Rolling Review: Web 2.0 Tools Demand A Cautious Approach

Map out security and answer data ownership questions before you deploy.

August 16, 2008

4 Min Read
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As companies look to cut costs and manage projects involving far-flung staff, many are investigating wikis, file-sharing services, and other consumer technologies to deliver Web-based collaboration inexpensively.

Bringing these tools into a corporate environment presents thorny issues, however. Chief among them is security: IT is justifiably wary of giving users privileges such as directly editing Web content or uploading files when their companies lack the technology and policies to enable safe Web 2.0 use.

But are there cost-effective collaboration tools that you don't have to just say no to? In this Rolling Review, we'll find out. To get a good look at a cross section of available apps, we invited a range of vendors, from major players like Microsoft, Novell, and Google to smaller companies such as Central Desktop, Socialtext, and CallWave. As we test these tools at our Phil Hippensteel Associates partner labs, we'll evaluate how well they address these key considerations:

• Who has the data?

Trade secrets, customer lists, and competitive intelligence must be carefully guarded. Violations of regulations and privacy laws are always a concern when data is in the hands of others. Whoever controls the data will be responsible for it and will be held accountable for any data that might be evidence in court cases.

• How secure is it?
Collaboration services track the progress of projects while integrating e-mail, schedules, and new contacts with local databases. These tools require users to send and receive files, images, and Java scripts to corporate computers, possibly from peer devices that are outside IT's control.Antivirus and intrusion-detection software can spot inappropriate e-mail attachments, but finding malware embedded in HTTP traffic is more difficult.• What are the costs?
Web 2.0 collaboration tools usually have a monthly or annual fee and relatively low up-front costs. Additional expenses are likely to occur once the tool is in use. For example, if you configure the components of a large project only to discover that your design is bulky and difficult to use, you'll incur the cost of the time needed to redesign the collaboration. It can be difficult to correct these problems once data has been stored. Our Rolling Review will look at the products' flexibility to avoid this pitfall. Training costs are a related issue. As we test these tools we'll consider whether they are easy to learn and use.

• How's the support?
Collaboration tools and services have to play well with other applications like ERP systems and desktop office software. Quick responses to integration questions will be crucial. This may be especially true for collaboration products and services because they may not have been developed with integration as a high priority.

Web 2.0 Collaboration Tools

THE INVITATION: This Rolling Review focuses on Web collaboration products. To qualify, products must address data security, storage, and accessibility. We'll evaluate how they balance privacy, productivity, and security and test ease of installation and use, overall functionality, management, features, and price. Each vendor must provide pricing for a collaboration scenario in which multiple users work together on a data-heavy project.
THE VENDORS  For this Rolling Review, we invited 10 companies that provide Web collaboration as a service or a product: CallWave, Central Desktop, Digital Samba, Google, Jive Software, Microsoft, Novell, PBwiki, Polycom, and Voce Communications.
THE PREMISE Rolling Reviews present a comprehensive look at a hot technology category, beginning with market analysis and wrapping up with a synopsis of our findings. Our extended testing span lets us accommodate today's accelerated revision cycles and focus our attention on individual products, while maintaining a consistent test bed.
THE TEST BED  At our Phil Hippensteel Associates partner labs, we'll manage a collaboration project over time to evaluate ease of use, overall effectiveness, and security management, along with where project data is stored and who can access it. To test each collaboration tool, we'll open an administrator account, provision and deprovision users, assign people to groups, and administer rights (upload/download documents, make changes, share information inside and outside the corporate domain). Wearing our end-user hats, we'll put collaboration features through their paces.


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