by December 17, 2005 0 comments



Not all information can be classified within one set of
category, and each individual department or operational area within your
organization would have its own needs and types of information. Although Wiki is
sufficient for handling such information, the drawback has been that ordinarily
you’ve had to create separate Wiki sites for each operational area. Also, mere
marshalling of this knowledge is not sufficient-workers need to collaborate
and discuss things as well as have a way to search through this data. That’s
where software like Altassian’s Confluence come into the picture by
integrating search, Wiki and mail into one seamless interface. As such it
differs from other general-domain solutions in that it offers specifically
tailored modules for enterprise needs. Let’s take up the features of
Confluence and see how it scores.

Direct Hit!
Applies to:
CIOs
USP:
An enterprise Wiki to collaborate and share information
Primary Link:
http://www.atlassian.com/software/confluence/ 
Google keywords:
Confluence

How it works
A full-fledged Confluence implementation is a collection of Wiki sites, each
with its own documents and customizations. Each of these sites is called a
‘space’. From their dashboard, all users of the Confluence system can view
and search for content across these spaces. The system can also be used to
publish newsletters and keep employees in touch with the happenings in the
company. Such news can be updated by each space separately and then published by
the integrated RSS module- users can subscribe to these individual RSS feeds
and combine them at their end to receive news of all the internal happenings in
a customized newsletter.

Confluence bundles a lot of plugins that can be turned on or off from the built-in plugin manager space

An innovative use you can put the software to is for
archiving your e-mail. If you CC your mail from any mail account to the
Confluence system, it gets archived and also becomes instantly searchable with
all its attachments. This also means you don’t need separate management for
knowledge in the Wiki and in the e-mail systems. Storing knowledge in any format
is useless if you cannot locate it. Confluence offers users a hierarchical as
well as a chronological system for ordering information. Its index can also
report pages that are linked to, but are not there.

Installation
Confluence is available for both Linux and Windows. We have used Win 2000 in
our setup. Before continuing, you may also need to download and install J2SE
(1.4.2) from java.sun.com. Follow the steps in the box to set up the environment
variables for Java. After downloading Confluence, unzip the file into a folder
on your hard disk. We unzipped it into C:\CONFLUENCE. Although Confluence can
run as it is at this point, let’s tweak it a bit.

J2SE for Confluence
You need to configure two variables — JAVA_HOME and CATALINA_HOME.
To do this on Win 2000, open the ‘My Computer’ properties window, go
to the Advanced tab and click on the ‘Environment Variables’ button.
Now, click on the New button and enter ‘JAVA_HOME’, without quotes,
for ‘Variable name’ and type in the full path to where you’ve
installed J2SE. Similarly, create a

variable
‘CATALINA_HOME’ and provide its value as the path to Confluence
(C:\Confluence).

Configuration
From the Confluence folder, open the file ‘Confluence\

WEB-INF\Classes\confluence.  init.properties’ and set the ‘confluence.
home’ parameter to a directory of your choice. This directory is where
Confluence will store its configuration information, indexes and mail
attachments. Next, open the ‘Confluence\Bin’ folder and use the
‘startup.bat’ batch file there to start the application. For convenience,
you can create a shortcut to this batch file on your desktop. Now to license it
for use, fire up your Web browser and go to http://127.0.0.1:8080. On the Web
page that appears, there’s a box where you can paste the license key you
received when you downloaded Confluence (if you didn’t, you can use the button
above the license key box to get it again). Now, scroll down the page and select
‘Standard installation’ to continue configuring the software. Fill in a few
details such as the administrator’s e-mail address and password, and save it.
Now, you can start using Confluence.

Administration
Now you can access Confluence implementation from anywhere on your network
using the IP address (or name) with the ‘:8080’ at the end of it. To
administer it, you need to login as ‘admin’ with the password you gave when
you selected ‘standard installation’ above.

The homepage shows a default workspace on the left, and on
the right is a dashboard with various items like recent

updates, task lists and e-mail archive. Let’s now set up a few things. Click
on the ‘administration’ link on the top right of the Web page. On the page
that appears, click on ‘Mail Server’ under ‘Configuration’. Set up the
parameters of your mail server here. Next, click on ‘Backup’ and configure
the schedule for backing up the Confluence database. Synchronize this with your
regular disk backup for convenience. You can explore and configure other options
too.

Creating users and groups
On the same administration page, you can manage users of your Confluence
system. Scroll down the page to access the ‘Manage Users’, ‘Manage
Groups’ and ‘Global Permissions’ options on the left side of the page.
Click on the ‘Manage Users’ link and you will get a page where you can
create new users by specifying the user name, password, full name and e-mail
address. To change the global permissions like granting rights to user to create
his own workspace, you use the ‘Global Permissions’ option and set up
permissions for confluence- administrator users and normal confluence users.

Advanced configuration
After configuring users for the system, create workspaces according to your
requirements. Click on the ‘Create a Space’ icon, specify a name and a
description of the workspace. Descriptions are important since Confluence can
host many workspaces and this will help users in locating the right one for
their needs. To manage the workspaces, click on the globe icon next to it on the
list. For each workspace, you are shown seven tabs-Pages, Attachments, Mail,
News, Templates Advanced and Space Admin. These tabs set up the behavior of the
work space. For example, to restrict users or users groups from viewing,
creating and exporting content from a workspace,  click on the ‘Space
Admin’ tab and under the security option select the ‘permission’ link. You
can set up the users and their rights for the space from here.

Using Confluence
In order to use Confluence as a normal user, just login to it using the name
and password assigned by the administrator. Each user gets their own dashboard
with links to different Confluence modules, upon login. He can then view the
information, upload pages to the knowledgebase and archive e-mail with
attachments. Confluence is a complete knowledge management application that can
be fully customized according to your organizational needs. The software cost
varies depending upon the license type (commercial, academic) and user number. A
500 user commercial license costs $4000. Compared to other free CMS software
like Mambo, Drupal, PostNuke and PHPNuke, Confluence has all their functionality
for a fully functional enterprise Wiki and knowledge management portal and a
little more.

Sanjay Majumder

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