No budget for a CD jukebox? Try this virtual server instead

Until I test-drove CD-QuickShare, I thought jukeboxes with
multiple quad-speed drives represented the state of the art in CD- ROM disk sharing. Was I
wrong!


Stac's software-only virtual server dishes up the disks quickly and inexpensively. From
a single CD drive on a host server, CD- QuickShare copies compressed CD image files onto
the server's hard drive, building a library that can be accessed by a whole gang of
networked or remote users at once. And nobody has to buy a local CD player.


If you have enough server room, you could put material from dozens of CD-ROMs onto the
server.


CD sneakernets exist even in well-equipped offices. Why? Because CD-ROM towers, auto
changers and jukeboxes are fairly expensive, their servomechanisms can break down, and
their performance drops as use increases. No matter how many drives are available, access
usually is limited to a single user per drive.


CD-QuickShare, in contrast, exploits the speed and low cost of server hard drives.


I installed the software (from CD-ROM, naturally) on a 75-MHz Gateway 2000 Inc. Pentium
server running Microsoft Windows 95. Any 386, 486 or Pentium PC loaded with Windows 3.1,
Win95 or Windows NT will do, but be sure you have plenty of server memory.


I quickly found one of CD-QuickShare's few flaws: a buggy Win95 setup procedure. Stac's
tech support walked me through a device driver conflict between CD-QuickShare's new
virtual E: drive and my existing CD-ROM D: drive. They also promised to rectify the
situation for future Win95 users.


Then I set up the CD-QuickShare virtual drive to store the information from my CDs.
Using the CD-Administrator module, I selected and deselected various disks from my new
library to make them available to PCs linked to my server. It was ridiculously easy with
Windows' drag and drop.


The same CD-Administrator module handles management tasks such as user access control
and site license monitoring. For example, you can lock disks with sensitive information
from the eyes of all but certain users. In general, users should be limited to read-only
access to any of the disks.


The Administrator module monitors the number of valid licenses embedded in a CD-ROM by
its publisher and enforces that licensing. The maximum number of valid licenses appears in
a dialog box. When that maximum is reached, no more users can access images.


You distribute the QuickSetup module, which makes the files available to networked or
remote users, via e- mail or floppy disk. Users merely have to run QSHARE.EXE from this
module to install their CD-QuickShare software, double-click on the CD-Selector icon in
the main program group, and they're off and running.


To insert a disk, users select it from the list and drag it to the CD-QuickShare drive
icon. They can copy files from it with Windows' File Manager or install and run CD-ROM
applications as usual.


On the LAN or remotely via modem, they get fast and flawless access to any CDs you want
to make available. And because a server hard drive works faster than a CD drive, they can
expect faster performance than with a CD-ROM server or tower.


Stac claims the software is 20 times faster than hardware for five simultaneous users.
The company's LZS compression technology reportedly improves network transfer speeds by up
to 44 percent. I didn't test those assertions, but Stac has documented them.


I'd consider CD-QuickShare pretty good if it did only virtual disk-sharing, but other
features make it outstanding. You can handle and manipulate the image files, change
disk-identifying details, change directories and restore deleted files. There's a
user-friendly menu for site-license tracking and user access codes.


CD-QuickShare is compatible with NetWare, LANtastic, Windows for Workgroups, Win95,
Windows NT, Banyan Vines, LAN Manager and LAN Server networks. It can be used from any
Windows PC. At about $500 for a five-user license, with 10-user add-on licenses for $135,
it's a bargain.


Stac Electronics, San Diego; tel. 619-794-4300


J.B. Miles writes about networking and wide area communications from Carlsbad,
Calif.


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