February 19, 1997
Cisco's Web server is small in more ways than one
Micro Webserver will be attractive if PCs aren't your cup of tea
By Michelle Campanale

  PC Week Labs Review Cisco Systems Inc.'s tiny turnkey World Wide Web server is so small it fits in a desk drawer, but it won't fit very well in most corporate settings. The Micro Webserver 1.0 should appeal, however, to administrators who want an easy-to-set-up box that can be kept out of harm's way and managed from any machine on a network.

Intended for small businesses, corporate departments and Web content creators, the $995 Micro Webserver, released last month, proved simple to set up and run in PC Week Labs' tests, but its performance was mediocre and its expansion capabilities are very limited. We believe the money would be better spent on a low-end PC than on a proprietary, closed system such as Cisco's Web server.

We give Cisco credit for putting an interesting idea in a compact form, however. The Micro Webserver weighs just 2.5 pounds, measures just 1.6 by 7.4 by 9.3 inches and is not much bigger than its built-in Zip drive. The removable drive makes it easy to distribute information and author Web pages.

Administrators who find PCs unreliable also will like that a proprietary server operating system is built into the microkernel. A handful of Java-based tools and utilities made the Micro Webserver a breeze to configure.

One expansion option is through the flash ROM on the Webserver's 25MHz Pentium, which allows software application upgrades to the microkernel. Cisco plans to offer free, downloadable additions to the system's applications and utilities.

Up and running

Installation was as simple as plugging the box into an Ethernet hub and running a Windows 95 configuration wizard from a PC. We then logged in to the Micro Webserver with Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator 3.01.

Some of the more useful utilities were the FTP client for making remote connections and the Forms Builder tool, which simplified writing Web page content.

The Micro Webserver has an integrated 100MB SCSI Iomega Zip drive, a 10BaseT port, a serial port and a SCSI port; the latter allows as many as six devices to be connected simultaneously. Attaching an external SCSI drive (at a cost of $300 or more) offers the possibility of expanding storage and improving speed somewhat.

The Iomega Zip drive is, of course, slow. The Micro Webserver's performance on PC Week Labs' WebBench 1.0 tests showed that the Web server would handle only a few requests per second, which makes it suitable only for low-volume use.

Michelle Campanale, a technical specialist at ZD Labs, can be reached at michelle_campanale@zd.com.

Micro Webserver 1.0
Cisco Systems Inc.
San Jose, Calif.
(800) 553-6387
PROS: Easily set up and managed from a workstation through a Java-capable browser; Zip drive is hot-swappable for quick information distribution and Web authoring; SCSI port allows connection to hard drive for more storage space and speed. CONS: Lack of caching, use of Zip drive instead of hard drive and 25MHz CPU make performance unimpressive; expansion possibilities very limited.
Summary: Cisco's pint-sized Micro Webserver is a turnkey Web server that is extraordinarily easy to set up and administer, but most businesses will find a low-end PC Web server a better choice. Cisco's box will appeal, however, to administrators who find PCs unreliable for Web server operations and want a closed system that users can't damage.
PC Week Labs' scoring methodology can be found at www.pcweek.com/reviews/meth.html


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