Interact with coworkers all over the world with Internet-based groupware

CREW, from Thuridion, is an Internet-based, platform-independent groupware product suite that provides a common user interface and lets you interact with colleagues across the globe. This server-side groupware solution does not include client software. Instead, your standard Web browser, whether on a Windows, UNIX, or proprietary OS platform, acts as your interface into CREW's databases.

CREW includes a series of Web pages and executable programs you install on Windows NT Server for users to access from your intranet or the Internet. The product's documentation states you must have Netscape's FastTrack Server as your Web engine. Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS) can act as the Web publishing service for CREW's HTML documents. Users connect to your CREW Web documents and supply a username and a password (which you maintain independently from your NT user accounts) to gain access to their information.

You can install CREW's databases on a Microsoft SQL Server, or use a Microsoft Access .mdb database structure to store your groupware data. The CREW administration documentation provides detailed information about establishing a database on a SQL server, including how to properly size the database depending on the number of users your installation will have. Thuridion recommends that you change additional SQL Server configuration settings, including the amount of memory you allocate to SQL Server and the size of the procedure cache.

The product consists of five components--CREW Office, CREW Calendar, CREW CardFile, CREW Messenger, and CREW Locker. When you access CREW for the first time, you must set up your CREW Office. This process involves providing your name, company name, title, URL to your home page, email address, and other information. All this information becomes part of your CREW CardFile entry for other users to access.

CREW Office is a Web page that gives an overview of your current CREW environment. As Screen 1 shows, the page lists your calendar entries, provides the number of messages in your CREW mailbox, and shows various Internet links the site administrator has set up on the CREW Office home page. By clicking one of the icons or image maps, you can access other portions of the CREW system.

CREW Calendar provides enterprisewide appointment scheduling. By default, the calendar page starts in week mode, where several links let you access your daily schedule. You can change the default calendar display to daily (which details your schedule on an hourly basis) or monthly (which displays an overview of the current month). To schedule a new appointment, click New Appointment, enter the date and time, and list the other CREW members you want to invite.

CREW CardFile is a Rolodex-like series of Web pages that let you see contact names and key information. You can create a new series of CardFiles with your own entries and grant other users access to your personal CardFiles on a read-and-write basis. Using the CREW Group feature, you can create a series of groups with CREW CardFile entries, so that you can grant access on a broader basis.

CREW Messenger lets you view email, voicemail, and faxes in a universal inbox from any system on the Internet. This application lets you send group messages and notification. Although this component is not as elaborate as many of the available email packages, it offers the minimum set of features you need to exchange email.

CREW Locker is a Web application that lets you store and move files between locations. You can create folders several layers deep and store files at any layer. For security, you can enable read-and-write access on any folder for different CREW members, and establish file-level security for any files in the root directory. When you store files in a folder, you can launch them if they are executable programs, move them to other folders, or permanently delete them.

Overall, CREW is an easy package to use. The flexibility of using CREW over an Internet link with common Web-browser software is a real plus, and you don't have to worry about cross-platform incompatibilities when you communicate with your peers. If you need an enterprisewide groupware solution with platform independence, consider CREW.