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Getting Stuff Done by Grooving Virtually

Posted by Thomas Riggs in technology virtual offices on May 1, 2009

Imagine you work for a company where every employee is in a different location. You finally decide e-mail and phone calls aren’t enough to function as a team, and you choose a virtual office on the Internet. Now everyone shares the same file directories, calendars, and tasks lists. Things suddenly seem more connected and efficient. You’re happy.

Then one day your Internet connection is out of service, and you can’t connect to the virtual office. In fact, because all your company’s files are there, you can’t work. It’s as if the office lock has been changed, and you don’t have the key.

Or say you’re on a plane from New York to San Diego. It’s a long flight. You get your laptop out and start to work. This is great, you think. Now you won’t have to do that report tomorrow. But then it begins to sink in: you need a file that’s in the virtual office but not on your computer.

If you were a Groover, this would never happen. You would be using Microsoft’s simplest virtual office, Groove, which works on a different technology than most other Internet collaborative tools. Instead of connecting to a website, you install the Groove software, with its file directories, calendars, and discussion lists. You can make separate Groove workspaces for each project and share the workspaces with whomever you want. As long as you’re on the Internet, any change that you make in your version of Groove is instantly made on the computers of your colleagues (or the next time they’re online). You might be in India, but the moment you drop a file in a directory, it’s on the computer of your colleague in New York. When you disconnect from the Internet, all the files are still on your computer. An important feature is “presence,” meaning you always know if someone else is connected to the workspace, and you can send an instant message to the person through Groove.

Click for Groove demo video

Click image for Groove demo video

If Groove’s strengths are its simplicity, offline access, and low cost (once you buy the software, there are no more fees), what are its drawbacks? At least for now, Groove can be installed only on a PC. If you use a Mac, you can’t be a Groover. Another is the inability to create a common calendar for all your workspaces, though a third-party vendor, GrooveIt!, sells a solution to this problem. Finally, Groove’s simplicity is matched by its small number of features.

Overall, Groove, included in some Microsoft Office suites, is a great product for simple needs. We’ve used it in the past. But if you need more features or have a lot of people on your team, you might look elsewhere.


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