MindAlign is a client/server application that runs on Sun Microsystems' Solaris Server and Windows clients. Version 4.0, which shipped in March, boasts some interface enhancements and new features such as contact lists, presence messages, an auditorium channel, and most importantly BackChat, which automatically archives content by date, time and channel.
Priced significantly higher than products such as Sametime, MindAlign has limited platform support. Nevertheless, its support for collaborative team environments makes it a collaboration tool worth considering.
MindAlign sets itself apart by allowing users to post files and links and log entire conversations for continued collaboration, which increases an organisation's shared knowledge. In addition, MindAlign provides a secure environment by putting content control in the hands of IT staff. Users can be authenticated either using MindAlign or Windows NT, with which administrators can incorporate existing directories.
MindAlign is straightforward and easy to use. Administrators have the flexibility to register users or set up the tool so users can register themselves.
Any user can create a channel and manage its access privileges, such as making a channel public or limiting access. The channels are for conducting ongoing discussions, organised by topic, and are accessible by users in the system.
Three different types of channels can be created with MindAlign: group channels, filtered channels and private channels. Group channels provide a permanent space for individuals to collaborate and share ideas, along with documents, alerts and messages. The information can be stored for future search and retrieval, thereby increasing the knowledge shared throughout the company. Unlike users of consumer IM products, members of a MindAlign channel can view previously exchanged documents and past conversations on that channel.
Filtered channels scan the content of other channels for particular topics. Filters can be set for specific criteria such as user names and specific content. Users receive automatic alerts when one of the predetermined topics arises. Private channels are used for one-on-one conversations.
MindAlign, like other IM tools, offers contact lists with presence messages such as "Online" or "Away from desk," alerting users to the status of their would-be correspondents. Whereas other IM tools allows users to send files to one another, MindAlign takes this feature a step further by storing the files on the server. Users with access privileges to the associated channel can search the server and retrieve those files.
MindAlign can be integrated into an organisation's business process with some customisation. Branding tools are available at an extra cost for modifying interface features such as colours, fonts and company logos. Parlano can develop structured input screens to further enhance the MindAlign experience.
The bottom line - MindAlign 4.0
Business Case: This collaboration tool helps organisations improve knowledge sharing among dispersed groups by storing exchanged information for future retrieval.
Technology Case: MindAlign 4.0 requires minimal IT support. It runs on a Sun Solaris server, and users can maintain their own communities using a Windows client and a Web browser.
+ Searchable chat history.
+ Unlimited persistent communities.
+ Flexible filtering capability.
+ Document posting feature.
- Requires two separate interfaces.
- Limited platform support.
Cost: $US40,000 for the server, $125 per user. Branding tools cost extra.
Platform(s): Server: Sun Ultra Sparc II/III 300MHz running Solaris 2.6; client: Windows 95/98/2000, Windows NT.www.parlano.com.