IBM unveiled a low cost, subscription based system and services bundle on Tuesday to enable small businesses to link to the Internet from a single connection point.
The move follows Sun Microsystems advent onto the thin client market with the roll out of its Sun Ray 1 appliance, which it claims enables users to access their applications from any departmental desktop using a smartcard (see VNU Newswire, 8 September, 1999).
The IBM Small Business Web Connections service is based on Big Blue's recent acquisition of Whistle Communications' server, which sits on a company's local area network.
The system can service up to 100 users, enabling them to select and register their own "dot com" address, and also providing them with Internet access and professional quality email.
Peter Rowley, general manager of IBM's global small business unit, said that WebConnections was targeted at companies with five to 100 networked PCs, minimal inhouse computer skills, a limited technology budget and plans to expand their Internet usage.
"As these businesses move up the Internet adoptive curve, their needs vary greatly, from a small company making early strides on the Web, to growing ebusinesses that want an active Web site and the ability to enact transactions online," he added.
Small Business Web Connections provides users with different ways of connecting to the Internet using such connectivity options as analog, ISDN and DSL.
The entry level Silver option includes a basic service package, email, Internet access, domain name selection and registration, firewall security, technical support from IBM and the means to create and host an intranet site.
The Gold level adds Web site hosting services and secure remote network and file access for employees, while Platinum includes hosting services for an online product catalogue and payment processing capabilities.
Andy Bochman, research director at the Aberdeen Group, said: "For small businesses just getting started, and looking to automate in the most cost effective way, the IBM/Whistle offering is almost a 'no brainer.' For established small businesses already automated and accustomed to the frustrations of owning and tending their own general purpose servers, the simplicity brought by the Internet is a breath of fresh air."
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