Review: MindTouch cleverly packs wiki in a virtual appliance

I'd just finished a several-month test of enterprise wiki solutions and was looking forward to exploring new topics. But then MindTouch released a novel version of its Deki enterprise wiki that deserves honorable mention. Deki's been available for some time as a behind-the-firewall hardware appliance called the MindTouch DekiBox. However, this latest version (1.7.1) is a complete pre-installed and configured app

Deki's been available for some time as a behind-the-firewall hardware appliance called the MindTouch DekiBox. However, this latest version (1.7.1) is a complete pre-installed and configured application and Debian Linux OS - a virtual appliance that runs under VMware's free VMware Player on your Windows or Linux server. With today's focus on virtualization to consolidate hardware, this alone should be welcomed by IT managers.

True to MindTouch's promise, the initial configuration required about 15 minutes and was totally hands-off. I was very pleased with the performance of Deki and VMware on my aging Pentium III Dell PowerEdge 1650 server; for example, page updates were saved in about one second. Like other virtual appliances, you can easily move both the application and content from one machine to another - portability that would be important in large organizations when you need to quickly scale up to many users.

Deki has most hallmarks of a business wiki. The intuitive interface helped me immediately create pages, organize them in the hierarchy I wanted, and edit content with the solid rich-text editor. There's the expected text and page formatting options, easy linking to other content, and ability to edit the source HTML code if you want. Deki, additionally, let me quickly attach files and images to pages. There isn't a check-in/check-out option for files. Still, full versioning, revision comparisons, and change notifications are provided for all wiki pages.

While Deki doesn't provide a comment (blog) feature, I found customary wiki collaboration tools, which should not require more than a few minutes' training time for new users to understand. For instance, a click on the toolbar let me decide who could contribute to a particular page. Moreover, pages and sections are available as RSS feeds. I also setup a list of pages to watch for changes. The built-in indexing and search (of pages and attachments) worked very well, too.

Wiki pages are stored in XML format, which should make it easier to tie in with ERP, content management, and other enterprise applications. (An API's available for more elaborate customization needs). Further, users of the paid version can download a Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express Connector, which converts email messages and attachments into wiki pages with one step.

Deki has just the right amount of administration control, which ranges from changing sites' appearances using style sheets to managing users.

In all, I found Deki provides a very agreeable user experience, wiki features that should satisfy many workgroup (and often enterprise-wide) needs, and a forward-looking deployment method.

MindTouch Deki

Availability: Now

Pricing: Free (five-user, unsupported); starts at $995 for supported version with advanced features.

Verdict: MindTouch Deki's packaging as a VMware virtual appliance greatly reduces setup efforts and IT resources, while providing the security of in-house installation. As a business wiki, Deki's also notable, providing easy page setup and editing, multiple collaboration features, and the possibility of integration with other enterprise systems because of its XML underpinning.

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