The InterSeptor is a small black box with an Ethernet connector and two ports into each of which a remote sensor can be plugged. The remote sensors are roughly half the size of the average PC mouse. Each has a port for connecting to the InterSeptor box and a pair of connectors into which you can link on/off devices, such as door or window switches. Power to the sensor is provided via the cable that links it to the control unit and a little green LED shows that everything is working (as well as flashing when a data sample is being taken).

To configure the unit, you connect one of the sensor ports to the COM port of a PC and use the simple text-based user interface to give it an IP address (though it'll happily acquire an address via BOOTP/DHCP if you wish). Once it's established on the IP network, you can carry on configuring through the serial port, if you wish, but it's a lot easier to simply point a Web browser at it and set up the remainder of the features that way.

Unsurprisingly, the Web GUI enables you to configure the sensors that are attached to the unit and to watch how they are behaving. Each sensor has four parameters – temperature, humidity and the two external switch connections – and for each one you can define what is normal behaviour and what you want to be alerted to. So, for instance, you can define a temperature range outside which the unit should flag an alert or you can set each of the switch ports to be either "normally open" or "normally closed". The temperature and humidity controls have two levels of alert, incidentally, "warning" and "critical".

Once you've set up the sensor thresholds, you can configure the management side of the unit. If you want to restrict management GUI access to certain IP ranges then that's a very straightforward process. Notice that there are two levels of management privilege – public and private – which permit read-only and read-write access respectively to the admin facilities. As with most devices of this type, the unit can be told to send SNMP traps to a remote management station, as well as emailing one or more people in the event of an alert. Traps and alert emails are split into three levels: informational (regular reporting such as daily stats); warnings (when "warning" thresholds are breached) and severe (when a "critical" threshold is breached). You can send different levels to different destinations should you so wish.

Although the GUI provides tables of statistics and some basic real-time stats, the best way to view this information is via the selection of Java-based tools that come with the unit. Launching these graphical widgets is just a case of clicking a link. You can choose between a "dashboard" showing the current state and a line graph that shows the history of conditions. With the latter, you can select and deselect the items that you want to see on the current view, so if it's a bit cluttered you can simply turn off the stuff that you're not so interested in.

The InterSeptor is a very attractive and usable tool. Anyone familiar with TechWorld will know that we rave about the NetBotz range of environmental monitoring tools but the latter live in a much higher, more expensive part of the market from the InterSeptor and thus shouldn't really be regarded as competition.

The InterSeptor provides useful, mainstream functionality at a price that you really can't argue with and with a competently implemented and attractive user interface and monitoring suite. Don't forget that the inclusion of the external switch device connection ports allows you to wire in any third-party external device you can find that exhibits its output as a simple make/break action.

OUR VERDICT

Remember you're limited to two sensors per InterSeptor, but that you have the two external contact ports through which you should be able to integrate additional on/off sensors such as water or smoke detectors.