This week I went to visit Tim Brook, my former Renaissance colleague, who is now at Groove. I have heard great things about Groove but had not had the chance to see it. Several Renaissance alums are using Groove and we set up a shared environment for this group in a few minutes, selecting such components as threaded discussions, IM, chat, file repository, web links, pictures, and project management from a menu of options. Thanks to Tim I now see what has generated the interest. Like Lotus Workplace and Microsoft Sharepoint, Groove provides a virtual team workspace but there are some advantages over these tools offered by its peer-to-peer approach. Since the content is simply resident on each team member’s laptop there is no need to set up a server, but then each member does need the tool. File sharing and updates are simplified as Grove automatically transmits only the changes to the shared version of the document. This approach also saves bandwidth and the related download time. In addition, it allows you to work off-line and then update other team members, as well as back-up systems, automatically when you re-connect from anywhere on the Internet. The files you share can include the standard Microsoft Office applications. If needed, you can still keep older versions unchanged on your own machine. You can also work across firewalls and have strong security through encryption at the same time.
While all these features are very beneficial in most environments, they become even more significant in areas where web services are inconsistent and unreliable. Another former Renaissance colleague, Steve Parker at Per4m, is using Groove for work in Albania where access to the web is available but more challenging. He can interact with his team members on a virtual basis and keep a current back up copy of all work at the home office in London. While you could use e-mail to send around these updates it would be much more cumbersome and error prone. Per4m is using Groove for its own work, but they are also implementing Groove-based collaborative workspace for many of their clients.