Instant Wireless Teamware
BY DAVID E. ESSEX
In response to the wealth of products entering the market and as a service to readers, PM Network is proud to publish a quarterly software review. Each column discusses the latest tools that affect the way managers approach projects. These reviews, while systematic and thorough, are one person's opinion and do not constitute an endorsement or necessarily reflect the views of PMI or PM Network.
Among the more intriguing new applications of local-area wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, ad hoc networks allow teams to power up anytime—around the office or across the campus, while traveling and out in the field. The past two years have seen a half dozen startups, such as AirCQ, Green Packet and SPAN-Works, take a crack at the software, and some have come and gone. Only Colligo Networks Inc., whose neat little Colligo tool I tried recently, has any real traction. I can see the day when the name becomes a verb, and project managers ask their team to “Colligo me.”
Colligo Workgroup Edition lets team members set up ad hoc wireless networks and share basic built-in applications, such as this whiteboard and chat window.
Colligo is yet another wrinkle in the hot peer-to-peer networking trend that lets computers communicate directly with each other using special software that typically obviates the need for a central network server. But unlike the Kubi Client and competitor Groove (see the Kubi review, PM Network, September 2004, p. 59), which are “fat” groupware-like programs that run on known client computers over fixed networks, Colligo is all about fluidly setting up the network itself, when and where you need it, with just enough pop-up software to facilitate team communication. Colligo Networks' patents are for the under-the-hood tricks, such as database synchronization and user discovery, that are needed to authenticate users and maintain integrity of information when people can join and leave the network so easily.
Despite its differences from Kubi and Groove, Colligo is no skinny little browser app. It requires a 9.58 MB file download and later takes up 11 MB on your hard disk, but installation proceeds quickly. After you enter names and e-mail addresses, the real magic begins. Colligo fires up a default Wi-Fi-standard (also known as 802.11) wireless network and asks you if you want to join it; you can create additional networks, including wired ones.
When other Colligo users join the network, their names appear in your window. Click on them, and Colligo's tight, 168-bit security system authenticates users to each other by requiring them to exchange digital certificates, then confirms their acceptance in a personal communication. This way, you know the others are who they say they are, especially if you can't see them. All this happens without needing a public Wi-Fi “hot spot,” like those at Starbucks and many corporate campuses. This network runs between the Wi-Fi radio transmitters on every computer that's running Colligo.
Everyone on the network sees a small Colligo window, about the size of an instant messaging interface. From here, you manage the network and access daily mainstays: chat, file transfer (complete with a little message window for alerting recipients) and a sticky-note tool for dashing off and transmitting short messages. You access the latter by clicking on the names of other online users in a simple list that graphically shows the kind of system they're running (Windows desktop, notebook, tablet PC or PDA).
Other useful, two-click-accessible applications include a whiteboard on which you can draw with your mouse or tablet/PDA stylus, a viewer for file folders designated as shared and Microsoft NetMeeting conferencing. You also can share an Internet connection, just like on a wired Windows network—albeit with the usual hassles if a firewall is installed—and send Colligo to a friend via Web e-mail.
Colligo Workgroup Edition 3.3
Price: $69.99 per user; 2-pack, $119.99.
Requirements: 450-MHz Pentium II or later processor, Windows 98 Second Edition or later, 64 MB RAM, 5MB hard disk space, 802.11 wireless hardware; Windows Pocket PC handhelds require 32 MB RAM, PC Card Expansion Pack, Windows Pocket PC 2000 or later.
Colligo Networks Inc., Suite 320, 1333 Johnston St., Vancouver, BC V6H 3R9 Canada + 1-604-685-7962.
AT-A-GLANCE REVIEW (5⋆s is best)
Ease of Use: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆
Feature Richness: ⋆⋆⋆⋆
Project Management Support: ⋆⋆⋆
I found all of these applications easy to use from the get-go. I especially liked how the already easy-to-use sticky notes have an option to expand the discussion into a larger chat window. Another good feature, especially for project teams, is a transcription feature that records everything entered in chat or the whiteboard.
Colligo's networking capabilities enable all sorts of conveniences. Traveling teams can hook one notebook into dial-up Internet at the hotel, then share the connection so each member can check e-mail. Colligo also can scan Microsoft Outlook schedules for free time, making it easier to plan meetings. Lacking a projector to show PowerPoint slides at a team meeting? The NetMeeting feature lets you share the presentation on users' screens while recording and sharing meeting notes and tasks.
There's no direct way to share Microsoft Project or other workhorses of the project manager's IT toolbox, but Colligo has been integrated with Lotus Notes groupware, and the company's service division can do the same for other critical applications. As long as each user has installed the associated application, project teams can share project files with a new Windows folder-sharing feature that Colligo plans to offer in late 2004.
Colligo Workgroup Edition ($69.99 per user) supports up to 50 users and is available for a free 30-day trial at the Colligo Web site (www.colligo.com). Project teams should download it and try it for a glimpse at what may be the real future of wireless computing. PM
David E. Essex is a freelance journalist specializing in information technology.
PM NETWORK | DECEMBER 2004 | WWW.PMI.ORG
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