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Enterprise tool turns the online craze into a collaboration platform

Collaboration tools can benefit almost any organization. But what can you do if your users are spread far and wide and are not all techies?

TeamPage 3.6 from Traction Software may provide the answer. Technically, TeamPage is enterprise-level blogging software. Blogs, short for Web logs, are amateur news and feature sites where a single author reports on events of the day to either inform or entertain an audience. It is a one-to-many broadcast format in its most popular form.

But TeamPage puts your entire organization into the content-sharing mix. The end user does not have to be technically savvy to use TeamPage.

The software is a bit expensive. It starts at $4,995 for 15 named users, though government agencies can expect to pay about half that price. Only named users can modify data, though an unlimited number of visitors can look at the information.

Levels of access

The real value of TeamPage is that anyone'from your security guards to your database engineers'can use the system, but each interacts with TeamPage at a different level. Once users log in, they can view, edit, erase or reclassify information based on their permission level. Some users may only be able to read the data and perhaps respond to it, for example, while others may be able to create topics and post new content.

Content is managed by a system administrator responsible for setting up groups and forum areas, which the software calls projects. Users can be given a lot of authority over who can read the information they post. For example, an administrator who wants to comment on ways to lock down servers to increase protection against a new virus could make it so only other administrators could read that post. Anyone else looking at the page would see other comments, but it would be as if the ones they lacked permission to read didn't exist.

You can also configure the system to run dynamically, targeting automatically generated newsletters to particular workers even if they aren't logged in. For example, you could have all security-related news generated by the system sent each week to your security guards, while accountants got a separate newsletter on financial or budget issues. As with the blogs themselves, newsletters only go to people who are allowed to see the content.

The newsletter feature, and in fact the entire TeamPage system, uses the Atom and Really Simple Syndication (RSS) formats. This means users can configure the system to provide Extensible Markup Language summaries of articles, news and other updates. Subscribers view the summaries and visit the main TeamPage if the summary interests them. You host all your graphics and dynamic links from the main Web page. The newsletter component to TeamPage can pull the Web page with its suite of graphics and charts into a PDF file and send it to users if they prefer that format to standard HTML e-mail.

Advanced users can use TeamPage with Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning, a protocol for making Web pages readable and writeable. Using WebDAV, we created several shared folders where we could upload files and drop them into the system for everyone to view.

You can also add Lightweight Directory Access Protocol security, although we used a normal Active Directory system and it worked just fine.

There is also a built-in search engine. Users can look for topics or roll back the calendar to see what was posted on specific days.

The system is easy to use and could be extremely helpful in any environment where distance or culture prevents one hand from knowing what the other is doing. And though it sounds complex for the administrator, we were able to get up to speed with a one-day training session.

TeamPage runs on a variety of server operating systems, including Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 and higher, Red Hat Linux or equivalent, Sun Solaris and Mac OS X 10.2 or later. It's also flexible on the client side. Users can access the application from Internet Explorer, FireFox, Mozilla, Opera, and from mobile browsers such as AvantGo and the Symbian version of Opera. According to the company, a typical configuration can support up to 500 users.

In short, TeamPage is a fairly powerful collaboration platform built around a popular new syndication technology. With its authentication and encryption capabilities, it could find its way into agencies looking to share informationmore easily.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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