Next-Generation P2P Collaboration

 
 
By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2002-05-20
 
 
 

Next-Generation P2P Collaboration


 

Next


-Generation P2P Collaboration">

Groove Workspace 2.0 Professional Edition, the second-generation collaboration client from Groove Networks Inc., equips users with an impressive array of tools for getting group work done over the Internet. In addition, the Groove client boasts enough extensibility to ensure that those tools with which the product does not ship can be created or purchased from one of Grooves solution partners.

As an application that is based on peer-to-peer technology, Groove offers significant benefits over Web browser-based collaboration products—chief among these advantages is support for offline use. Groove can also offer better security than Web-based solutions: Groove traffic is encrypted end-to-end, and collaborators are authenticated with digital signatures. Of course, the P2P model also presents challenges and limitations that dont afflict browser-based products.

Whereas browser-based products are generally usable on any machine with a Java-enabled browser, the Groove application runs only on Windows—leaving potential collaborators who run Mac OS or Linux out in the cold. According to company officials, Groove wont undertake cross-platform ports until enough customers demand it.

In any case, we found a lot to like in Groove 2.0, and we recommend that IT departments charged with expanding their companies collaborative resources take Groove 2.0 for a test drive.

Groove 2.0 Professional, which began shipping last month, is priced at $99 per seat. Groove also offers a Standard version of the product, which costs $49 per seat and lacks some of the Professional versions import, export and customization capabilities. The company offers a free Preview version for a 90-day evaluation, which has most of the features found in the Standard version.

In Groove Workspace, users get work done in shared spaces, which comprise one or more of 17 tools—such as those for discussion, document review or drawing—and the data contained within those tools.

When we created our test spaces, a wizard interface stepped us through the process of selecting appropriate tools, choosing other Groove members to participate and assigning rights for each participant.

Groove now integrates somewhat with certain elements of Microsoft Corp.s Office. For example, we created a new shared space from a message within Outlook, from which we could launch a discussion of the message. We could collaboratively review and edit a Word document that had been attached to the message. While working with that Word document, one user at a time could make edits, taking control via a Groove-specific tool bar. Groove also opened a chat window in which reviewers could discuss their edits.

Groove includes a forms tool that enables collaborators to collect and view data in their shared spaces. Groove contains several form templates, but users can create their own forms as well.

We could search through forms data, but we could not search through documents stored in our shared spaces.

Not 100 Percent P2P

groove workspace isnt "pure" p2p. The system uses servers to relay messages between offline or heavily firewalled users to keep users notified of one anothers presence and to manage users, licenses and security policies, such as enforcing the use of complex passwords. Groove usually hosts these servers itself, but companies with 100 or more Groove seats have the option of purchasing and hosting these servers.

Because nearly all computers have a Web browser, Web-based collaboration applications are generally easy to deploy. As a stand-alone application, however, Groove deployment requires somewhat more attention from IT departments.

In our tests of Groove with Windows XP, we installed Groove as an administrator and ran the program as a regular user. We were annoyed to find that the Groove installation process did not correctly set permissions so that a regular user could run the application. We had to adjust the permissions manually, a requirement we hope to see retired in the next version of Groove. ´

Technical Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com.

Groove Workspace 2


.0 Professional Edition"> Groove Workspace 2.0 Professional Edition

USABILITY Fair
CAPABILITY Good
PERFORMANCE Fair
INTEROPERABILITY Poor
MANAGEABILITY Fair
SCALABILITY Fair
SECURITY Good

Groove Networks Groove Workspace 2.0 Professional Edition P2P collaboration tool can bring Internet-based workgroup activities offline—where Web-based solutions cannot tread. With a large collection of tools for getting collaborative work done and the flexibility to allow companies to create or purchase other, more specialized tools, Groove 2.0 is definitely worth a look.

Cost Analysis

Groove 2.0 comes in $49 Standard and $99 Professional editions. Access to Grooves Web-based management console is included with the purchase. Groove 2.0 includes a great deal of functionality—companies deploying the tool would do well to invest in employee training with the application. Also, as an application that must be installed, configured and supported on end-user machines, Groove carries with it larger support costs than do Web-based products.

(+) Large, useful collaborative tool set; enables users to work offline.

(-) No support for Mac OS or Linux; installation process does not set permissions correctly for Windows 2000 or XP.

Evaluation Short List

•eRoom Technology Inc.s eRoom Version 6

www.groove.net

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