Groupware solutions as the backbone of modern office communication
What is available to the end user as a client, for example in the form of an email program, is in reality a highly complex system with a wide range of functions. Groupware solutions provide interfaces within divided work environments and support the individual task areas.
Groupware and other multi-user software
The crucial difference between groupware solutions and other software used by multiple users is, on the one hand, the individual customizability and, on the other hand, the fact that the activities of the other users are visible. In contrast, multi-user database systems or similar group software tend to attempt the opposite and isolate users and their activities from each other. Overall, groupware is the term used to describe all software solutions that effectively support collaboration within a group.
What groupware must be able to do
There are a variety of different groupware solutions, which in turn can be customized for individual groups. Basic components of groupware are e-mail, messaging, calendar, contacts and tasks, which should be able to be planned together. Also possible is the joint editing of documents by several employees within the group. Popular groupware solutions like Exchange/Outlook or Domino/Notes consist of a combination of server and client. The central server has the great advantage that all participants in the network have access to the same data. If updates take place, for example within the databases, this new status is passed on to all clients. Other well-known solutions are, for example, Groupwise from Novelle or Beehive from Oracle. Optimally, external employees can access the data and functions of the groupware via a web frontend and mobile clients can be synchronized.
Architecture in Groupware
There are different possibilities for how a groupware solution can be structured. In general, three concepts are distinguished. If there is a central architecture, then all clients within the groupware are connected to a central server. All interactions and all forms of collaboration are handled via this server. The second option is to set up a so-called peer-to-peer architecture. Here there is no central administration. All participants within the group are equally connected to each other and can thus communicate and exchange data. Finally, there is the hybrid architecture. In this concept, a peer-to-peer network is created. A central server logs and documents all activities within the group.
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