by October 1, 2007 0 comments

We’re living in the digital age where we have lots of modes of communication
at our disposal, and lots of different ways of sharing information. For
instance, we can reach others via email, chat, VoIP calls, mobile phones,
besides the traditional landline phones and fax. Likewise, there are so many
different formats we can use to share information with each other, like email,
documents, spreadsheets, video, images, besides the traditional paper based
documents. With so many facilities at our disposal, life should be very easy,
right? Ironically, it’s not. We still can’t reach a person when we really need
to. We still can’t find the information when we really need it.

How many times has it happened that you’re just not able to find that very
important mail you’d sent to your key customer? Or you forgot to record the
online chat you had with your boss and peers over an instant messenger? As a
result, you don’t know what tasks were assigned to you during the meeting.

If you can relate yourself to such situations, then you’re a victim of
information overload. You’re buried under so much information that’s coming from
so many different sources that you’ve lost track of it. You need to do something
fast to consume this information before it consumes you.

The answer lies in adopting content management and collaboration solutions.
It’s not something new, because both solutions have been around for ages.
However, never before was such a strong need felt for them than now.

Today, besides tracking your documents, you also need to track all the
information coming from multiple sources. The collaboration and content
management world has responded by providing better solutions than ever before.

Moreover, there’s an increasing tendency for them to integrate with each
other. Our story this time is to explore the potential of content management and
collaboration solutions. We’ll look at where can each be used, how to choose the
right one for your business, and we’ve also given some demo implementations of a
few of them. In fact, we’ve given 21 collaboration and content management
software on the DVD with this issue for you to try out. So without any further
delay, let’s dive into this brave new world.

What’s new in collaboration and CMS?
The goal of a CMS is to provide content in an organized manner and let users
quickly retrieve information from the data available within an enterprise or
throughout the web. CMS solutions can also enforce workflow across the
enterprise. With everything going 2.0, the concept of collaboration 2.0 has also
come into picture, which is the use of Web 2.0 inside an enterprise. It has been
said that Web 2.0 has changed the way people communicate with blogs, wiki, etc.
A similar trend is now seen in enterprises as most CMS solutions are web based.
It’s very easy for them to incorporate Web 2.0 technologies. There are also
solutions like active collabs, which can be easily integrated with already
running custom applications, as a result empowering CMS solutions with Web 2.0
collaboration technologies. What we’re seeing is a strong presence of Web 2.0
technologies in both collaboration and content management solutions.

In fact, today you’ll find just about every collaboration and CMS vendor
worth his name talking about integrating Web 2.0 technologies in their
solutions. So besides the usual online calendars, chat, email, whiteboarding,
and project management facilities, you’ll also find wikis, blogs, forums, etc
being integrated with collaboration packages. But, what do you do after that?
Will collaboration solutions alone be able to help teams work together? Probably
not, and that’s why collaboration solutions are now coming with integrated
workflow, document management and content management. For example, in the area
of online content generation, collaboration is becoming a default component of
today’s CMS solutions. A CMS would ideally have some kind of a built-in
collaboration module and a bit of workflow management. Essentially, both
collaboration and CMS are different from each other, but integration of the two
can help businesses in a big way, especially those who are into content
generation and content delivery.

Types of CMS

There are a
number of CMS solutions available in the market, which manage various kinds
of content, be it offline or online. Given various functionalities, there
are different types of CMS/ECM solutions. Following is the list of various
types of CMS:
1. Portals 2. Enterprise search
3. Web content management
4. Enterprise content management
5. Document and records management
6. Rich media and digital asset management
7. Messaging and e-mail management
8. Archiving and document lifecycle management
9. Transactions and enterprise application extensions
10. Messaging and e-mail management
11. Workflow and business process management
12. Knowledge management
13. Teams and collaboration

What to Choose?
Choosing the right CMS solution for your business is not an easy task. One
has to do a considerable amount of homework to find the right fit.
The primary aim of a CMS is to establish a controlled environment that allows
teams with ease of content generation and collaboration. Plus, it should
overcome issues like overhead, duplication of work and delays.

Outline requirements
First of all you have to justify, whether you really need a full-fledged CMS
solution in place or you just need a collaboration solution. Or, you require
only workflow management. See, what is causing delays in getting the new content
updated? Are the processes sluggish, where are the bottlenecks? You have to
study these factors and then formulate a plan. You have to clearly define the
organization structure and eliminate any duplication of work.

Secondly, you also have to evaluate your current IT infrastructure and
decided whether you need new hardware for the proposed CMS or your existing
setup will be able to take the load.

Customize to your biz need
While there are content management solutions that are generic and therefore
can be customized to the requirements of any organization, there are others that
cater to specific types of organizations. A hospital for instance, would require
something that can manage digital images created from the various test labs.

The insurance sector would require a document management and workflow sort of
a solution, while a publishing house would require a web-based content
management solution.

Fit it in your budget
CMS solutions can be broadly categorized from simple Web editors to highly
complex enterprise content management systems (ECM). Depending on the
capabilities their prices also vary. Plus, there is an additional cost of
implementation, training and maintenance. Thus it’s very important for a CIO to
know the TCO of the solution.

Infrastructure requirements
Next comes, what you need additionally to support your CMS solution? For
this, you have to evaluate the current resources that you have, be it hardware,
software, or IT staff.

Now, you have to decide, whether you want to develop a CMS application
in-house or go for a packaged solution. If you have inhouse developers, then you
can get your own CMS application with tailor-made functionalities.

Alternatively, you may choose one of the commercially available ones, such as
SharePoint, coremedia, documentum, morello, jahia etc. If you have
semi-technical staff, then you may flirt with one of the free Open Source
solutions, such as alfresco, joomla, drupal, membo, mediawiki, openCMS etc.

Pitfalls to avoid in CMS software

1. Avoid
deploying a CMS that doesn’t support your current business processes.
2. Don’t choose a CMS that is incompatible with your current systems.
3. Don’t go for a CMS that requires a complex implementation process.
4. Don’t try to develop your own custom solution, if you have lack of
professional support staff or a high attrition rate.
5. Evaluate costs carefully before choosing a CMS/ECM, because solutions
could have hidden costs.

New age collaboration
We’ve discussed a little bit about collaboration in the previous sections.
Here, we discuss it in detail and guide you when and how you can choose a
collaboration solution for your organization. Collaboration is something that
each organization needs.

Typically, in an organization, teams working on disparate processes, meet
either face to face or do so over IM sessions or using teleconferencing tools.

Such meetings are used to define goals, exchange views and information with
each other; assign tasks; and gather information within a set of portals, forms
and documents established for collaboration.

These days none of the workgroups in an organization can collaborate amongst
themselves unless they use proper collaboration solutions.

Therefore, choosing the right tool or solution depends on: the kind of job
that you want to accomplish; and how fast you need to communication information.

Types of collaboration
Real-time: When your business demands instant communication, then you need a
real time collaboration solution. It enables you to collaborate with team
members in real-time. The tools that facilitate such kind of collaboration
include: IMs, videoconferencing solutions, VoIP, whiteboards, application
sharing software and SMS.

A common example is video conferencing, where teams based out of different
geographical locations can come together and collaborate like they do in
real-life (as it includes both a video and audio interface), and as the
interaction is taking place in real time, the outcome of a meeting is

Asynchronous: Business proce-sses, where instant communication is not a
priority, and ones that involve a profound workflow.

Here, individual teams need time to respond. Applications such as e-mail,
workflow automation, forums, wiki, file-sharing, discussion boards and team
rooms are some of the examples of asynchronous collaboration.

A CIO should carefully analyze each business process and devise the most
suitable combination of real-time and asynchronous collaboration solutions for

A mix of both: This represents a combination of real-time and asynchronous
collaboration tools. Such a convergence facilitates the various technologies to
support the two kinds of collaboration and offers more communication options.
Moreover, it allows users to use any communication medium based on the demands
of the business process.

Such kind of collaboration lets users to interact naturally in the context of
increasingly network-centered business activities. Such a convergence also
overcomes the challenges that organizations normally face today, like
integrating workflow with collaboration.

Presence and workflow: This is another trend that is getting hot these days
with the convergence of all available communication mediums (such as chat, VOIP,
forums and SMS). Here users have access to all other team members, no matter
what medium they are connected to.

This proves very useful, especially in the context of ‘always available’
online presence, where professionals or key decision makers need to constantly
be available to their team mates. Users get a constant update on the
availability of their team mates and also the knowledge of the best possible
medium through which they can be reached. Nowadays, you have tools with in-built
collaboration solutions that provide you the unique double presence mgmt in
addition to workflow automation.

Web 2.0 in collaboration software

collaboration vendors have introduced Web 2.0 technologies in their
products. For instance, IBM recently released Lotus Quickr, a Web 2.0 based
team collaboration solution. It lets team members publish their blogs,
create content using wikis, and publish and retrieve RSS feeds using a
content syndication tool. It also provides support for team workspaces,
business templates and common office applications. Similarly, there is
Spikesource’s SuiteTwo, an Enterprise 2.0 suite that uses Web 2.0
technologies to provide collaboration in an enterprise. The latest release
of Lotus Notes and Domino 8 has a number of Web 2.0 and unified
communication features. It includes networking tools for enterprises with
IBM Lotus Connections; rich, browser-based Web 2.0 electronic forms with IBM
Lotus Forms; expanded unified communications and instant messaging in IBM
Lotus Sametime 8.0; and enterprise mashup capabilities in IBM WebSphere
Portal. Lotus Forms allows you to create custom Web-based client
applications. You can develop your own Web-based collaboration applications
with workflow that suits your needs. Web-client for Lotus Domino consists of
a single HTML file and supports scripts, images, and style sheets.
Applications built on this can be viewed from any Web browser. The new
version of Domino also includes tools that help users move to the next level
of integrated communications.

Implementing a CMS Solution

Digital content stored in documents (doc, pdf, xls) can be rendered for
publishing in both offline and online media. In the process of content
development the manuscript generated by the writer is moved to the edit team for
value addition and then to the designer for layout.

The entire story after being laid out is sent to the writer and to the editor
for final concurrence. Here we can very well observe how the content gets
generated with the combination of collaboration and workflow. Alfresco is one
such content management solution that fits best in this kind of scenario. It
allows access to the documents through Windows as well as WebDav and showcases a
number of features like smart faces, workflow, automatic metadata extraction
(from MS Word files), content versioning, and an advanced content search.

Alfresco lets you define documents across a workflow process and is available
for Windows and Linux platforms in the form of virtual appliance. It comes in
two flavors: enterprise content management and web content management. We used
the enterprise content management module on Windows platform.

Installing Alfresco
The 30-days trial version of Alfresco ECM and Alfresco Web Content
Management modules can be downloaded from
The Windows machine required to host Alfresco should have Java2SE 5. Now install
the Windows executable installer. While installing you will be asked to download
the Java component. Next, you need to select the database you want to use with
Alfresco. Select the default option, continue, and finish the installation.

Also, install J2SE 5 on the same machine. Then set the JAVA_HOME system
parameter on the machine. For this, right click on ‘My computer,’ select
Properties, advanced tab, and click on the ‘Environment Variables.’ Here you get
a section called ‘System Variables’ under which click on ‘new button.’ Next you
get a New System Variable Window. Set ‘Variable Name’ to JAVA_HOME and then set
‘variable value’ to c:\program files\Java\jdk1.5.0_06. This is the location of
your Java home directory.

Enterprise search

Once a CMS
solution or portal or any line of business app has been deployed, an
employee ideally should be getting the information quickly out of organized
as well as unorganized data across the enterprise, but usually he ends up
spending a lot of time retrieving the desired information. To solve this
problem a lot of enterprise search solutions have come out. These solutions
crawl through the data residing inside the enterprise and index them for
easy information retrieval. These search solutions are hardware appliances
as well as software based. For instance, Microsoft’s SharePoint Server 2007
and Google Search Appliance are two examples of such solutions.

Starting Alfresco
On the same machine explore the c:\Alfresco folder, and run the ‘Alf_Start.bat,’
from it. Then open a web browser and type http://

A sample scenario
To depict Alfresco’s document management and workflow capabilities, we take
the case where an author on completing the article clicks on ‘Move to edit.’
This workflow action moves the document to a folder (referred to as Space in
Alfresco) called ‘Articles.’ The copy editor having rights to this Space works
on the article and clicks on ‘Move to publish,’ which moves the edited piece to
a Space called ‘Ready to publish.’To achieve this workflow, we first create two
groups called ‘Editors’ and ‘Authors’. We create users corresponding to these
and add them to the respective groups. Next we create the Spaces (Articles and
Edited) and assign logical permissions to these for the Editor and Author

The dashboard of Alfresco
depicting all options to manage users, groups, and content for individual
working space

Create users and groups
After logging in as admin, click on ‘Administration Console’ icon. Now click
on Manage System Users>Create User and follow the wizard. Create users
corresponding to authors and editors. Note that the default home folder (as
specified in the home space name) of the editors and authors gets created while
creating users corresponding to them.We set the home space name as ‘Sanjay’ and
‘Manu’ for the users in our case. In the home space, users have full access to
upload, create, delete, and edit documents. Now click on Manage User Groups. On
the ‘Group Management’ page, click on Create>Create Group. For the identifier,
enter the group name (Authors and Editors in our case). Now click on the second
icon to add users to the group. That is, Sanjay will be added to the Author
group and Manu to the Editor group.

Create Spaces and set permissions
While logged in as admin, click on ‘My Home’>Create>Create Space. Fill the
fields: name (enter ‘Articles’), title, and description; select an icon for the
Space ‘Articles’ and click on ‘create space.’ Similarly, create a Space called
‘Ready to publish.’ On setting the permissions click on ‘My Home.’ You see the
two Spaces and some existing or default Alfresco Spaces. For the Author group
click on ‘Articles’
Space>MoreAction>Manage Space Users>Invite. Select Groups from the dropdown,
type Author, and click on Search. Select Contributor from the role list. Click
on Add to list. Similarly add Editor group with the role as ‘Editor.’ Click on
Next and for e-mail invitation select ‘No.’ Click on ‘Finish.’ Similarly set up
the Editor group with the Contributor role for the ‘Ready to publish’ Space.

Add workflow
Click on ‘Sanjay’ Space>More Action>Manage Content Rules> Create Rule. From
the ‘Select Condition’ dropdown select ‘All Items.’ Click on ‘Add to list’ and
‘Next.’ For ‘Select Action’, select ‘Add simple workflow to item.’ Click on ‘Set
Values and Add’. For ‘Name to Approve,’ set ‘Move to edit.’

Select the radio button labeled move (or copy). Click on ‘click here to
select the destination’ and select the Article Space. Select ‘No’ for reject
workflow. Click on ‘Ok’ and then ‘Next.’ On the Enter Details page, select
Inbound for Type. For title and description, type ‘Move to edit.’ Check the box
labeled ‘Apply rule to sub spaces.’ Click Finish. Follow the same steps for the
Space named ‘Manu,’ but substitute ‘Move to edit’ with ‘Move to publish.’

Select the destination space as ‘Ready to publish’ on the ‘Set action values’
page. Also in ‘Step 3-Enter Details’, select Update for Type.

Workflow in action
Login as ‘Sanjay.’ Click on My Home and then on ‘Add Content.’ Follow the
wizard to browse and upload a file. Once done, you will see the file (cms.doc in
our case) on My Home page. Click on the icon labeled ‘>>’ and select ‘Move to
edit.’ Now login as ‘Manu’ and click on Company Home>Article space and you see
the cms.doc. Click on the arrow icon to check out the document. On the check out
page, select ‘In the space select’ and the Space named ‘Manu.’ Click on check

Once checked out, you can download the article and edit it. After that, right
click on the cms.doc icon and update. When prompted upload the edited document.
Now when you again right click on the cms.doc you will find the option of ‘Move
to publish,’ the article moves to the Space called ‘Ready to publish’, ie, to
its final destination. You can check out the ‘Ready to publish’ space by
clicking on Company Home.

Instan-t Premium Collaborative Edition
This software lets employees of an enterprise communicate through video
conferencing, voice chat, online presentations and allows computer sharing,
instant messaging and so on. Its voice and video conferencing can be used with
Active Directory for User Directory Integration. The software uses client-server
architecture. At server end, it contains a Web administration interface through
which you can perform all administrative tasks, create users, assign permissions
and send messages. Also database of all users can be backed up in a .csv file.
IM Server can be installed on Windows 2003 and 2000, and requires Internet
Information Services (IIS) and Message Queuing Services (MSMQ) to be installed.

Another interesting feature is Web communication, where a user who doesn’t
have access to instan-t client, can leave a message for you through the Instan-t
URL, and if you are online, you’ll get the message instantly. It also has an
e-mail signature tool through which you can add an e-mail signature to your
online status for Outlook and Outlook Express. It uses Diffie-Hellman session
encryption keys to provide secure communication. It also provides message
archiving at both client as well as server end. At server end administrators can
keep a message archive of all conversations and activities that have taken place
amongst all users and later on search them based on dates as well as user ids.

How to use
Installing and configuring IM server is simple. Launch IM Server admin
console from start-up menu. Inside the console you can customize various IM
settings such as User registration, Server Messages, etc. Under User
registration you can specify whether a user can create and use the account
immediately or it needs approval from the administrator before he starts using
it. You can also disable account creation at users’ end and create all accounts
manually from this console. You can also set permissions for the user to access
voice or video chat, for sharing computers, making presentations, etc. You can
also specify if message archiving should be enabled for a particular user or

If message archiving is enabled, you can view all conversations performed by
a user in the Message Archiving option under Users menu. Here provide the
username and specify the period for the conversations you want to view, and
click on Search. It will show you all activities and conversations done by a
user during the period of time specified by you. To view all stats related to IM
activities, go to Stats option on the Web console. Here, you can see general
stats like total registered and online users, common services used, user details
such as age, gender, etc. Similarly you can also see monthly usage stats through
graphs in ‘Monthly stats’ option.

On the client side, you need to manually install the client instan-t
messenger. The package doesn’t come with any automated client installation
option. So, check the client folder of installer and you will find two files
here, namely ITSetup.exe and ClientSettings.ini. Every time the client installer
is executed, it checks for settings in file ClientSettings.ini. The installer
reads the information from it and uses it to configure the client. If the file
is not found there, the client is installed with default settings, which needs
to be changed later on.

Once the client has been installed at the user’s end, it sits in the system
tray. Users can just login and start working with it. Using client is simple,
just like any other messenger. To start a presentation with two or more users,
right click on a user in your list and click on Make a presentation.

This will open a small online presentation window and send that user an
invitation to join the presentation. You can also invite off-line users to a
presentation, by clicking on Invite by email button. Once the invited users have
accepted your invitation, they will be able to see everything you do on your
screen. Similarly, you can share your computer with any number of online users
through instan-t messenger.

A typical setup where you can
see a single desktop being shared between two users to share files,
presentations, etc

Zimbra Collaboration Suite
It is an Open Source client—server software for messaging and collaboration.
ZCS provides end users a centralized communication through a web-based client
from which users can access mail, shared calendar, VoIP, Address book RSS/ATOM
feed etc. Zimbra also supports document sharing and collaboration with its
Zimbra Documents feature, however this feature is still in beta.

Using this you can centrally create docs which can be shared with other users
of Zimbra. You can also set permissions through which users can edit or only
view the document. ZCS uses OpenLDAP for user authentication and Apache Tomcat
as the Web application sever. For databases it uses MySQL and Postfix as its MTA.
It also comes with a built-in anti-virus and anti-spam scanning for all mails.
ZCS also provides for pushing email to mobile devices and mail archiving.

Through Zimbra web-client, end
users can easily perform collaboration tasks such as accessing e-mail,
address book, calendar and document sharing

How to deploy
Zimbra requires at least 2 GB of RAM and 10 GB of free disk space. Before
installing Zimbra make sure NPTL, sudo, libidn, cURL, fetchmail, GMP, and
compat-libstdc++ packages are installed on your system. Now, log in as root and
go to the directory where you have downloaded ZCS. Run the ‘tar xzvf zcs.tgz to
unpack the files and then change location to the directory where you have
unpacked files. Run the ‘./’ command to start installation.

Installation will check whether MySQL and Postfix are running, if yes, then
it will ask you to disable them. Going further it will ask you to choose the
services you want to install. Enter ‘Y’ to select all packages. Once the
selected packages are installed, it will take you to Main menu, which will
display all Zimbra components. Now, you need to set up a password for Zimbra’s
administrative account.

For this, type in ‘6’ which will take you to Zimbra-store. Type ‘4’ and
provide the admin password. Now, type ‘ r ‘ to return to the Main menu and then
press ‘a’ to apply these changes. In the end, installation will ask you to
confirm the changes and it will reboot the server. To log into Zimbra’s admin
console through a Web browser, type https://<ip-address-of-machine >:7071/zimbraAdmin/.

Login as admin@localhost.localdomain and provide the password set. Here, take
note that localhost.localdomain is the default e-mail domain.

To create a new e-mail domain, click on @Domains option and then on New, on
the navigation pane. On the new page, provide a Domain name and keep rest of the
values to default. Then, click on Finish.

To create an e-mail account, click on Accounts and then on New (on the right
pane). Provide a Username for the Account and select the Domain name, we have
just created, from the dropdown menu and then provide the password. When a user
logs into the Zimbra web-client, he/she instantaneously gets the facility of
receiving and sending emails. In the clients, you will notice Zimlets on the
left navigation pane.

Zimlets are plugins which can dynamically interact with applications on the
Internet or on a company’s intranet. Zimbra provides plenty of Zimlets, such as
Contact Collector, which adds all participants in a mail conversation to address
book. Other features include Google Translator, WebEx meeting,,
SMs, Wikipedia, Address book, Calendar, Document sharing, etc, that can be
easily used through Zimbra’s web-client.

Sanjay Majumder and Swapnil Arora

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