Share360: Top-Notch Integration for a Bargain Price
Groupware covers a wide gamut of products, from integrated suites like Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes to inexpensive but separate products. Share360, from Cybozu Corp., provides more integrated collaboration applications than some of the much more expensive integrated suites at a price closer to typical stand-alone Linux server applications.
Share360 uses a Web server to provide scheduling, e-mail, to-do list, whereabouts application, address book, bulletin board, discussions, memos, file cabinet, project planning, and Web form functionality. A separate synchronization application can transfer data to Palm PDAs. The suite is accessible through a Web browser, so no client software is necessary.
The Share360 suite runs on Linux, FreeBSD, Windows 98, NT Workstation or Server, Windows 2000 Professional or Server, and Windows XP. The Web server can be IIS, Peer Web Services for NT, Personal Web Server 4.0 for Windows 98, Apache 1.1 or later, or the Share360 Cybozu Web server.
Share360 is reasonably priced for what it offers. The Standard Suite is $898 for 10 users and $1,298 for the Complete Version, which includes Web forms and the project planner. The maximum cost is $8,998 for unlimited users on the Standard Suite, and $14,998 for unlimited users on the Complete Version.
For the unfamiliar, these prices are about half of that of Exchange, which comes with fewer integrated applications, a much more complex client install, and more expensive requirements for the server hardware and operating system.
The setup is quite simple. The 2.7 MB file is downloaded and run, and as long as a Web server is already running the installation is quite straightforward. The Standard downloadable version offers a 60-day trial -- the registration code can be entered at any time. The server can run on a Linux box, a Windows 98 system, or NT, 2000 or XP workstation or server. An administrator considering a large installation probably would not use Windows 98, but on a testbed or small network it will likely run fine. The minimum hardware requirement for Share360 is a Pentium 90 with 32 MB of RAM and 25 MB of hard disk space.
Once the server is installed, any Internet Explorer 4.0 or later, or Netscape 4.0 or later browser can be used to access the suite. The default URL is "http://hostname/scripts/s360/office.exe?", but this can be changed as desired and a link can be created on the home page of the Web server.
Not surprisingly, administering Share 360 is straightforward. Adding users and groups, configuring the e-mail server and accounts, designating managers and controlling who can make changes to forms, schedules and so forth, is all easy to do, although the granularity of security control and setting of permissions is not as fine as in some other suites.
The applications are all readily available, and the interface is clear and simple. The applications are not incredibly feature-rich, programmable, or extensible, but they should be adequate for most users. In fact, the wide array of collaboration applications may be more satisfying to many users than the more limited capabilities of some of the better-known suites.
For example, with the Web forms tool users can create forms, such as expense reports, engineering change orders, and purchase orders, which must be passed through an approval cycle. The form can include a list of users who have to approve the form, append files and text boxes, and so on. The project application provides project planning functionality, including time lines and sub-projects. While Share360 does not offer all the functionality of stand-alone commercial programs, it should be enough for most projects.
The file cabinet provides file server type functionality, storing files and folders. But it also includes version control and logging/tracking functions. The scheduler allows sending meeting invitations to other users. The whereabouts application has both an in/out board function and a time sheet function. The bulletin board allows posting notices that everyone in the company or specific groups will see, and the discussions application provides internal news groups. The address book, to-do list, memos, and mail applications provide good functionality and simple interfaces. The e-mail software includes both SMTP and POP3 server capability.
The weakest point of the Share360 suite is its documentation. The only way to view the complete manuals is on the Cybozu Web site. There are basic help pages in the product, but for detailed help, the online manual is the only resource, and it cannot be downloaded to a local server or printed out. On the other hand, customer support is responsive and free by both phone and e-mail.
Pros: Extensive suite of collaboration applications;
Inexpensive, both for the software and the required server hardware and OS;
Simple client install requiring only a browser
Cons: The only way to view the complete manuals is via the Web site
Reviewed By: Logan Harbaugh
Original Review Date: 9/27/2002