|Point Clark Networks ClarkConnect Gateway / Server|
|Summary||Open source based firewall and server with easy setup, excellent web-based interface and many features|
|Pros||• Linux power and stability plus easy configuration
• Excellent web-based interface
|Cons||• Graphical interface, while nice, may be limiting for experienced Linux users|
Are you looking for a server operating system with the security and stability of Linux, but with the point and click convenience of Windows? If so, then you are not alone. Linux distributions have a great reputation for being a nearly bulletproof, normally requiring very little attention once configured properly. But then, there's the problem for a lot of folks; how exactly do you get a Linux server set up in the first place?
Most people are perfectly comfortable with Windows' familiar interface, but the thought of a Linux command line is not exactly welcoming. The folks at Point Clark Networks have addressed this problem by producing a Linux distribution called ClarkConnect that is designed to be administered via a web browser from the comfort of your own desktop. You can think of ClarkConnect as targeted at users who want all the great qualities of a Linux operating system, but without the hassle of mastering all of the rather cryptic commands and myriad options that complex software applications such as Apache provide.
ClarkConnect is available in three editions. The Professional Edition includes firewall, VPN, and gateway tools, while the Office Edition includes everything in Professional and adds web, file, and print services. Both Professional and Office are reasonably priced ($55 and $65 respectively), and available with various support plans and web-based services, such as domain registration and DNS service. You can view a feature comparison table here.
The Home Edition, on the other hand, is completely free for non-commercial use. But in order to obtain updates for the Home Edition directly from ClarkConnect, you'll need to register your system, which entitles you to free updates for a limited time. However, since ClarkConnect is based on RedHat Linux, obtaining updates and/or extending the functionality of the system is easy to do if you don't mind getting your hands dirty.
The most notable feature of ClarkConnect is its excellent web-based administration interface. Once the installation is done, simply open a web browser from any computer on the same local network and point it to the ClarkConnect box. ClarkConnect includes some great software right out of the box, including the Samba file server, the Apache web server, and even a Photo Gallery application. But what sets ClarkConnect apart from other Linux distributions is the ease with which you can set up and configure these and other applications.