With smaller companies doing business on the Internet, Intel yesterday took the wraps off a new network appliance aimed at that market.

The Intel InBusiness Small Office Network offers small companies broadband access, remote management capabilities and office sharing resources like basic file sharing, print sharing and Internet sharing capabilities.

"This product is provided by Intel to give small business an on-ramp onto the Internet economy," said David Bradshaw, product line manager for Intel's Internet Management and Appliances Division. "We are going into two or three key market places - small businesses, branch and remote offices - because of the remote management capabilities of the Small Office Network."

The company is trying to break into a market where broadband Internet access is becoming a trend among small businesses, Bradshaw added.

The networking appliance comes in two versions, both of which are expected to be available in the UK within the next month.

A closed-box, multi-function appliance, which looks like a mini computer tower, comes with two desktop network interface cards (NICs), one hard drive, analog Internet connection and an eight-port hub that supports fast Ethernet. It is likely to be priced around the £1000 mark.

The other, more advanced version comes with two hard drives (one internal and one for data mirroring), a faster processor and ADSL or ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) capabilities.

Additionally, a company that opts for the ADSL version of the Intel InBusiness Small Office Network can benefit from a second network adapter, which it can connect to an external DSL modem. It will be priced at around £1300.

Both versions can connect up to 25 computers for a network and feature a remote, Web-based tool that will enable service providers to monitor the status of the user company's networking box.

An "appliance monitor" feature sends an email from the end user to the service provider once a month relaying information about the status of the networking box.

From there, the service providers are able to monitor the condition of the box, Bradshaw said.

The small office networking appliance also comes embedded with Microsoft’s Windows for Express Networks operating systems.

Intel's Small Office Network makes it easier to set up a network, said Katrina Dahlquist, senior analyst in enterprise networking at research analyst IDC.

"You don't need a million pieces of equipment. It is all incorporated into one box," she said." Everything is compressed to what a small business needs."

Price wise, the Intel products are significantly cheaper than building a network from scratch, she added.