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Web Transporter does job, lacks flair

Web Transporter does job, lacks flair

If you are responsible for a network of users who are spread out geographically, you must figure out how to get current software to them quickly and easily. In an effort to simplify distributing software to clients or staff beyond a LAN, Metatec offers Web Transporter 3.0.

Web Transporter uses the Web as the interface between a server, where already-packaged software resides, and the client downloading the software. It also tracks information about installations that can be used for accounting or billing.

Web Transporter is not a packaging or installation product, but a delivery product, a back-end to software-packaging tools such as LANOvation's PictureTaker Express or Winstall.

Web Transporter is a good choice for companies that don't have a WAN or that need to reach customers outside an existing WAN. Companies that don't have other means of software distribution, such as a Web site, may also find Web Transporter worthwhile.

I gave Web Transporter a score of fair because although it seems to do its job satisfactorily and includes some attractive features, installation is a major hurdle. I would also have preferred easier administration and a more elegant user interface. The product has its place in shops that need to distribute their software to their staffs and existing customers, but for what they'll pay, companies will want more from it.

Web Transporter is the only off-the-shelf product to provide software distribution using a Web interface. Picture Taker Enterprise Edition distributes software to a LAN, but this product falters on a wide area network. Another alternative is to write your own Web site with similar functions.

Web Transporter will run on Windows NT or Unix hosts and can be accessed by most platforms that support a Web browser. I tested Web Transporter using a Windows NT 4.0 server using MS-SQL 7.0 and a group of Microsoft Windows 95/98 and Windows NT clients.

During installation, all I had were a few read-me files, which provided keystroke-by-keystroke instructions, yet I still had to call Metatec's support line to get installation instructions for MS-SQL 7.0. Even beyond the documentation problems, theinstallation process was manual rather than automatic.

Overall, Web Transporter didn't win me over so much as earn my grudging acceptance.

Your technical staff will dislike the product because its menus and data-entry screens are not user-friendly; your managers won't like the reports because they aren't well laid out; and your end users will balk at the somewhat cumbersome user interface.

But it will get the software-distribution job done.the bottom lineMetatec Web Transporter 3.0Business Case: This product attempts to increase productivity by more efficiently distributing software via the Web, but the costs of purchasing and setting it up are high enough to make a custom HTML solution more attractive.

Technology Case: Web Transporter uses a familiar Web interface to distribute software to far-reaching offices and users who are not connected to a WAN. Web Transporter does this fairly well, but it is not easy to use or to administer.

Pros:

l Stores billing information

l Provides security for software distribution

l Provides automatic notification to users of software updates

Cons:

l Primitive installation routine

l Unnecessarily difficult to administer

Platforms: Server: Windows NT 4.0, Solaris 2.4, AIX 4.x, Linux; Client: Most clients running Internet Explorer 4.0 or Netscape Navigator 4.06.

Price: $US3500 for a 100-client licence - no known distributor in Australia.http://www.metatec.com


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