Groove upgrades collaboration suite

Users have greater access to e-mail and calendar items

Groove Networks Wednesday announced an upgraded version of its collaboration platform that gives users broader access to e-mail and calendar items and gives network executives more tools to manage Groove users' profiles and bandwidth consumption.

For end users' convenience, Groove Workspace 2.5 features tighter integration with Microsoft Outlook and new tools for working with Microsoft's collaboration suite, SharePoint Team Services.

In the old version, users working within the Microsoft Outlook client could forward e-mail messages and attachments to create a new collaborative workspace in Groove. In version 2.5, users can now forward Outlook messages and attachments to existing Groove workspaces as well.

Users also can now swap calendar items, so they don't have to maintain separate scheduling applications. The standard edition of Groove Workspace 2.5 lets users send Outlook calendar entries to Groove project calendars. The professional version adds the ability to do the reverse: Users can publish Groove calendar entries to their Outlook calendars.

"People live in their Outlook calendars," says Donna Carvalho, senior product manager for Groove Workspace. This integration between the two programs lets users see their Groove schedules from within the same calendar they always use, she says. If a Groove calendar entry is modified, the software automatically sends the revised schedule information to Outlook.

Also new to the suite is Groove Mobile Workspace for Microsoft SharePoint. This add-on is aimed at companies that have deployed Microsoft's collaboration platform. It gives these users offline access to SharePoint data, and a means to work with users who reside outside company firewalls. SharePoint is designed for internal corporate users who have Web access; typically, SharePoint users can't work offline or share information across corporate boundaries, Carvalho says.

Groove Mobile Workspace for Microsoft SharePoint allows users to move their SharePoint data into a Groove workspace. It also provides synchronization capabilities so that data that's been added on the SharePoint side will be automatically added to the Groove workspace, and vice versa.

New file-sharing features improve performance by giving users greater control over what files they receive, and when, Carvalho says. With the old version, if someone put a file in a shared workspace, everyone in the workspace would receive a copy of the file -- whether they needed it or not. With version 2.5, users receive a message with a link when a person posts a file; they can choose to download the file or not, Carvalho says.

For IT administrators, Groove Workspace 2.5 includes enhancements to Groove's Enterprise Server family of products.

One upgrade pertains to synchronization with LDAP, Active Directory and Lotus Notes directories. In the past, administrators could generate Groove identities from their existing directory system. Version 2.5 adds the ability for administrators to designate their LDAP, Active Directory or Notes directory as a master, so that any changes made to the master directory -- a name or address change, for example -- will be passed automatically to Groove Workspace.

New bandwidth controls let administrators centrally monitor and limit Groove users' bandwidth usage. On tap is an enterprise backup service that will allow companies to centrally manage the backup and restoration of Groove shared spaces; the backup service will be available later this quarter.

Groove Workspace 2.5 is available now. The professional edition costs $149 per user. The standard edition costs $49 per user.

Separately, Groove announced the availability of Groove Web Services, an API that uses Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) messaging to expose Groove Workspace features to other applications.

With the API, independent software vendors can build Groove's collaborative tools into their own applications. Companies can distribute information stored in Groove Workspace -- such as messages or discussion threads -- to people that have only a mobile device, or have non-Windows operating systems and can't download Groove to their desktop, says Matt Pope, product manager for Groove Web Services.

This story, "Groove upgrades collaboration suite" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.