Novell has hit a triple with its NetWare Connect remote communications server. While not quite a home run, the software has an impressive collection of utilities to enable a variety of remote access functions. Although there are many competitors with partial solutions, no single product currently offers the combination of remote communications services present in NetWare Connect. Novell's new product covers three bases: remote dial-in access, shared modem pools for dial-out access, and support for both PC and Mac clients. It is noteworthy in all three areas. First is the way the company has combined the two approaches for remote dial-in access, commonly called remote control and remote node. Remote control means that one PC can take over the keyboard and screen of another, via either LAN links or modems. The advantage of remote control is speed during dial-up links, since little information needs to be transmitted over the link. This method has two disadvantages: First, any files worked on the remote computer must be moved back to the network by a special utility. Second, performance under Microsoft Windows suffers. Products such as Microcom's Carbon Copy (Norwood, MA 617 551 1000) and Symantec's PC/Anywhere (Santa Monica, CA 310 453 4600) are typical of this genre. Remote node extends the LAN cable over the dial-up link and makes using network resources transparent, but slow. Windows works best with this method, but only with the 9600 bps and higher modems. Products of this genre include Shiva's NetModem/E (Burlington, MA 617 270 6300) and Digitial Communications Associates' RLN. (Alpharetta, GA 404 442 4000) Novell supports both methods, so that users no longer have to choose between them. It is the second company to offer such support, with DCA being the first. DCA's RLN supports remote control in conjunction with Citrix Systems Inc.' WinView for Networks (Coral Springs, Fl 305 755 0559). Connect will work with WinView, in addition to other remote control products such as Carbon Copy and PC/Anywhere. Unlike RLN, however, users do not have to load the remote node client to make the initial connection: they can use the client portion of the remote control software of their choice. There are some other differences between RLN and Connect. Novell's product supports X.25 connections, something RLN won't have till later this year. Novell's product runs as a series of NetWare Loadable Modules on either standard NetWare 3.x or 4.x servers, while RLN uses a dedicated DOS machine. Connect works in conjunction with Digiboard (Eden Prarie, MN 612 943 9020) and other multi-port communications hardware, while RLN requires its own communications adapters. RLN will have a nice feature for Windows users included in its next version, scheduled to ship in October. Users can disconnect from networks from within Windows. Connect can do this, but only after first modifying the SYSTEM.INI file. [CHECK] The second series of features includes support for dial-out access from the network using a pool of modems. This means that corporations can leverage their investment in modems across their entire network of users, rather than have a modem at every desk. Novell has sold its Asychronous Communications Server software for sometime that supports this function. This product is being phased out and will be replaced by Connect. What is noteworthy is now the same modems can be shared for both dial-in and dial-out, or dedicated to each task. Network administrators choose the appropriate scenario when the product is installed. DCA's RLN doesn't include support for dial-out, although company representatives plan this support for release next year. Shiva's NetModem/E has long had this feature, albeit for a single modem that is provided as part of the product by Shiva. A separate Shiva product, called LanRover/E, provides the ability to pool other company's modems from a single server. NetWare Connect takes the best from both Shiva products and allows modems to be pooled, sharing the expense of any PC acting as a server, and also supports a variety of modems. The third leg in the Connect product is the ability to support both Macintosh and PC clients for the dial-in portion. Mac clients use Apple's AppleTalk Remote Access (ARA) (Cupertino, CA 408 996 1010), so no additional client software is required. Shiva has a confusing product line with each product providing a portion of the picture: The NetModem/E supports both Mac and PC dial-in clients, but uses its own client software not compatible with ARA. LanRover/L (a different version of the product from the NetWare LanRover/E) does support ARA clients but not NetWare. There are some drawbacks to Connect, especially when compared to the existing products from DCA, Centrum Communications, Inc. (San Jose, CA 408 894 1800) and a new product from Stampede Technologies (Dayton, OH 513 291 5035) called Remote Office. Novell's Connect is exclusively for NetWare servers and clients only, although it does provide for support for IP protocols. RLN and Remote Office will support LAN Manager and Vines networks via the NDIS protocols, and Remote Office also offers native Lantastic support as well.