Review: Groove Virtual Office 3.0

Groove Virtual Office 3.0 Professional Edition
Groove Networks
Beverly, Massachusetts
(978) 720-2000

Groove Virtual Office is both an upgrade and a name change (previously it was known as Groove Workspace). I continue to be very impressed with Groove as a collaboration tool, and I'm looking forward to its continuing approach to the tipping point where it becomes something that I can assume potential collaborators have installed.

Though there are a whole batch of enhancements here, Groove is at its heart the same collection of technologies it's been for a while. Chief among these is secure synchronization between computers. What this means is that you can create a workspace containing files, contacts, forms (tables with a single-record view), and other tools on your computer, specify other users who should be members of the workspace, and be assured that the changes will show up on their computers. Everything is encrypted before it crosses the Internet, and sent as deltas to keep the bandwidth load down. Synchronization even happens fine if people aren't logged on at the same time. Groove has worked hard on this infrastructure, and at this point it just works. When you put something in a workspace, it shows up in all copies.

One nice thing about the new version is tighter integration with the windows shell. In particular, you can start a folder synchronization directly from Windows Explorer. This gives you a way to use Groove to keep a pair of folders synchronized between multiple computers - whether it's to keep your Internet bookmarks organized at home and at work, to share book files with a co-author, or to stage files from a test server to a live server. Things are still running over Groove's plumbing in the background, but as far as the Explorer user is concerned, it might as well be magic.

Other improvements in this version include expanded notifications and awareness of other participants in a workspace, performance improvements (I haven't timed anything, but 3.0 definitely feels snappier than 2.5 did), activity auditing and support for your own organization's PKI servers. If you're trying to shuffle work between multiple offices, or with external partners, Groove is definitely worth considering. You can download a 60-day trial from the company's Web site.


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