Enterprise RSS channels your information streams

Attensa, NewsGator, and KnowNow target feeds to knowledge workers

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LiveAdapters, a feature exclusive to ESS, allowed me to connect to databases and other systems that aren’t Web-enabled and turn this important data into RSS feeds. This process takes a few steps but shouldn’t pose a problem for anyone with basic IT skills. Using a separate Web interface, I set up connections to Microsoft SQL databases. Back at the ESS console, I then followed a three-step Method Wizard to add and customize the feeds, such as entering SQL statements that pulled records from my databases and presented them in XML.

KnowNow’s LiveAdapter for Microsoft Exchange works much the same -- turning messages in e-mail or Exchange public folders into feeds. This would be helpful when dealing with contractors or partners who don’t have accounts on your Exchange server.

ESS doesn’t have an Outlook Reader plug-in, but other reader options are workable. SpeedReader -- an AJAX-style Web client -- combines a channel pane, space to manually aggregate items from multiple channels, and a large reading area to view an RSS summary or the article’s complete Web content. In addition, you can set alerts, which will send an SMS text message to your cell phone or a standard e-mail message when a feed is updated.

The companion SpeedWriter adds an extra dimension to ESS; a simple form allows users to create posts to a channel, which the system pushes to all subscribers. This is a great way for enterprises to broadcast important information to all employees or specific groups.

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I also tested the browser toolbar and Windows Deskbar. Both did their job of immediately informing me when new news items were available -- with the Deskbar a bit more convenient because you don’t need to keep a browser open. In both instances, changes I made in one interface -- such as deleting an article -- flowed across to the other readers.

KnowNow isn’t as integrated with Exchange as the other solutions, nor do you get the depth of collaboration functions found in Attensa and NewsGator. But KnowNow ESS is certainly enterprise-qualified. LiveAdapters dig deep into information repositories. Plus, the filtering and feed transformation functions may be more important to some organizations than feed ranking available elsewhere. This system also equals the KnowNow and Attensa solutions on the reporting and administration side.

Tough Choice

I can’t knock any of these solutions. Their designers understand that enterprise RSS is poised to become the focal point employees turn to for information, eclipsing individual aggregators plus systems such as portals, intranets, and enterprise applications.

However, my testing did find differences you should consider. KnowNow is better at getting content out of databases, whereas Attensa has the slickest Outlook Reader. But NewsGator’s broad interfaces, collaboration, and integration with other systems such as Microsoft SharePoint stood out.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Performance (20.0%)
Security (15.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Ease of use (20.0%)
Scalability (15.0%)
Management (20.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Attensa Feed Server 1.1.7 and Attensa for Outlook 2.0 9.0 8.0 8.0 9.0 9.0 8.0 8.6
NewsGator Enterprise Server 1.4.1 9.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 8.0 8.8
KnowNow 3 Enterprise Syndication Solution 8.0 8.0 8.0 9.0 9.0 8.0 8.4

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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