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Also known as groupware, collaborative software is a type of computer program that facilitates the sharing of data between multiple computers. The main goal it strives to meet is allowing users to collectively work on the same documents and team projects. This can usually be done across both local and remote computer networks. Some of the capabilities that collaborative software grants are sharing of email communications, instant messaging, calender data, and conferencing.
Collaborative software offers many benefits. Among them are the ability to integrate various planning, scheduling, and tracking capabilities into a single package. With the luxury to collaborate through intranets or the Internet, groups can enjoy the seamless, coordinated execution of essential tasks needed to accomplish team-orientated goals.
Perhaps the most notable benefit of collaborative software is centralized data storage. Being that such an application requires that multiple users have simultaneous access to the same data, centralized storage is needed to manage the master data set. With most software, users have access to the most recent version of data the application contains via a login ID and password. The master data set is controlled by a top-level administrator. Centralized storage provides group users with the access they need to be productive while helping to ensure data integrity.
Collaborative software can be useful in a number of situations, such as in software development. In most cases, software applications are created by a team of developers, as the task is usually too much for a single individual to handle. If the communication between the development team is not clear, even the simplest of errors can result in a final product that has serious flaws. The version control capabilities collaborative software offers can provide development teams with the project's complete history so they can address any errors that may have been identified.
Some collaborative software solutions are more and require a complex IT infrastructure. This type of software is typically offered through an outsourced service in which a company hosts the program on their server and provides group users with access. Some of the most well-known examples of these solutions are Microsoft Exchange® and Microsoft Sharepoint®. Variations of such programs are also commonly classified based on whether the application is designed for Internet or intranet access.
Collaborative software can be advantageous to organizations and teams of various sizes. It offers a way to boost productivity and complete successful projects regardless of physical boundaries. With computing and Internet technology evolving at a rapid pace, this type of software may advance to include even more seamless collaboration solutions in the future.