I spotted an icon on my desktop with the word InterJet under it. I double-clicked, and the next thing I knew, it had launched Netscape Navigator and was asking me for a password. Back to the manual. No luck there, so I called the support line. To my surprise, I reached not a recording but a real person, who told me exactly what I needed to know. I returned to my Mac, typed in the password, and set up each client. (This unit can handle up to 25 clients.) The setup process was amazingly easy as well. I set up individual users with their privileges, passwords, and log-in names, giving them the ability to send and receive internal and external E-mail, publish their own Web pages on our intranet, and browse the Web. Also, I gave the proper users the ability to design and maintain our public Web site.

The InterJet has only two drawbacks that I can see. It doesn't allow a remote user to dial in and get onto our LAN. (I imagine that is a security issue as there is a built-in firewall to protect the network.) And the internal 33.6Kbps modem can be slow. With an adapter, we can and will upgrade to ISDN to make it run faster.

So what does all this mean? It means this one machine can do the job of an E-mail and Web server, a bank of modems, and a router. And for about $2,000, you can connect your entire company to the Internet. Unlike my grill, Whistle InterJet keeps its promises.