The Web Makes Room for ERoom

SAN FRANCISCO (04/10/2000) - Eroom has found a new home: the Web. The project management tool from eRoom Technology Inc. (formerly Instinctive Technologies) will be unveiled this week in a hosted version called ERoom.net.

By using ERoom online, instead of running it on your local system or server, you can focus on your projects rather than on the administrative tasks of hosting a groupware program, says Chris Barclay, ERoom's director of product management. Customers asked to be able to access ERoom through an application service provider, Barclay says.

"A lot of companies don't want to go out and procure an NT server" to host their own ERoom, Barclay adds.

Several companies are already testing ERoom.net in a pilot program, and the site is expected to be available later this quarter.

Putting the Web to Work

In ERoom's digital project workspace, coworkers can store, share, and create documents and Web links, track a project's progress, and collaborate through real-time discussions and polls. You'll find all these features in the online version, plus some extras that the Web enables. For example, you'll find ERoom templates to guide you to create a workspace, as well as a monthly Web zine called EPulse.

More functions are coming, too. "We will be rolling out revisions on a monthly basis," says Barclay. Next: Real-time Web conferencing and virtual project training, both through as yet unnamed partners.

The service is free of charge for projects with four or fewer participants, and for now, ERoom.net won't even charge by bombarding you with advertisements. Ads can detract from the professional feel of the site, Barclay says, so ERoom.net won't subject its customers to them in the near future. But ads are not permanently excluded, Barclay says.

Using ERoom's services for projects with 5 to 10 participants costs $100 monthly; projects with up to 40 participants, $295. Fees for larger projects are determined on a case-by-case basis.

Eroom.net guarantees 99 percent uptime, and if the site goes down, ERoom incurs financial penalties that are paid back to customers. The amount depends on a paid service agreement that includes ongoing maintenance. In addition, Lloyds of London is insuring ERoom.net to compensate companies for lost work time.

Work With Ease

Eroom.net is designed to make it easier to get business projects up and running. In my limited tests, that certainly holds true. I logged on, gave ERoom some basic information about myself, and in less than a minute my ERoom was ready (with a unique URL).

The Web-based version retains the look and feel of the desktop program and is just as easy to use. I opted not to use a template when creating my ERoom, so ERoom presented me with an empty virtual workspace. I quickly filled it with documents and organized them in folders. The documents are stored on my PC's desktop, and navigating there was a breeze. I posted topics for discussion and waited for my coworkers to respond.

An intercom feature notifies you when other members of your ERoom are present.

The site also offers an in-box, where members can send e-mail messages. Neither of these features was available in my evaluation version.

The site is a valuable tool for companies that have to deal with issues of geography. Coworkers from opposite sides of the country can easily collaborate and transfer information. Putting these tools on the Web makes using them even easier, since you can enter your ERoom from any PC with Web access.

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