Zybert Z1 Gem review

Price when reviewed

The small office multifunction server appliance has a chequered history, with many products failing to last the course. In particular, both Sun’s Cobalt Qube 3 and 3Com’s Internet Server have been discontinued. The Z1 Gem from UK-based Zybert Computing aims to remedy this inauspicious record.

Zybert Z1 Gem review

A key selling point of server appliances has always been ease of use. However, many earlier products failed to hide the underlying Linux kernel, making configuration a miserable affair. The Gem is the first appliance we’ve seen that makes a good stab at this, with a well-designed web interface that Windows fans can get their teeth into. Installation is also a lot simpler, as the appliance is primarily designed to slot neatly into a network with existing ADSL Internet services. We installed it easily into a network with a low-cost ActionTec ADSL router and allowed the Gem to provide DHCP services to network clients.

The Gem provides the full gamut of communications services, including an SPI firewall, web filtering, intranet services, email, anti-virus, anti-spam and shared storage. Costs are controlled, as a lot of these services are provided by open-source utilities.

Creating user accounts automatically provides each with their own shared storage area, mail inbox and default home page for storing shared web documents. Note that disk quotas aren’t supported, so storage limits can’t be applied. All users can access the appliance’s home page, which provides a status rundown for monitoring memory or disk space, viewing connected users and sharing a global address book. Mail services are simple to set up and you can download mail from your ISP at regular intervals. Outlook clients can access the mail services simply by using their Gem user account details and setting the POP3 and SMTP address details to those of the appliance.

Backup also gets some serious attention, as the package includes three ATA hard disks in removable carriers. A nightly disk-mirroring task is scheduled, which ensures the two drives installed in the appliance are identical. The additional third disk is supplied for offsite backup and swapped out with the secondary drive in the appliance as and when required. A bonus is these drives can be hot-swapped.

ClamAV and SpamAssassin keep incoming email clean and spam-free, and you can opt to tag suspect messages with X-headers for further processing or discard them. You can also create your own black, white and banned sender lists. The NetFilter firewall can be modified with custom filters, while the Squid proxy provides web-access controls, but this extends only to filtering by URL.

Along with this range of services, design is another factor in the Gem’s favour, as this smart micro-cube will look good on anyone’s desktop. The hardware specification is reasonable for the price and the hard disk carriers even have their own LCD panels that show disk status and internal temperatures.

Many vendors could learn from the Gem, as it shows clearly how to make a multifunction office appliance. This compact cube lives up to its name and is a good choice for small businesses looking for a one-stop solution for all their communications needs.

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