Microsoft has a pretty good product (IMO) in Groove which came as part of the acquisition of Groove Network. It is a 'thick' client application designed for peer to peer collaboration and sharing.
More information at http://office.microsoft.com/en-au/groove/default.aspx
Some of the key features of Groove are;
- Security – encrypted content on your hard drive and encrypted communications over http
- Collaboration across firewalls – you can invite people outside your organisation to participate in a workspace. You don't need to involve IT and you can communicate through firewalls.
- Efficient use of bandwidth – when Groove synchronises workspaces, it only ships the deltas (changes) to files across the network. So imagine you are collaborating on a document which is several MB in size, you don't want to be shipping that across low bandwidth connections whenever you change it. Groove ONLY sends the changes which makes it very effiecient.
- Integration with SharePoint – You can take a Document Library offline from SharePoint, make changes to the documents and then resync them with SharePoint. (This does ship the whole document back and forth each time)
So people ask me, 'when should I use Groove and when should I use SharePoint?
My opinion on this is as follows;
Consider Groove for smallish teams of people who are highly mobile or work in different organisations to collaborate on projects and documents. As it has been explained to me, Groove is good for <50 people per workspace before the performance starts to degrade. If I need to communicate across firewall boundaries, I can securely exchange documents and files with other parties very easily. (Much more efficient and secure than email or ftp). If I need to collaborate on large files, Groove is excellent for its efficiency of data synchronisation. Once you finish, publish the completed documents and files into SharePoint for the broader audience.
For broader audiences within your organisation who are connected to your network, SharePoint may be a better solution. The data benefits from all of the features of SharePoint, is stored centrally, is searchable etc. Note that Outlook 2007 has some offline capabilities for SharePoint content. You can take a SharePoint list or library into Outlook, but this is really a one way sync (SharePoint to Outlook) Also, you need to consider if you want all of that data stored in your outlook data files.....