Collanos Workplace is a free online collaboration software for teams with members working from different locations. It offers a suite of streamlined online tools, including virtual workspaces, file sharing, online group discussions, messaging, and a handful of virtual objects such as notes, shared URLs, and tasks.
Here’s what you need to know about this program:
- Virtual workspaces: these are simply tabs that each user creates within the program that belong to the user. You can create a workspace for each project, for example, if that makes sense to you. These workspaces contain all other objects and employ a simple, explorer-like virtual folder structure.
- File sharing: once you grant someone permission to share any one of your workspaces, you can drag and drop any file to the folders within it and these will be available to the other person.
- Discussions: once you create a discussion within a workspace, all members who can access that workspace can participate (read or write). Discussions are essentially multi-way chats that are logged (with dates) and stored as an object. They can be deleted or kept for reference or as an ongoing conversation.
- Security: Collanos states that all data transfers are encrypted using “256-Bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)”. This program employs P2P technology and no data is ever stored on central servers. The makers state that they may introduce features in the future that may require some centralized data storage, but that they will ask for explicit permissions to do so, and they will guarantee its safety.
- Setup: this program works instantly through firewalls. Create an account and password, share your account name with your friends, and you’re up and running. Unlike other programs I have tested, I did not have to do any complicated router setup / port forwarding, or messing with IP addresses. Having said that I should also point out that the documentation states that “TCP ports 9700-9800 and 80 need to be opened to the outside to allow Collanos Workplace to operate behind firewalls”.
- IM: this allows you to send a message to any known user. It is somewhat rudimentary but that’s probably on purpose so as not to duplicate the ’discussions’ function.
- Tasks: any user can create these in their own workspaces or those belonging to other users. These have a specific structure comprising the following: subject, assigned to, priority, status, progress (%), start date, due date, and owner.
- Notes: (self explanatory). Can be created anywhere within the folder structure.
- URLs: clickable bookmarks, essentially. These reside in your workspace just like any other object.
- Offline activity: you can work offline within your own workspace. Any changes you make will be made available to other team members when you logon.
- “Conflict bins”: this feature is not available in the version I tested but was promised in the documentation. What it is is a space where older versions of files that are overwritten by other users are stored in a bin in order to enable future auditing, if need be.
I tested this software with a good friend and am happy to report that it works as advertised. I had the sense that it held a great deal of potential to be an invaluable tool as a virtual space for a team of collaborators. Here are some issues/notes on how it could be made even better:
- No ’search’ function. In a world dominated by Google this is a curious omission, methinks.
- Performance: in my estimation (based my impressions from using similar software, not hard data) this software delivered average or slightly above average performance, in terms responsiveness and making all the objects available to different users in a prompt manner.
- Reliability: the first file that I added to my workspace for file sharing disappeared shortly afterwards and was not visible to myself or my colleague. This did not happen again for any of the numerous other files we shared, though.
In conclusion I will say that I am very impressed with what this tool has to offer, and even more impressed that it is free. The ease with-which I was able to connect, circumventing company firewalls and without any tweaking and port forwarding impressed me very much as well. I definitely recommend this.
Version tested: 1.0
Compatibility: Windows 2000, XP, Mac OSX, Linux. Min Reqs: 500+ Mhz processor, 256mb RAM, internet connection; broadband recommended.