Getting into the Groove, Part 2: Taking Groove in house

Enlisting an outside service to host your Groove 2007 server certainly has merit, as I discussed previously. But companies with the in-house expertise can reap benefits by running the server themselves. First, you gain greater control over managing the servers, controlling service levels, and handling security. Add to that the flexibility of how you set up your Groove servers, such as deploying them all in one d

Enlisting an outside service to host your Groove 2007 server certainly has merit, as I discussed previously. But companies with the in-house expertise can reap benefits by running the server themselves. First, you gain greater control over managing the servers, controlling service levels, and handling security. Add to that the flexibility of how you set up your Groove servers, such as deploying them all in one datacenter or spreading them out. Finally, you can optimize your machines for behaviors on the network that only in-house experts know to expect.

Essentially, there are three main components in the Groove Server hierarchy that you might install at your organization: Manager, Relay, and Data Bridge. Each has its own functionality and set of requirements that come together to help build out your Groove environment. Let's examine each.

Groove Manager: The Manager contains the Web-based interface that manages all user accounts, policy settings, reports, and so forth. The Manager integrates with your Active Directory (or any other LDAP solution) so that you can add users when you add members to your domain.

Groove Manager grants admins various levels of control, such as the ability to determine which tools are available to specific users. For example, you can ensure your users are all on Groove 2007 Workspace and that everyone is working with the latest implementation of the Files tool. You can also restrict the file types that can be shared within the workspace -- either by using the default list or customizing your own. Further, you have control over security levels, such as the length of passwords and expiration intervals.

Typically, you aren't able to view the data that is passed between members of a workspace. The way Groove is designed, the encryption operates between users of a group. However, you can use an integrated Groove Audit service that allows you to audit your selected workspaces, if necessary. For example, it may be necessary to audit the communications of the team involved in a merger or acquisition.

Groove Relay: Relay ensures communication and collaboration between members of a workspace when several issues impede the process. One of those issues is a network firewall. If two users are members of a workspace within the same subnet (no firewall between), you don't need a server relay. Odds are, however, that users working that close to each other can find other ways to collaborate.

The purpose of Groove being "anywhere" collaboration almost heralds the need for a relay: Users will almost certainly have to go through firewalls to collaborate, or deal with users on different subnets. A relay also keeps offline users in sync by shooting lasting changes to their client when they come online.

One of the benefits to handling your own Relay servers is that you can design your layout to assign specific servers to certain users (based upon location and network bandwidth). You can also structure multirelay servers per user to allow for fail-over in the design of your deployments.

Groove Data Bridge: A Data Bridge is used to connect your Groove clients with enterprise databases (a back-end SQL server, perhaps) and applications. For example, a Data Bridge can help to connect your Groove clients with some of your other servers that might handle files or forms, such as a SharePoint Server. This server is completely optional and one that we didn't see in the Enterprise Services offered by Microsoft.

Groove Data Bridge can be used to maintain central copies of workspaces. Usually this is for two types of scenarios: to centrally manage workspace creation and invitation, or as a backup. As an example of the first scenario, you might set up the automatic creation of workspaces in response to specific activities or events in a departmental server-based system. Custom development, using the Groove Web Services API, is required to do this.

For backup, the Data Bridge server can automatically archive workspaces. This gives you a centralized alternative to having individual workspace members make archives from their PCs. But this cannot back up all workspaces -- only those in which the Data Bridge server is a member. That means that users will need to invite the Data Bridge server into their workspaces -- unless the workspaces were created centrally by a custom application associated with the server.

"It is possible to deploy Groove Data Bridge on-site, while still using Groove Enterprise Services for the Manager and Relay components," says Abbott Lowell, senior product manager on the Office Groove Team at Microsoft. "For example, an organization using Groove Enterprise Services might opt to deploy the Data Bridge in-house for its Archive Service (to create workspace archives)."

So that is your Groove Server lineup. If you need more assistance with Groove, check out the Groove Advisor blog, as well as the Groove Server TechCenter.

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