Next Article +

Work Together Tools

Social Collaboration with Novell Vibe Cloud

Written by Ken Baker

Too often, collaboration tools become the place where documents go to die. Some tools are so complex that users simply give up and resign themselves to the inefficiencies of e-mail. Most tools don’t let you easily or effectively collaborate with your partners or customers. And they lack the means to enable ad-hoc collaboration. Novell Vibe Cloud is different.

Novell Vibe Cloud is all about the living, breathing process of working together. You already have a taste of the dynamic, work together aspects of Novell Vibe Cloud if you happened to participate in the open beta or have taken Novell Vibe Cloud Basic (the free version) for a test drive since it officially came to market earlier this month. At its market debut, Novell added new features to the Basic version over what users experienced at the start of the Novell Vibe Cloud open beta, and introduced Novell Vibe Cloud Enterprise, a version with added security and management controls.

Delivered via the Web as an online software service, it provides a unified interface that lets you see, create, edit, comment on, share, sort and filter all your documents, messages, blog posts, and group workspace posts from one place.

Real-Time Social Collaboration

If you’re not familiar with Novell Vibe Cloud, it’s a place where ideas can be shared and evolve at the speed of conversation. Delivered via the Web as an online software service, it provides a unified interface that lets you see, create, edit, comment on, share, sort and filter all your documents, messages, blog posts, and group workspace posts from one place. (See Figure 1.) It lets you illustrate conversations and decisions with attachments and whiteboard scribbles. In Novell Vibe Cloud you don’t have to wait for the refresh button. Content and comments come to you live, as they happen. It lets you see who's available to work with, create a new space with a few clicks, jump in and get working together.

Novell Vibe Cloud is much more than social messaging. It’s social collaboration. Unlike simple social messaging applications, Novell Vibe Cloud combines the core tools people need to get work done. Social collaboration with Novell Vibe Cloud lets you store and manage shared files, find the information you need, and work together with others on projects, but it eliminates the complexity that you find in traditional collaboration tools. It lets you work together with others the way you want. It makes it easier to stay in the loop. It lets your people collaborate and connect better with customers and partners, while allowing you to ensure that organizational security policies remain in place. It enables your people to work together on projects with others in real time. Novell Vibe Cloud does all this by wrapping real-time co-authoring, social messaging, and file sharing together into one intuitive application that's enterprise secure.

Novell Vibe Cloud also delivers rich document creation, collaborative editing and document sharing that lets you get work done with other users in real-time with co-editable online documents, wikis, meeting notes, and more. It gives you real-time awareness so you can know exactly when your colleagues are available, as well as document presence that lets you see who is currently reading or co-editing a team document. You can form groups with anyone you need to work with—inside and outside your company. You can follow them and see real-time updates on projects, topics, and news, and then add your own comments as you go. You can get instant, collaborative feedback from the people you're connected to, tapping into their insights and ideas so you can make better decisions.

New for Free

If you have already tried Novell Vibe Cloud, you’re likely familiar with its features such as real-time co-editing, real-time wikis, social blogging, file sharing, contextual presence, real-time chat, real-time document commenting, real-time search and tagging, and personal and team profiles. Two key new features added to the Basic version this month include e-mail integration and desktop-to-cloud two-way file synchronization.

The e-mail integration in Novell Vibe Cloud allows you to stay in the loop of what’s going on even if you aren’t a frequent user of Vibe Cloud. From the Notices tab under your personal Settings, you can choose to have copies of your messages sent to your e-mail. It gives you the granularity to choose if you want it to send to your e-mail address copies of all direct messages sent to you, new posts to your feed, replies to your feed, replies to your feed from only those you follow, posts to your group feeds, and more. (See Figure 2.) You can respond to these Vibe Cloud messages from your e-mail as well. You can also post files into Vibe Cloud through e-mail by simply e-mailing them directly to the group as an attachment.

All the groups and feeds in Novell Vibe Cloud have vanity oriented e-mail addresses associated with them. So, if you create a group called planning, the group’s vanity email address will be planning@vibe.novell.com. You can then easily post messages and files to the group by simply sending an e-mail to that address.

With the latest update to Novell Vibe Cloud, file management has been enhanced dramatically as well. A Files tab or folder has been added into groups, which lets you easily drag files from your desktop into a group folder. To help you organize your files, you can give them personal or global tags, and use file folders, which make it easy to find or view the files you want. You can allow others to edit or update your files, or lock them down so only you or a group admin can edit them. Additionally, with its one click PDF viewing, you don’t need the native application loaded on your client to view most files in Vibe Cloud. Also, when you mouse over a file, it will show you a blurb of its content.

Later this month, desktop to cloud two-way file synchronization will also be added to file management in Novell Vibe Cloud. To take advantage of file synchronization, you simply download the synchronization app to your client and choose which groups in Vibe Cloud you want it to synchronize to your desktop. Once configured, when you drag content to a folder—either on your desktop or in Vibe—it will synchronize to the other group folder location in real-time, and vice versa. If you edit a file in one of your synchronization groups or folders, it will automatically synchronize the updated file between your client and the cloud. As a result, the latest versions of your files are available instantly to everyone with the proper permissions to that group.

Novell Vibe Cloud also delivers rich document creation, collaborative editing and document sharing that lets you get work done with other users in real-time with co-editable online documents, wikis, meeting notes, and more.

New for the Enterprise

Novell Vibe Cloud Enterprise delivers the first real-time social collaboration environment that's enterprise-secure. It has all the features of the Basic version with the addition of more user storage (5GB aggregated quota per user versus 250MB per individual), unlimited groups, data ownership by the enterprise, federated authentication and an organizational management console.

The greatest challenge to successful enterprise social collaboration deals with the open versus closed paradox. Do you choose the open route that allows the free flow of information where everyone can see everything except for those things that individual users deem as private? Or do you take the closed approached where you lock everything down to keep all your data secure, leaving you with no flexibility to manage or customize controls, let alone enable the much needed collaboration with your partners and customers? Novell Vibe Cloud solves this paradox by allowing you to get the best of both ends of the spectrum.

To accomplish this, Novell Vibe Cloud leverages the expertise Novell has in enterprise collaboration, as well as its industry-leading identity and security management solutions. The first aspect of solving this paradox deals with the ability Vibe Cloud has to use your existing enterprise identity and access management systems and directory servers. This lets you easily provision users and groups in Vibe Cloud, as well as allow you to extend your existing single sign-on and credentials to your users so they can use the same login for Vibe Cloud that they use for all their applications.

To leverage your identity infrastructure, Novell Vibe Cloud uses the industry standard Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) to dynamically provision users when they sign on. You can also choose to only use the SAML-based federated capability to authenticate users from your directory or to layer on SAML-based federated provisioning by mapping identity fields from your directory to Vibe Cloud. Through the use of the secure assertion-based protocol in SAML, your directory infrastructure is never exposed and Vibe Cloud never sees or stores your users’ credentials. All of these capabilities allow you to use your established security and management processes to keep your Vibe Cloud content safe and secure. Also, if you don’t have your own identity management system, Vibe Cloud can securely store your user identities for you as users sign up or through an upload of user information via a .CSV file.

The second aspect of Novell Vibe Cloud that addresses the open versus closed paradox of social collaboration is through its organizational controls that let you flexibly govern content visibility and access at the person, group and organizational levels through permissions settings. (See Figure 3.) You can make all or certain aspects of your Vibe Cloud environment as closed or as open as you need.

Through the console you can centrally manage the Vibe Cloud environment to ensure compliance with your corporate policies. Even though Novell Vibe Cloud allows you to exert as much management influence as you need, it also provides an array of self-service management capabilities.

For example, users don’t have to wait for IT to create their own profiles and groups to start taking advantage of Novell Vibe Cloud. For the groups that users create, they can define the groups' basic attributes, such as name, description, leadership, and member contact information. If you allow it, users can decide if they want the group to be open for the whole world to see, open just within their organization, or limited to a select (“private”) group of invited individuals. To the extent that you allow, individual users can have the ability to set their own access control and security preferences. These controls are overlaid by the layer of access management and control that you establish at the enterprise management level.

It’s this enterprise level of control that addresses the visibility, access, and governance for those inside and outside of your organization, which in turn allows for secure inter-company collaboration. That’s one of the most compelling aspects of Novell Vibe Cloud—its ability to allow your users to easily start sharing information with trusted partners and trusted parties outside your organization. Even with the Enterprise version it’s as easy as sending an e-mail to invite an external colleague or customer into Novell Vibe Cloud. Although working easily with people outside your organization may be critical to your employees’ success, being totally open may not be your objective.

For example, you might set up your Novell Vibe Cloud environment as follows. By default, individuals or groups outside of your organization can’t see any information about your organization when accessing Vibe Cloud. They can’t see or connect to your users. They can’t see any of your organization’s groups or communities. Everything about your organization is hidden to the outside world.

However, you can extend privileges to your users that enable them at their individual discretion to create groups that allow them and other users in your organization to connect to and share with partners, customers or others outside of your organization. This type of setup prevents these outside entities or individuals from seeing the organization-specific information that you want to keep hidden, while allowing them to see, share and interact with individuals and information specific to the group with which they’ve been invited to participate.

This empowers users to establish the real-time social interactions and ad-hoc collaboration capabilities they need when they need them. They don’t need to wait on IT and you don’t have to drop what you’re doing to get them set up and moving business forward. And you don’t have to sacrifice enterprise security, controls and policy. In other words, Novell Vibe Cloud balances your need for flexibility and control with granular access controls, as well as integration with your established enterprise processes.

No More Roadblocks

Novell Vibe Cloud removes the roadblocks that keep your people and partners from working together effectively to achieve the results your business needs. With a focus on speed, ease and security, it gives your users what they want and it gives you the safeguards and control you need. It brings the power and freedom of today’s popular social tools to enterprise collaboration, without the security risks. By creating a secure environment rich with “work together” tools, it lets your people collaborate in real-time across continents and organizations to achieve faster, better results.

Next Article +

Novell Connection Magazine
Special Editions
Archives

© 2011 Novell, Inc. All Rights Reserved.