PlaceWare, eRoom Roll Out Collaboration Wares

PlaceWare and eRoom have enhanced their respective online collaboration software platforms, addressing some familiar enterprise computing concerns – security, business process automation and application integration.

PlaceWare Inc. and eRoom Technology Inc. have enhanced their respective online collaboration software platforms, addressing some familiar enterprise computing concerns –security, business process automation and application integration.

PlaceWare later this month will announce a new secure architecture known as iVault for its communications and collaboration platform. eRoom is adding support for cross-enterprise business processes, integration with other customer applications and real-time capabilities to an upgrade of its namesake collaboration platform, which will be announced next week.

PlaceWares iVault architecture adds to the existing security capabilities of the Mountain View, Calif. companys hosted meeting services, used for Web meetings and online presentations. These enhancements include customizable authentication policies for controlling access, seven layers of data security for all stored data, and 128-bit RC4 SSL encryption.

The Siemens Energy and Automation division of Siemens AG uses PlaceWare for internal meetings, employee training and marketing presentations. Mike Petefish, manager of sales and distributor training at the division, said the most important aspects of security for PlaceWare are the processes put in place by whoevers conducting the meeting. But iVault should provide benefits as well.

"Collaborative meetings security is only as good as the processes put in place by whoevers conducting the meeting. But its important from the users standpoint to know that there are no security breaches on the suppliers side, the things you have no control over," said Petefish, in Alpharetta, Ga.

The iVault architecture also adds an enhanced fault tolerant system design, fail-safe backup hardware and software, and advanced load balancing technology, PlaceWare officials said.

Separately, eRoom, of Cambridge, Mass., is enhancing its licensed software offering, which provides so-called "digital workspaces" where employees can collaborate with each other or with partners and customers.

eRoom 6.0 adds application templates to help users deploy business process based on best practices. Those business processes – which include proposal development, change order management and budget planning, are focused on the companys five key verticals: manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, professional services, government and financial services.

The new release also supports multi-step approval processes to simplify project management and speed decision-making, eRoom officials said.

That technology figures to be a benefit to executive search firm Egon Zehnder International, which uses eRoom as a collaboration and knowledge-sharing tool to bring together its 51 offices in 38 countries.

"In our line of business, knowledge management means people and processes as much as technology," said Jon Amsler, head of global knowledge management at the companys Atlanta office.

Amsler said the new business processes and approvals management support should allow his company to use eRoom as a project management tool, something that the company has found costly and difficult to deploy in the past.

"Everything we do is structured on a project basis, but in the past weve struggled with using the tools to manage projects easily," Amsler said. eRoom "has simplified the workflow and processes, which should pay huge dividends for us. We can build workflows and integrate them with the [Microsoft Corp.] Exchange task lists, which should speed up the business processes and make sure everyone follows their tasks."

Amsler said eRoom 6.0 invokes the 80-20 rule: providing 80 percent of the function of a project management tool at 20 percent of the cost.

"The vast majority of our people will do just fine with that."

Version 6.0 supports both real-time and asynchronous collaboration. The Real-Time Server previously shipped as a separate product.

"Integrating the Real-Time Server makes it a lot easier—and affordable—than buying two separate products," said Amsler.

This version, due by the end of March, also boasts native support for XML, to allow eRoom to exchange data with other business applications and Simple Object Access Protocol and Web Services Description Language to allow organizations to deploy eRoom capabilities as a Web service, accessible from a program running on other Microsoft .Net clients or servers.

Lastly, eRoom 6.0 supports Windows clustering services to switch to a backup server in case of hardware failure.

Pricing for eRoom 6.0 is $16,995 per server plus $249 per end-user license. PlaceWare with encryption is $200 per month. Without encryption, pricing ranges from $100 to $150 per month.