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Networks may be for sharing, but the format of some resources doesn't make that easy. CD-Roms are designed for single-user access and making them available across a network can be a tricky business that requires a fair bit of technical know-how.

So whether you want to make those CDs for which you hold multiple licences available across the network or just want a library of single-user disks available on the network you have a problem.

Luckily, it is a problem that also has lots of solutions and one of the simplest is the Avantis CD-Rom server.

Setting up the Advantis server on the network is simple - just plug it in, allocate an IP address and it's ready to go. The system comes with web-based software from Open CD which allows the manager to create an "image" of a CD's contents, mount it on the network and arrange a share to any available drive letter.

Copyright can be an issue here and copy-protected CDs don't lend themselves to sharing. Management tools are provided to manage the number of concurrent users (to stay within the terms of the licence for each CD) and to limit the time that is available to each user who accesses the CD(s).

Both the server and Open CD are easy to use and require minimal knowledge of network management. Once set up, the Avantis system behaves as just another device on the network and works with the users and groups already configured - a user that has permission to share a CD simply sees it as a set of files on the server.

The server comes in a range of specifications and the one I tried, with a 16Gb hard drive and which held up to 20 CDs, worked fine.

Avantis CD-Rom server. Prices from pound;895. Avantis (stand F72). www.avantisworld.com

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