Novell’s best operating system, in my estimation, was introduced way back in 1993. It offered an admirable combination of performance and simplicity that has yet to be duplicated by Microsoft or Novell themselves.
Netware versions 5.1 through 6.5 do have a lot more features and abilities where wide area networking, the internet and e-mail integration are concerned. For most companies however, this is something of a mute point since reliable highspeed Internet and inter-company e-mail is available through various outside sources such as Bell & Rogers to name a few.
The new versions come into their own when integrating multiple sites into one company network. For most small to medium sized companies, this is not an issue. They want reliable and fast file and printer sharing. As long as Internet and e-mail resources are provided, the network is doing its job. Data can always be exchanged between divisions via e-mail, fax and non-electronic methods.
The difficulty that Novell Netware 3.12 is now encountering is that it is no longer an actively supported product. As such, the recent introduction of SATA hard drive technology has thrown it for a loop. Starting in 2005 almost all new file servers from Dell, HP, Compaq and such will use this new drive technology. From a server standpoint it makes sense. It allows the easy connection of multiple hard drives and the activation of raid disk technologies at the flip of a switch.
Novell 3.12 unfortunately, does not have the necessary disk drivers to allow it to work with the newer drive types. Novell has no plans to create these drivers, so that leaves us in a difficult situation. Server upgrades and replacement servers will be limited to those computers still utilizing older technologies. This situation will require a little planning.
The options for file servers and networks come down to the following. We must plan to retain our existing servers and operating systems or we must upgrade them.
If you choose to stay with your existing server / operating system, plans should be made to handle the situation should your existing file server fail. We know that we cannot use a newer model server to replace an existing one. This means that we are limited to an older model of server or a workstation that still utilizes the older drive technologies. At present this limits our options but replacement is still possible.
Older model servers are in limited supply in the used computer marketplace. A new workstation pressed into operation as a server may be the best bet. I have employed good quality workstations over the years with good results. In either case this must still be considered a stop-gap measure as newer technologies are starting to appear in a number of quality workstations as well.
Novell is still a possible server option but it is now so complicated that it requires specially certified technicians to install it.
In smaller networks with up to 10 workstations it is possible to use Windows XP Professional as a basic file server. This works well as long as you do not attach printers to the file server. All versions of Windows designed for workstations do not share files and printers well at the same time.
For more complex networks we are recommending that you migrate to Microsoft Windows Server 2003. This is Microsoft’s most reliable file server product. We have several users converted to this platform with little or no side affects. It does require all workstations to be upgraded to Windows 2000 or Windows XP Professional.