Thursday, 22 February 2007

Groupware Eaton Mess?

For those of you who don't know it Eaton mess is a kind of pudding, I know this because even though I am a techie I work for a pub company and you pick up nuggets like that. Eaton mess is not just any kind of pudding though, its the Rio carnival of puddings, the fact is it shouldn't really work, its just a pile of stuff that just happens to be delicious.

I was reading the write ups this morning about Google's paid for 'sort of office' suite and was quite impressed but it has taken me all day to actually digest the possible opportunity which this service might be offering. I had been looking before at using just the calendar aspect but the App suite brings a few more things to the table for a quite reasonable £25 per year. As a suite of tools the offering is quite basic but there is nothing wrong with that, and the simple fact that you have to be online to do anything is quite limiting. For 360 days of the year it would not be a problem but I can just imaging the other 5 could be very frustrating indeed. That said there are 3 aspects of the suite I really like, namely the Calendars, Gmail and the Personalised Home Page the question is how to make best use of them and this is where it turns suddenly into Eaton Mess. So could a useful Groupware system be shackled together using Google Apps and some supporting software to create a masterpiece or just a big pile of stuff that doesn't quite gel.

Our problem as described before is the requirement to support Mac's and PCs and a variety of software applications with 2 way synchronisation for all applications. Or to put it another way is it feasible to replace Exchange with Google?

The requirement:
Shared Calendars, Personal Contacts, Web Mail, POP Mail and Mobile Access

Outlook 2007, Entourage, Ical, Apple Mail, Pocket Windows 5, Apple Address Book

I have alluded before to a couple of pieces of sync software that look promising, syncmycal and spanningsync, these are both coming along and although I am nervous about 3rd party plugins getting in the mix if, just if, they did get finished and worked well they could make all the difference. I will put together a diagram to illustrate but I would say that off the top of my head all that is missing is a way of syncing contacts with Gmail.

One thing which would be great about this whole house of cards would be that looking forward we could actually think about binning outlook and any other email/calendar clients thereby making life very simple. I love the idea of opening a web browser and having my mail and calendar immediately available to me, it was in fact a part of the initial idea for our central management system but it didn't seem worth while reinventing the wheel so to speak.

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A view from the rack is the personal blog of an IT manager who works for a pub company - hence beer