by June 7, 2006 0 comments



It’s a well-known fact that working as a team or in
groups improves productivity, as compared to working alone. That’s why the
concept of collaboration suites came into the picture. Today, there are lots of
them available, which cater to organizations of all sizes, be it for large
enterprises or SMBs. There are also some freely available solutions that can be
tried out in case you’re apprehensive about investing in a commercial
solution. Here, eGroupWare is a good candidate for the job.  It’s
completely free, and is platform independent; meaning you can install it on
Linux, Windows, Mac, or a host of other OS.

Direct
Hit!
Applies
to:
CIOs and IT Managers
USP:
Building a quick online collaboration system for organization
Links:
http://www.egroupware.org/ 
Google
keywords:
open source collaboration software

eGroupware allows you to manage contacts, appointments,
to-do list and much more for your whole business. Moreover, it provides a
Web-based interface for your users, so that they’re not tied down to any
particular machine to access it. In fact, even if you’re using feature rich
mail clients like MS Outlook, Evolution, or Kontact, you can access the
eGroupWare server directly from them. You can even access it from your PDA using
SyncML.

To deploy eGroupWare, you need a server with any of the
Operating Systems it supports. Plus, you also need Apache, PHP and MySQL server.
We tried it out on a Windows 2003 server. Download the eGroupWare application
for your Operating system from the Website given in the Direct Hit box. For
Windows, it comes in a zip file, which you have to extract to a separate folder.
If you’ve downloaded the Linux version as a tarball file, issue the command
“tar —zxvf to extract the files.

Configuring eGroupWare with Apache 
Copy the eGroupWare folder to the Apache Web server’s www\docroot folder. If
your hostname is domain.com (localhost, if you are directly on the machine),
your docroot is /var/www/html. Then, simply access your eGroupWare home page
from a Web browser using the URL http://domain.com/egroupware/. If you get a
“500: Internal Server Error”, then you need to configure Apache Access
Control to allow access to this Web page. For this, open the “.htaccess”
file from the eGroupWare installation directory and change AllowOverride None to
AllowOverride FileInfo to the directory section matching your docroot, for
example 


   AllowOverride FileInfo
   …


Next, you need to create a few blank folders so that the
eGroupWare server can use it for internal use. Note that these folders should be
created outside the Web server. As we have deployed it on Windows, we created
folders C:\TEMP, C:\files and C:\files\db_backup . If you are using Linux, then
create /temp, /files and /files/db_backup folders in the root directory.    

Add his/her to do list, calendering, mails, and planning available resources such as meeting rooms

Installing eGroupWare
Next, you have to install eGroupWare on the Web server. The installation
process is very easy and everything gets configured automatically. To start the
installation, open a Web browser and type the URL http://domain.com/egroupware.
This will open the welcome page asking you to select the language you want to
use with eGroupWare. Select “English” and click the “Run Installation
Test“ link. This will check the required components for eGroupware and show
you a detailed report. Hopefully, you shouldn’t get any error messages if
everything has gone well. Click on “Continue to header Admin” to open a
configuration page. Here go to “Admin password to Header Manager” text box
and give the admin password. Leave everything else as default and come to
“configuration User password” text box and give a password for the
configuration user. By default, the configuration user’s name is “changeme”.

Now come down to the bottom of the Web page and click on
“Write Config” button and click “Continue” button to move on. Now you
will get a login screen for your Setup/config and header admin. Select the first
one and give the user name and password you have set for the configuration user
on the previous Web page. On the next screen, you will be taken through the
process of creating a database for the eGroupWare server. Here come to the “DB
root password” text box and give the root password of your MySQL database.
Click on “Create Database“ button, which will initiate the database creation
process. After this click on the “Re-Check My Installation” button and this
will take you to the final install page. On this page click the “Install”
button and it will do the rest of the installation. Again on the new Web page
click “Re-check My installation” and it will bring the page showing
step-wise details of your installation process.

 If any of the steps were incomplete, you can
configure it by clicking the button given under the incomplete step. For example
in our case there was a red-cross marked in the configuration step, where we
were asked to fill the mail server details. Just click the “edit
configuration” button and fill the missing entries and click the save button.
Once installation process is successfully completed, you can start using the
eGroupware collaboration suit.

Using eGroupWare
Before you can start working on it, you need to create the user accounts on
it. So login as Admin and click on the Admin button. Here, you can add new
users, groups, time sheets, project sites, etc. A normal user can access the
eGroupware server by just doing a login from the eGroupware home page. After
login, the user can immediately start using it. You can add a to do list,
calendaring, mails, and planning available resources such as meeting rooms, etc.
In addition, users can share files from the file server on a given work space
and Re-Schedule Appointments. Users can also organize messages into folders.

You can even bring in an entry-level workflow system in
your office, as it has workflow features as well. It has a File Manager
application, which allows users to upload/download files to a specified
directory on the eGroupWare server.

These files can then be shared among users specified by the
Access Control List. It even has a Project Management module, which allows
several kinds of accounting and reporting.

Overall, it’s a good choice if you want to get a taste of
a collaboration software.  

Sanjay Majumder

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