Well-established groupware server with enhanced Internet capabilities
June 5, 2002
With enhanced Internet connectivity and availability on a wide variety of platforms, Novell's GroupWise 5.5 -- one of the pioneers of the groupware field -- gets a long-anticipated facelift and becomes a strong contender for the collaborative tool of choice in the Internet world.
In this review, we'll focus on the server side of the equation, although the GroupWise client has also been improved in version 5.5. One area that has improved on both sides of the client/server equation is enhanced connectivity to the Internet. For system administrators, it's now much easier to connect a GroupWise server to a standard Internet mail transfer agent. A wider variety of protocols are supported: POP3, IMAP4, Novell's NDS directory services and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP).
For users, enhanced Internet connectivity means that you can directly enter Internet SMTP mail addresses directly into outgoing mail, instead of using the previous method of proprietary e-mail addressing (internet:firstname.lastname@example.org). It also means that GroupWise users can use a Web browser to remotely access their electronic mail via the Internet; in cases where security is an issue, this remote access can take place via an encrypted connection with the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).
The GroupWise Web Publisher is used to publish documents to GroupWise document repositories via a Web browser. Noteworthy is the ability to translate documents from a proprietary document format (like Excel or Word) to HTML on the fly, without the user needing to explicitly translate the document. There is one important limitation, though -- a UNIX Web server can be used to access documents, but the translation capabilities can take place only on Windows and NetWare operating systems.
Another important feature on the server side is advanced document management. GroupWise features full indexing of documents -- which is not necessarily unique in the groupware field -- and also features a unique capability, Dynamic References, that automatically attaches a referenced document to e-mail messages sent outside the GroupWise environment.
In some ways, GroupWise is a product in flux. It was in beta testing for most of 1998, and product development is still very active, as UNIX versions of GroupWise on both the client and server sides are promised but not yet available. (Currently the GroupWise server software is available only on NetWare and Windows NT.) A UNIX version of GroupWise on the server side would be a great addition to any high-end Web site that wants to provide collaborative tools to a large number of users. Currently, there are few choices available for this other than Lotus Domino; as a result, Domino tends to be the choice by default.
Two other tools in GroupWise that have been enhanced with Internet connectivity in version 5.5 are the calendaring and scheduling capabilities. Collaboration using these tools can now be performed via the Internet, with approved users able to search and browse another user's calendar and make suggestions for meeting times. Additionally, documents can be synchronized between office and home machines with the Document Echoing capabilities.
Overall, GroupWise is a powerful collaborative tool that covers many bases for groupware computing. System administrators working on NetWare networks will almost certainly want to give it a look, as will Windows NT sys admins.
Pros: 7 Support for a wide variety of protocols (IMAP4, POP3, LDAP, NDS), 7 Easy to connect to existing Internet system, 7 Client side gives users wide range of Internet tools
Cons: 7 No Unix version (yet), 7 No downloadable evaluation available