CATEGORY: Enterprise Portal

REVIEWER: Gary Kidwell, senior project manager for SiteSmith, Inc.

BACKGROUND: SiteSmith, Inc. is solely focused on providing outsourced Internet site operations services to dot-coms and brick-and-mortar companies. We design, implement, operate and troubleshoot a customer's site infrastructure. As such, the ability to quickly access a broad spectrum of customer and technical information is of paramount importance. Because we operate in a global arena, we need that information readily available to employees - at all sites, at all hours.

PLATFORMS: We are running on an integrated Sun Solaris (Oracle database), Windows NT 4.0 (front-end server) and NetApp box for data storage. Currently, we have implemented the intranet portion of the application, but we have already selected the extranet functionality that will allow us to tailor customer access to information should we wish to provide this service at a later date.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We needed the ability to push automatic notifications when items were published, changed or deleted, and to have user control over setting folder permissions (read, write, create, etc.). Our employees are highly technical and use a number of different operating systems on their workstations - more than 50 percent of our employees run on UNIX- or LINUX-based machines. As a result, we also needed a solution that was hardware independent.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Four weeks after signing the contract with DataChannel, we deployed our e-portal solution globally and published more than 3,000 documents within the first week of operation. One of the initial wins with DataChannel was how documents can be rendered into HTML which allows our UNIX and LINUX users to view documents without having to open source programs such as Excel, Visio and Word. If editing is required, a link is provided for "see original document" that can then launch the application for changes.

STRENGTHS: One of DataChannel Server (DCS) 4.0's main strengths is its ease of use. Few companies would be able to implement a global corporate portal deployment with only a four-week lead time and have it work as successfully as DataChannel did. This was in part due to the strong support received from the vendor and the excellent teamwork that developed during the design and implementation processes. We have not seen a drop off in vendor support post-implementation.

WEAKNESSES: Weaknesses in the current version include lack of support for Microsoft Project and Visio file types in the HTML template rendering. We understand this is addressed in the next revision. We currently are reviewing the ease of third-party application integration as this is another critical requirement for SiteSmith. Additionally, we would like to see DataChannel improve their publishing functionality to allow for publishing directly to the NetApp box after editing, without having to save to the local drive.

SELECTION CRITERIA: After evaluating multiple vendor offerings for an enterprise portal solution, we chose DataChannel Server 4.0 (DCS 4.0) for the depth and adaptability of its offerings, as well as the strong team relationship that quickly developed between the two companies.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Overall, we are very pleased with the initial offering from DataChannel. While we have a very aggressive schedule for further deployment and integration, we are comfortable that with the continued cooperation and support from the vendor, these will be as successful as our initial launch.

DOCUMENTATION: DataChannel has fully supported our endeavors and assisted in designing solutions, both custom and out of the box. In part, this support was required because of a lack of technical documentation.

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