Hewlett-Packard's JetDirect 500X print server makes printing via the Internet a reality. A product of HP's partnership with Microsoft to dev-elop the Internet Printing Protocol (IPP), the 500X is the first print server to offer IPP in a Windows NT 4.0 environment. Using IPP, users can print to any printer anywhere on the Internet. Taking just minutes to install, the 500X makes Internet printing as easy as printing to a directly attached printer.
Internet printing lets you share time-sensitive documents or use high-quality printers anywhere in the world. Compared to sending and receiving faxes of poor quality, or having to deliver documents overnight - which takes a day at best - this technology offers many advantages.
But there is one caveat: you cannot access a printer behind a firewall. This means you will have to password-protect or take other security measures to protect high-quality printing devices that are expensive to operate to prevent unauthorised use.
The 500X is a three-parallel-port print server and supports all of the major topologies and protocols you're likely to need. I tested the Ethernet version, but a Token Ring version is also available.
The client printer driver software for Internet printing is available for free from HP's Web site. Alternatively, a remote user can attach to the 500X's internal embedded Web server and follow a link to the download site on the Web. This small utility takes only seconds to download and creates a printer driver on your system.
The Ethernet version of the 500X has both a 10Base-2 barrel connector and an RJ-45 connector that autosenses between 100Base-T and 10Base-T network connections.
HP supports most NetWare, Windows NT, and Unix environments, and offers IPX/SPX, TCP/IP, DLC/LLC, and EtherTalk network protocol support.
It took me approximately five minutes to connect and configure the 500X on my mixed NT-NetWare network. I simply plugged in the network, power, and printer cables. Then I inserted the installation CD in the drive and configured the print server software.
Setting it up in a Novell environment requires a little more work than it does for NT networks. For NT you simply need to follow a wizard that configures the print server and printers. By contrast, NetWare users are presented with a help screen listing all of the steps they must follow.
During the installation you can also install HP's network plug-and-print software for NT 4.0, which can automatically detect and install new HP printers when they are added to the network.
The latest version of Web JetAdmin 5.0 lets you manage and control all of the HP print servers on your network from a single console. However, Web JetAdmin lacks the capability to upgrade or flash multiple printers simultaneously across the network.
Internet printing is a new capability, and you may not need or want to use it. But even without it, the 500X should be attractive to both large and small networks.
It includes broad support for network topologies, protocols, and network operating systems, and it's easy to install, configure, and manage.
The Bottom Line
HP JetDirect 500X
The 500X makes Internet printing simple and supports many network topologies, protocols, and network OSes.
Pros: Internet Printing Protocol support; three parallel ports; Web-based management, flash upgradeable.
Cons: Flash upgrades must be performed one at a time on each print server.
Platforms: Most major platforms, including NetWare, Windows, and Unix.
Price: $719 - 10-Base-T. $898 - Token Ring (both excluding tax).
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