E-mail & groupware

E-mail & groupware<@VM>Want to be connected? These 23 e-mail and groupware products provide collaboration and communications for a variety of OSes

By J.B. Miles

Special to GCN

Defining groupware is slippery business because it's tough to find the common denominators that constitute a category. E-mail is at the core of all groupware, but other features such as workflow, group scheduling, threaded discussions, chat, data conferencing, document management voice conferencing and videoconferencing are usually included in various proportions.

Before the Internet explosion, e-mail was the closest thing to groupware. State-of-the-art client-server e-mail systems such as Lotus cc:Mail sold millions of copies a year along with dial-up e-mail software such as Qualcomm Inc.'s Eudora and dozens of similar products. These products are still useful, of course, provided you don't have to share many different data formats and databases among multiple users involved in related tasks.

But if you do, groupware, also known as teamware or collaboration software, is made for you.

Until recently, groupware had been dominated by large enterprise-level integrated messaging and collaboration systems (IMCSes) capable of bringing powerful sets of features to tens of thousands of users.

Products from the Big 3 groupware vendors listed in the accompanying chart'Lotus Domino and Notes R5, Microsoft Exchange Server 5.5 and Novell GroupWise 5.5'all are all highly scalable products that embrace open standards and browser technology to provide shared services via the Internet or corporate intranets. Together, these three companies' sales account for the lion's share of today's $2 billion-plus groupware market.

But keep your eye on a relatively new category of Web-based teamware products also listed in the chart. Although they are still tiny blips on the radar screen compared with the Big 3, products such as eRoom Technology Inc.'s eRoom 5.0, Sitescape Inc.'s Forum 5.0 and Lotus' own QuickPlace 2.0 are beginning to make waves.

Filling in the gaps

Tips for buyers
''Selecting the best groupware for your office or agency depends on first identifying your requirements.

''Web teamware products can be cost-effective alternatives to enterprise groupware for workgroups and small departments.

''Hosted teamware services are good for some organizations but lack security for mission-critical applications.

''Instant messaging software is realtime e-mail that is not as robust as groupware and teamware.

'Big 3 developers Lotus Development Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Novell Inc. produce the most scalable groupware products.

The products may never compete directly with Domino, Notes, Exchange Server or GroupWise, but they can serve well in niches where enterprise services aren't required. Most of them run under Microsoft Windows 9x and NT, SunSoft Solaris and other versions of Unix, and Linux and use Web browsers to distribute and share data across the Internet or intranets to hundreds or thousands of clients.

Teamware products aren't generally as robust and feature-packed as enterprise IMCS suites, but they don't cost as much either. And, because they are browser-based, they don't require proprietary client operating systems'any system running Windows, Mac OS, Unix or Linux and that has a standard Web browser will do. Best of all, they don't require as much support from information services departments or staff training as do higher-end groupware systems.

Critics grouse that these thin-client packages are mainly for workgroups and small departments, but from what I can see, they provide most of the groupware features required by a majority of users without the cost, overhead and management complexity associated with enterprise systems.

Meanwhile, a fairly new category of hosted messaging and collaboration software is emerging to meet the demand for outsourced groupware services.

Critical Path Inc. has changed its former Netmosphere Inc. Enact 4.2 standalone groupware to one that is bundled with the company's outsourced groupware service. It's priced between $15 and $17 per user.

ERoom Technology sells its eRoom 5.0 groupware either as separate software for $1,000 per server and $199 per seat, or as part of its online eRoom digital workplace for an additional charge.

TeamWave Software Ltd. provides standalone workplace software that installs on any desktop PC and connects to the company's unique online servers.

Other companies not listed in the accompanying chart, such as X-Collaboration Software Corp. of Boston (www.x-collaboration.com), TeamNow Center for Advanced Technology of Lyngby, Denmark, (www.teamnow.com) and Netdocuments Document Services of Orem, Utah, (www.netvoyage.com), offer similar hosted Web collaboration services for e-mail, project and document management, knowledge management and other groupware services.

HotOffice Teamware from HotOffice Technologies Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., (www.hotoffice.com) offers instant online office capabilities. HotOffice users can communicate and collaborate online with colleagues using the company's suite of applications that include document management, contact management, e-mail, group calendar, bulletin boards, online conference rooms and other functions.

What's the hitch to these services? There isn't one, really. Many of these hosted services also offer information storage and high levels of security for a fairly low per-person charge per month.

Where mission-critical activities are concerned, you may prefer to operate your own groupware, but hosted services can be cost-effective for organizations not wishing to undertake the effort and expense of retooling their information systems departments for large-scale group messaging and collaboration efforts.

Let's chat

Instant messaging software might also be listed as groupware, depending on how closely the term is defined.

IM software is an offshoot of e-mail, but adds a real-time framework for online communications. Its strength is in its ability to provide personal, direct and immediate online interactions among communities of group members no matter where they are.

The process doesn't have the time delays of e-mail and telephone answering services. There are both public and private IM services available. Internet portals such as America Online, at www.aol.com, Microsoft Network, at www.msn.com, and Yahoo, at www.yahoo.com, offer free IM software to subscribers. The incentives for offering these freebies are simple: the better the online service, the more subscribers.

PowWow 4.0 IM software from Tribal Voice of Woodland Park, Colo., (www.tribal.com) is free, but there's a $3,995 server license fee per 25 users for its PowWow for Private Networks. Lotus' private IM SameTime 1.5 software is priced at $5,000 per server and $20 per user.

Before buying a groupware package, check out your own requirements, including the types of groups to be served, number of users and the extent to which you will scale your groupware system in the future. The type of system you choose should be investigated and purchased accordingly.

J.B. Miles of Pahoa, Hawaii, writes about communications and computers.

VendorProductDescriptionServer OSClient OSBrowserKey features and modulesPrice
Centrinity Inc.
Markham, Ontario
FirstClass IS Gold 1.0Web communications and collaboration softwareNT, Mac OSWin9x, Win 2000, Mac OSAnyCross-platform use, multiclient log-in, scalability, ease of administration, integrated e-mail, Internet and intranet, collaboration and time-management tools, Palm PDA compatibility, scheduling, planning, organizing, publishing, pager notification$64 per user for 100 users, $45 per user for 1,000 users
Critical Path Inc.
San Jose, Calif.
Enact 4.2Web software for real-time, enterprisewide collaborationSolarisAnyAnyPDA support, support for Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server databases, multiple application programming interfaces, secure firewall accessibility, critical path planning, automatic e-mail notifications$15 to $17 per seat
eRoom Technology Inc.
Cambridge, Mass.
eRoom 5.0Web virtual workplace software for distributed teams and workgroupsNT, Win 2000Win9x, 2000Netscape Navigator and Communicator 3x, 4x; Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.01 or 5.0; Outlook 2000Drag-and-drop file sharing, multithreaded, multitopic discussions, real-time messaging, customizable lists, polling, version control, change notification, routing, access control and security, information retrieval, Office 2000 integration, Web client access, end-user administration$199 per seat, $1,000 per server
Framework Technologies Corp.
Burlington, Mass.
ActiveProject 2000/EWeb project communication softwareNTWin9x, NTInternet Explorer 5.0 or higher, Navigator 4.61 or higherProject-specific extranets, centralized project information access, feedback to all team members, file sharing, issues resolution, automatic document and discussion histories, online reviews, optional access to Framework's professional consulting services$79,995 per server
Fujitsu Software Corp.
San Jose, Calif.
Teamware Office 5.3Modularized groupwareNT, SolarisWin9x, NTAnyMail, Calendar, Library, Forum, Directory modules$3,800 per 400 users
Teamware Office 5.3 for LinuxWeb intranet groupware for small and midsize organizationsLinuxWin9x, NTAnyMail, Calendar, Library, Forum, Directory modules$1,000 per 100 users
InfoImage Inc.
InfoImage freedom 2.0Internet and extranet platform for distributed decision- makingWin9x, NTAny Internet ExplorerScalability to enterprise levels, Vision module for expanding information context, Collaboration Manager module for seamless integration of knowledge and collaboration technologies, Knowledge Maps, Decision Mart, Internet-to Extranet capability$50,000 for first server, $25,000 for additional servers
Inovie Software Inc.
San Diego
TeamCenter 3.0Integrated software for developing Web intranets NT, Solaris, Linux, UnixWin9x, NT, Win 2000, Solaris, Linux, Unix, Mac OSInternet Explorer or Navigator 4.0 or higherExecutive and management overviews, team collaboration, enterprise reporting, document sharing, project management, resource management, cost management, time collection and approval, event notification, user task management $4,995 per 10 users, $35,000 for Enterprise Edition
Santa Clara, Calif.
Corporate Communication Suite 3.5Integrated Web messaging and collaboration software NT, HP-UX, Digital Unix, AIX, Irix, SolarisNNTP-compliant clientsAnyBundled suite of products including Netscape Collabra 3.5, Calendar, Web Server, Certificate Manager, Message Center$44 per seat
Lotus Development Corp.
Cambridge, Mass.
QuickPlace 2.0Web software for ad hoc project collaborationNTWin9x, NT, Win 2000AnyInstant Web workspaces; single secure location for team discussions and documents; assignment, meeting and event tracking; customized forms creation$39 per user, $7,995 per server
Domino R5Integrated messaging and Web application software platform with Mail Server, Application Server and Enterprise Server editionsNT, Win 2000, Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, OS/2, AS/400, S/390, LinuxAny AnyInternet messaging and directories with native MIME, SMTP and Internet addressing; Domino Directory, Assistance and Catalog, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol support; expanded Web application services; distributed application design; Domino Internet Cluster Manager; integration with Microsoft Internet Information Server; transactional logging for continuous online server backup and recovery; Domino AdministratorMail Server: $695 per license Application Server: $1,795 per license Enterprise Server: $4,995 per license
Notes R5Messaging and collaboration software with flagship Notes, iNotes for Web messaging, and Mobile Notes for Palm Computing platforms and SmartPhonesServer-independentAnyAnyE-mail, calendaring, group scheduling, contact management, task management, mobile support, event notificationNotes Client for Collaboration with Domino: $75 per user Notes Client for Messaging: $55 per user iNotes with Domino per Server: $4,995
Microsoft Corp.
Redmond, Wash.
Exchange 2000 ServerMessaging and collaboration software that scales from workgroups to large enterprises and employs a unified messaging and collaboration architectureWin 2000AnyAnyActive Directory integration, Active Directory Connector, storage groups, multiple-message databases, clustering, distributed services, SMTP message routing, native Internet mail content, single-seat administration with Microsoft Management Console, extensible management interface, policy-based administration, system monitoring, use of Win 2000 security, item level security$6,999 per server with 25 user licenses
Exchange 2000 Conferencing ServerWorks with Exchange 2000 Server to bring data, video and voice conferencing across intranets and the InternetWin 2000AnyAnySame$3,999
Exchange Server 5.5Messaging server with collaboration featuresNTAny client OSAnyMicrosoft Exchange Server 5.5, Microsoft Outlook 2000 client, Microsoft Mail Connector, Internet Mail Service, Lotus cc:Mail Connector, Microsoft Exchange Connector, Lotus Notes Connector, Collaboration Data Objects, Internet News Service, Microsoft Visual InterDev, Microsoft Exchange Chat Service$3,549 per server with 25 user licenses
Novell Inc.
Herndon, Va.
GroupWise 5.5Cross-platform collaboration messaging and task management softwareNetWare, NT, UnixWin3.x, 9x, NT, Unix, Mac OSAnyE-mail, fax, document, spreadsheet, image, schedule, discussion and task management; Internet Entrust and PGP security; Universal Mailbox; GroupWise Workflow; GroupWise Imaging Management; GroupWise Monitor; Web document publishing; Conversation Place telephone management; password encryption; document import and export$1,063 per five-user license, $20,240 per 100-user license
On Technology Corp.
Waltham, Mass.
Meeting Maker 6.0Web-enabled, real-time, cross-platform enterprise calendaring and scheduling client-server softwareWin9x, NT, Solaris, Mac OS, HP-UXAny Any browser with Java supportPDA support, interactive Web scheduling, datebook, calendaring and contact and address synchronization$950 per 10 users, $8,500 per 100 users
Planet Intra.com Ltd.
Mountain View, Calif.
Planet Intra 2.4Web-enabled collaboration software with SecureService LAN optionNT, Win 2000, Solaris, LinuxAny Internet Explorer or Navigator 4.0 or higherFull range of collaboration and messaging services with an Internet SecureService option or LAN server option$6 per user per month for SecureService, $3,600 to $8,800 for LAN license
Sitescape Inc.
Wilmington, N.C.
Forum 5.0Web collaboration software for online discussions, document sharing, online chatting, workflow management, scheduling and calendaringNT, Solaris, Red Hat Linux, Compaq Tru64 UnixAny AnyOnline discussion, real-time chats, private team pages, customization menus, document sharing and co-authoring, Web File System, document tracking and notification, e-mail postings and attachments, report writer, calendars, newsgroup feeds, HTML-based templates, attribute forums, automated archiving and backup$6,995 up per server
TeamWave Software Ltd.
Calgary, Alberta
TeamWave.com 4.3Client-server groupware that installs on any desktop and connects to specialized TeamWave serversWin9x, NT, Mac OS, Solaris, LinuxAny AnyShared whiteboard, virtual workgroups, file sharing, URL links$1,499 per server for 50 users
VirtualTek Corp.
Bellevue, Wash.
Joydesk 2.11Web groupware for designing private intranetsNT, LinuxMac OS, LinuxAny browser supporting HTML 3.2 and JavaScriptWeb access, Web-enabled cellular phones, Internet-ready PDAs, POP3 client software such as Outlook or Eudora, VirtualTek hosting option $800 for 20 users, $5,000 for $1,000 users
WTS Systems LLC.
Boulder, Colo.
Infocetera 1.0Web suite of information management toolsWin9x, NT, LinuxAny AnyFlexible directory structure; multiple predefined databases for calendars, to-do lists, timesheets, address book, issues tracking; comprehensive integrated search capacity; bulletin board; flexible security mechanisms; file sharing; Web slide show; personal news desk; open framework architecture$35 per user
Zap Business Communication Systems Inc.
Menlo Park, Calif.
ucOne 1.5Modular Web groupware that combines a scalable messaging system with resource managementNT, Mac OS, LinuxAny Any browser with Java supportWAP-enabled; modules for news, projects, events, profiles, libraries and administrator; Web tracker $100 per 50-user license

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