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The New WebAccess: It's, Well, Better. And New.

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Dave Strickler

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Posted: 19 Apr 2000
 

"To the Web" is the battle cry of thousands of weary IS&T support Engineers. "No more client installs - no desktop support," they chant, surrounding the developer's castle, where high in an ivory tower, programmers toss out morsels of poorly written install routines wrapped in Microsoft lawyer-speak ULAs.

OK, OK, its really not that bad, but every Admin wants to stop using "client side" apps, and free themselves from the constraints of the Windows desktop. We've all "been there - done that" and we're tired of it. As soon as you install it, some user breaks it. And if you think you're the only one having a tough time, then why is ZenWorks selling like hotcakes? Hmmm. Let's do the math on this one . . .

So Novell says for GroupWise, WebAccess is the way to go. No client install - no problem. They've pushed you, they prodded you, and even demoed the software to you, and you've finally agreed to give it a try (oh, you rebel, you). But your Sales Rep left you with a few questions that even their SE couldn't answer. Well you've come to the right place.

If you haven't checked out the new WebAccess that ships with the GroupWise Enhancement Pack version, you're in for a surprise. If there's a single compelling reason to upgrade to the Enhancement Pack, it's the new WebAccess. In a word, it Rocks. New look, new features, just new.

Why Does It Rock?

First off, there's the "blow your toupee clean off" speed. Yes, you heard the rumors right, the new WebAcess is an easy ten times as fast as previous versions. Got a user with a slow link? The slower the link, the faster WebAccess seems. Of course, there are limits; 1200 baud is, well, 1200 baud, but you will see faster speeds. Why? WebAccess is now modal, meaning that when you open a message, WebAccess spawns a new window containing just that message. Closing the message window doesn't refresh the original window. Translation: less bandwidth needed and no refresh times, fewer hits to the server. I know what you're thinking. You're saying, Hey, that's not really faster, it's just a trick to make it seem faster. Oh take off your propeller beanie and trust me. Cuz if users think it's faster, then it's faster. Perception is reality.

So What Else is New?

Features? Yeah, it's got 'em. Tons of 'em. Personal address books, Expand and Collapse folders, editable Reply-To-Sender, just to name a few. WebAccess grew up a lot in the Enhancement Pack, and it shows. [editor's note: We'll have a series of feature articles describing the new WebAccess client in the coming weeks.]

Want to show off a feature that will blow away your Boss? How about getting your e-mail and calendar on your phone or your Palm Pilot? Its here, its cool, and you've gotta try it, all courtesy of the new WebAccess. It's an extension to WebAccess, and its still in Beta (as of April 2000), but it works like a champ. All you need is a WAP (Wireless Access Protocol - an Internet standard) enabled device, and a small amount of software from the Novell Beta pages (let me know if you can't find it). The install is easy, and the feature set is true GroupWise, with all the bells and whistles, including things like message retract and appointment accept. So the next time the Boss sends you a task, walk into his office, flip open your phone and watch his jaw drop as you accept his task; all wireless, from the palm of your hand.

Still want more features (greedy, aren't you?), well then wait for the BulletProof release this fall; but that's another story. In the mean time, you can play with a WebAccess demo at http://www.emailsolutions.com/resources/was.htm.

Laying Out the System

So put down your coffee and let's get onto designing this thing. First off, you need to remember that for a WebAccess gateway to be a success, users have to anticipate that it's always there - a sort of "security blanket portal" into GroupWise. You think users might not take to it? Trust me, it's addictive, and if you giveth, you better not taketh away. Put it up and leave it up. It only takes once or twice not being able to get there before users move on.

Second, it's got a few characteristics that make it an unusual gateway, so be careful you don't make the top blunders. Like put it too far away from a user's PO, or expect you can get much more than 200 simultaneous users on it. And for heavens sake, don't put it under the Primary Domain (oh, don't even get me started on that one). Thinking of using Microsoft's IIS as the web server? Can you say "Security Hole"? Lets move on . . .

Doing the Install

Before you begin the install, remember that WebAccess has two components: a web server itself, and the GroupWise gateway. If you just install one, you get nowhere. Remember, it takes two to tango.

So let's assume a few things. One, you had the foresight to install WebAccess on its own server, and two, it's a clean box without a web server. So the first thing we'll need to do is install your web server; in this case Netscape's. Why use theirs? Well, how about it's free, it comes with NetWare, it runs fast, and won't crash your server. Next question.

Installing Netscape's web server is fairly straightforward. Just make sure you have a solid TCP/IP stack installed on your server, and that you keep as much off the SYS volume as possible. These are fundamental, tried and true principles. Once the web server is installed, check that you can log in and configure it as an Admin via your web browser of choice. If you want to get fancy, you can SSL encrypt your connection, but remember it will slow down the web server and should only be used if you really need it.

Once you're confident that the web server is running, install the WebAccess gateway on the same server, replacing the "index.html" as you go. And yes, it's possible to install it on a different box, but that's best left to the professionals. And for those of you who get a little antsy (you know who you are - you've been skimming instead of reading, haven't you?), note that this part of the installation can take a very long time; be patient. There's not much for you to do or watch, but its going to take a lot of sitting around and waiting. Excellent time to refill that coffee.

Now that the installation is complete, your WebAccess Gateway should automatically load on the server, and allow you to log in with your browser. All you need to do is go back to the same home page you tried out before, and you'll find WebAccess answering your request. If you have trouble logging in, check for a poorly configured POA, or possibly a link to the POA. Remember that WebAccess is a Gateway that talks directly to the POA, bypassing the MTA entirely -- told you it was an unusual gateway.

At this point, you should be up and going, logged into WebAccess, reading e-mail, forwarding on the latest joke, and doing all the things that make you, ummm, productive, on GroupWise. Try it out and you may not want to use your regular client again. Or if you really want to geek-out, try the WAP interface on your cell phone; Dick Tracy fedora optional.

Need More Help?

If you want some nitty gritty details about this stuff, the Novell Documentation site has some excellent resources for helping you out. Start with the Plan Novell WebAccess Guide.

About the author

Dave Strickler, President of DWS, founded DWS in 1985. DWS has become the world's largest, dedicated provider of GroupWise consulting services, assisting over a quarter million GroupWise mailboxes in 16 countries from their four offices. Dave has an Engineering background, speaks 12 computer languages, and is the inventor of numerous GroupWise products. When he's not playing with the latest Beta of GroupWise, he currently lectures around the country on the technical and business aspects of GroupWise, and is often quoted in PCWeek, InfoWord, and PCMagazine. Dave welcomes your comments, and can be reach via e-mail at dstrickler@emailsolutions.com.


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