OneBridge Mobile Groupware Travels Well

Extended Systems connects mobile devices to the enterprise.

October 10, 2003

3 Min Read
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I installed the OneBridge Mobile Groupware on our Syracuse University Real-World Labs® network. The software works with devices running Windows PocketPC and CE, Palm OS 3.5 or later, Symbian OS 6.0, SyncML 1.0.1 (such as the Nokia 9210 Communicator or Ericsson R520e) and even RIM OS 2.1.

OneBridge requires three pieces of software. The OneBridge server software is the point of administration. The PIM server for Notes or Exchange hosts all client data. And Lotus Notes client or Outlook with CDO (collaboration data objects, a custom option in the Outlook install) lets the OneBridge server connect to Exchange or Notes so that messages can be forwarded to the client device.

Test Setup

My test bed consisted of two servers: one running Exchange 5.5, the other hosting the OneBridge server software and Outlook 2000 with CDO. My test client was a Compaq iPAQ 3800 running PocketPC 2002 with a Compact Flash WLAN card.

Deploying the Live Connect client software was a breeze: A simple wizard guides you through on the PDA. The appropriate files are then copied to a directory you define using the wizard. These files can later be copied to one or more devices through an ActiveSync connection or through a network file transfer--a handy capability for administrators deploying the software to multiple devices.

You can synchronize devices in a few different ways. Of particular interest is Extended Systems' Live Connect push technology. The client device maintains an always-on connection to the OneBridge Mobile Groupware server. When a user receives a new e-mail message, the server automatically pushes the mail to the appropriate client device. This process worked beautifully in my tests. I sent e-mail to my PDA's account and within moments I had notification on the PDA that a new message had arrived.

Smart SoftwareOneBridge's device-management functionality is complex. You can deploy applications to client devices by device type, user group or individual user. The system backup and restore function, which can be initiated by the user or scheduled by an administrator, allows for recovery of mobile clients. Also, a device-information option collects system attributes so that administrators can monitor battery usage, installed applications and stored files. Because wireless adapters on PDAs cut battery life short, the Live Connect software's always-on feature is turned off automatically when the battery runs low.

Several technical features set OneBridge Mobile Groupware apart. OneBridge does not use SMS (Short Message Service) messages, which can be slow and unreliable and are not supported over wireless LANs or Ethernet networks. And OneBridge uses robust security--all message staging occurs behind the firewall, and all connections use FIPS140-2-compliant end-to-end encryption.

Some Potholes

There's only one major problem with OneBridge: Although the software supports many client devices, it supports only Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes on the back end. Users of Novell Groupwise or IMAP-based products have been left out in the cold.

Also, some organizations might find OneBridge Mobile Connect's relatively high price hard to justify, especially when constant connectivity is more of a convenience than a necessity. But for enterprises that employ workers who are constantly on the go, the return on investment may be much greater, particularly when communication between the home office and mobile workers is key to productivity.Sean Ginevan is a research associate with the Center for Emerging Network Technologies at Syracuse University. Write to him at [email protected].

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