Collaboration

Using Novell's Net Publisher

Novell has released Net Publisher, which enables you to use your NetWare server to share files in a more useful fashion than ever before. In this Daily Drill Down, Eric Toll gives you the scoop.


As you know, NetWare is popular for file and print sharing. In the good old days, that meant placing a file on a central server where everyone could access and print it. But you’re probably sharing your files in ways you never thought possible before. Perhaps you’ve been trying to figure out how to leverage your network so that your users can collaborate more efficiently.

Well, Novell can help. It recently released Net Publisher, which allows you to use your NetWare server to share files in a more useful fashion than before. In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll show you what Net Publisher can do, how it works, and how you get it up and running.

What is Net Publisher?
As you’re probably aware, Internet hard drives are one of the most popular new tools on the Internet. These are Web servers that allow you to store files on the Internet and access them from any Web browser. Novell Net Publisher enables people to share and upload documents on the Web via a secure Web browser, such as Netscape 4.x or Internet Explorer 5.x, essentially creating an Internet hard drive using NetWare.

You can set up Net Publisher to access files like sales quotes or financial spreadsheets securely via SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), as shown in Figure A. Using Net Publisher reduces your costs and makes your files accessible to any authorized user who has a browser and an Internet connection. You no longer have to publish your documents to the intranet or Internet.

Figure A
Users can log into your NetWare server using SSL, as indicated by the lock icon in the lower-left corner of the screen.


One of the newest features of Office 2000 is the Web folder. With Web folders, you can treat locations and documents on the Web as if they were on your local area network (LAN). Net Publisher lets you use Web folders on your NetWare server in conjunction with Office 2000 and Internet Explorer 5.

You can also use Net Publisher to build and update a company Web site or intranet. For example, let’s say you have several authors and users who are creating Web content from a common template. They sign into Net Publisher and route the document to their manager. The managers approve and publish the Web content live. Then the root manager combines the different documents into the Web site. Such a procedure makes it so much easier to build huge, complex sites.

Figure B illustrates the capabilities of the client. All the buttons are logical and easy to use. To give users access to one or more Web folders, click the Folder Properties link and then click on the Address Book List. When the list of all your NDS users and customers appears, you can grant access to the folders and documents of your choice. At the document level, you may assign your users Read Only or Full Access privileges. At this point, the documents are just “works in progress” and not published to a Web site.

Figure B
You can grant access to users here.


There are several key benefits to using Net Publisher. Some of them are:
  • Easy centralized management—IT staff and power users can administer the process of collecting and sharing this information from one central point. Centralized management means that the solution must be directory enabled, so Net Publisher relies on NDS to accomplish this.
  • Documents automatically routed for approval—You can set up the system so that a manager must approve documents before they are published. This gives the manager a chance to check the accuracy and correctness of business information.
  • Support for native file formats—Net Publisher can accept file formats in their native application format, so you can let your users work in the same apps they are accustomed to using. The indexer/converter transparently converts the documents to HTML.
  • Cross-platform Web publishing solution—Net Publisher is designed to run in today’s mixed environments: NetWare, Microsoft Windows NT, and UNIX. It also supports and augments Office 2000 Web publishing capabilities.
  • Easy to use—Net Publisher was designed with nontechnical businesspeople in mind. Anyone with a browser and a word processor can create and publish business documents on an internal or external Web site. As I mentioned before, Net Publisher dynamically and automatically converts the file into HTML.
  • Secure access—Net Publisher uses NDS for account access, which means you don’t have to maintain a separate security database. It also can use 128-bit SSL to encrypt and protect the information in transit to its destination.

How does Net Publisher work?
In a nutshell, Net Publisher employs Java applets and servlets, for both the client and server. The client-side Java is actually the application that loads into your Web browser when you access the Net Publisher URL. The server-side Java applet processes all the information and allows the routing and sharing functions to take place from within the Web server itself.

Net Publisher users can’t access any of the files on other NetWare servers, because Net Publisher uses its own “store.” This store is basically a few gigabytes of hard drive space you set aside on the server to be used by Net Publisher users. As far as your NDS goes, you don’t have to worry—when a user types a password in the Net Publisher login screen, that request is passed to the LDAP agent, which then is passed to NDS. By using LDAP access to NDS, Net Publisher can verify that the user is indeed valid.

Getting it up and running
Net Publisher should reside on its own server. For the purpose of illustration, I chose to use a single NetWare 5.0 SP4 server running all the required components: PKI, Netscape Enterprise Server for NetWare with SSL, NDS, LDAP Net Publisher NLMs, and Java. As an alternative, you could use one NetWare box and set up the Web server to run on a different server, be it UNIX or NT.
You can also run Net Publisher on top of NetWare 5.1. However, if you choose this route, be sure you don’t install the NetWare Management Portal or the GroupWise 5.5 Web access interface, because they compete to be the default hook into the Netscape Web server for NetWare.
According to Novell, the minimum requirements for your Net Publisher server are:
  • Pentium CPU running at least 120 MHz
  • 128 MB of RAM
  • Network Interface Card (NIC)
  • CD-ROM
  • 1-GB or more hard disk
  • NetWare 5.x

Of course, Net Publisher will work better on a server that has quad Xeons and 2 GB of RAM. Please try not to skimp on RAM. If you have extra RAM, you’ll be able to use the NetWare server for other services in addition to Net Publisher. Also, purchase a good box, because it will be outdated in as little as four years.

Although the minimum requirements specify only a single NIC, the server should have two NICs. One will typically have a public Internet TCP/IP address, which will give users access to the Net Publisher system. The other should have IPX enabled so that it can securely communicate with the rest of your NDS tree or an internal IP address. You’ll also need a DNS host name from your ISP and the IP address of one or more name server resolvers.

New server in the tree?
Naturally, before you can install Net Publisher, you must have NetWare 5 or 5.1 loaded on your server. You should also make sure you have the latest support pack installed before you begin loading Net Publisher.

If you are going to install a NetWare 5 server into your existing NDS tree, you must plan carefully. If it’s your first NetWare 5 server, you’ll need to update the NDS and apply support packs to your existing 4.x servers. That way, they will be ready to see and integrate with NetWare 5.

Cryptography
Net Publisher offers you secure access, and to accomplish this, it depends on PKI services. After patching your server with the latest support pack, take a peek and see if PKI is alive. From the console, type modules p*. If PKI Services shows up as a successfully loaded NLM, you can skip to the next section of this Daily Drill Down. If PKI is not listed, fear not—just do the following:
  1. Down the server.
  2. From the C:\NWSERVER prompt, type dir *.xlm.
  3. Look for the lines novxeng.xlm and either domxeng.xlm or expeng.xlm. (These are basic cryptography engines, domestic and export grade.) You’ll have either DOMXENG.NLM or EXPENG.XLM, depending on whether you live in the United States. No matter where you are, you’ll have the NOVXENG.XLM file.
  4. Rename the NOVXENG.XLM file to NOVXENG.OLD.
  5. Copy the DOMXENG.XLM or EXPENG.XLM file to NOVXENG.XLM (i.e., copy domxeng.xlm novxeng.xlm).
  6. Restart your server and again type modules p* at the display prompt.

PKI.NLM should now display as a loaded module. If PKI Services do not appear, try installing the latest version of NICI and consult Novell’s Web site for more troubleshooting information.

To DNS or not to DNS
If you’d like to use a DNS host name to access your Net Publisher server—and most people will—you’ll need to add some information to the TCP/IP stack on your server. If you don’t, your users will be forced to enter your server’s IP address, and when you finish installing and configuring Net Publisher and Netscape Enterprise Server, you’ll have to reference the server by number exclusively. Although this method will work, it isn’t a very friendly way to address the server.

To configure DNS, load Inetcfg at your server’s console prompt. Select Protocols, followed by TCPIP and DNS Resolver Config. Input the DNS name of your server (i.e., hostname.company.com) and put in the addresses of your name server resolvers.

Installing Net Publisher
After your server is freshly patched and booted, install the Novell Netscape Enterprise Server for NetWare 4 and 5 (NES). Net Publisher needs a Web server to run on top of. If you don’t have NES and don’t want to spend a lot of time downloading it from Novell’s Web site, you can find it on the Net Publisher CD. It also comes with NetWare 5.1.

Once NES is installed, you are ready to run the Net Publisher installation from a Microsoft client PC (95/98/NT). Be sure you’re logged in with full admin rights. The Net Publisher Installation Advisor will help you install and configure Net Publisher as well as the required programs and modules needed to support Net Publisher.

The first components to get installed are the JVM (Java Virtual Machine) and the Novell Servlet Gateway. You can install the Servlet Gateway on a different server, but for this example, let’s install it on top of Netscape Enterprise Server for NetWare. If you’ve previously installed NetWare’s JVM or Servlet Gateway, you can just deselect that option in the Select Installation Tasks dialog box.

If you want to install the JVM and Servlet Gateway, be sure to have a drive mapped to the correct volume and enter the full path to the server (\NOVONYX\SUITESPOT). It will ask you to replace the Servlet Gateway and the JVM if they already exist on the server. Click Yes to update both of them. You’ll then need to restart the server and test the capability of the servlet and JVM running on top of the Web server. To do so, enter the IP address or server name and click the Test button. A SnoopServlet information screen should appear. If you don’t have ConsoleOne installed, do so now, because you need it to administer the Net Publisher system. There is currently no Net Publisher Snap-In for NWAdmin32.

Enough with the prerequisites—let’s get on with it already
When you click Install, ConsoleOne will launch, and you will be prompted for the server and volume where you want to install Net Publisher, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C
Choose where you want to install ConsoleOne.


You must also supply a directory. Although Novell provides a default directory, you can choose to install Net Publisher to a different directory if you want. Just make sure you install it to a directory by itself.

Now enter either the IP address or DNS Host Name in the space provided, as shown in Figure D. The Web server communication port should be 80, which is the default. I used port 443, which is the port that runs in secure mode https:// (SSL). You can choose the name of the server if you like.

Figure D
Select the name and port for your Web server from ConsoleOne.


Click Next again to define the Net Publisher Store Object. In the resulting dialog box, shown in Figure E, you can define where your published documents will go. In a production environment, you’d point to your production Web server for publishing.

Figure E
In this dialog box, you’ll define where your published documents will go.


The next step is to set up users who are allowed to access and use the Net Publisher application. Choose the administrator carefully. You can create more administrators later using ConsoleOne.

For example, you can grant access to the Everyone group and then define the default approval model of your Net Publisher system. The approval model is inherited by all subfolders in the system by default, but it can be changed on a per-folder level as required. You can be strict here and tightly control the process; however, someone must accept and process user requests in order for information to flow. I set it up so that permission is required to publish documents to the Web.

After you create your approval model, you can define which users you want to have access to the root folder of the Net Publisher store. Users can fall into one of several different roles:
  • Folder Viewers—Able to view files and their properties.
  • Folder Contributors—Allowed to view, add, and copy files to other folders where they have rights.
  • Folder Managers—Have full access to files and folders and can delete files, create new folders, define rights, and change approval processes.
  • File Editors—Can be created on a per-file basis and are therefore not defined here.
  • Editors—Have viewer rights, plus rights to edit and publish files.

Next, you must validate the information for the indexer/converter. The indexer/converter allows you to perform full-text searches on documents in Net Publisher. With the converter, you can also view files and store published files in HTML format, even though users edited and saved the documents in a different file format. Finally, you need to create an NDS user account (or verify that you have an existing account) for the Net Publisher Server. The account must provide default trustee rights to the containers where the Net Publisher server, Store, and indexer/converter objects reside and where users reside who need access to Net Publisher. The account must also be accessible to the LDAP server.

Conclusion
To take better advantage of the Internet today, you need a product like Net Publisher that reduces costs and empowers users. There really isn’t anything else on the market that can be compared to Net Publisher—it’s a unique offering that can be a real help to your company’s accessibility and organization needs.

Eric Toll is a Certified NetWare Engineer for NetWare 5 and an IBM Certified Technical Solutions Specialist and e-Business Application Architect for IBM’s AS/400 product line. He is corporate IT manager for Panthus Corporation in Syracuse, NY, writes for Network Computing Magazine, and has enjoyed working with ever-changing technology since he began doing networking in the late 1980s. Send him your comments.

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

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