NetWin’s SurgeFTP could define the word ambivalence. Here we have an FTP server — not exactly an uncrowded category — with sound features and several unique qualities that are wrapped inside packaging so roughshod it’s difficult to take advantage of the product’s good points.
SurgeFTP from NetWin has sound features and several unique qualities. But its rough-hewn packaging may make it a tough sell for the corporate clients it is targeting.
With an asking price of $385 for an unlimited user license, SurgeFTP exhibits ambitions for a corporate environment, considering the large number of low-cost, high-quality FTP servers now available. Unfortunately, it is just this audience that may be put off the most by NetWin’s rough-hewn packaging.
SurgeFTP is a small download, nearly half a megabyte in size. It’s especially encouraging to see the server available for both Windows and Linux (and soon Sun) platforms. This is a smart move, as networks are becoming more heterogeneous, and servers in particular are commonly found on both types of platforms these days.
One of the factors constraining many products to a single platform is the GUI. In this sense, NetWin has made another wise decision and built a Web-based administration interface for SurgeFTP, rather than an OS-dependent interface. Besides allowing for multiplatform support, Web-based interfaces make it easy to support remote administration, another key feature sure to please any network admin, especially those overseeing large network environments.
SurgeFTP continues its light-footed theme through the installation, eating only 230 KB of disk space on a Windows installation, with the server itself occupying a razor thin 100 KB of memory. Unfortunately, the install process on Windows is not a standard system install. A DOS shell is launched, and SurgeFTP prompts for installation paths from DOS. Once SurgeFTP is installed and launched, the shell is left behind as a zombie, to be closed by the user. While functionally problem-free, this initial first impression of SurgeFTP raised an eyebrow or two.
Your eyebrows may well stay raised as you peruse SurgeFTP’s documentation or help files. These are Web pages, rendered in a very nonprofessional style and written with a breezy, concise feel, without a lot of attention to detail (e.g., they refer to the product itself as “SurftFTP” on one page). One does get the sense that whomever wrote the documentation did know his or her stuff but not necessarily how to communicate it effectively to a user. For an allegedly $385 product, the support documentation falls well short of acceptable.
SurgeFTP’s Web-based administration interface is functional but sparse. Once again, it lacks a professional feel, but admittedly, the necessary functions are there. Configuring an FTP server is not the most intensive network administration job, and it is relatively easy to configure user classes, server messages, and block filters from this interface. For any given class of users the sys admin can constrain behavior to limit throughput, connections, idle time, and even block out specific files from an otherwise open directory. At its core, this multithreaded server performs well under heavy loads, and provides connection reporting, logging, and graphing tools easily accessible from its Web interface.
In the end, SurgeFTP is a paradox: an FTP server with a good heart that functions well with a strong feature set and is boosted by multiplatform support and remote administration. Yet, its shoddy look and feel, and subpar documentation, will likely make it very difficult for NetWin to justify the asking price for the corporate audience, considering the less-expensive and equally effective alternatives on the market.
Pros: Tiny footprint, Multithreaded, Multiplatform, Remote administration interface
Cons: Amateur styling and support in no way justifies the corporate-level price tag
Version Reviewed: 2.0a
Reviewed by: Aaron Weiss
Last Updated: 4/11/01
Date of Original Review: 4/11/01