Corporate Instant Messaging Gets Smart

By John Taschek  |  Posted 2002-02-18 Print this article Print

Instant messaging is among the most popular applications in the enterprise. Yet because IM can't be managed and because it tunnels traffic directly over Port 80, IM's sometimes treated as an insidious disease.

Instant messaging is among the most popular applications in the enterprise. Yet because IM cant be managed and because it tunnels traffic directly over Port 80, IMs sometimes treated as an insidious disease.

With new applications, control over IM is possible, satisfying the desires of control freaks who, in the late 1980s, frowned on e-mail; in the mid-1990s, sent PointCast packing; and are still grappling with rampant MP3 distribution over the corporate network.

IM is different. It consumes less bandwidth, on the average, than e-mail, but its also far more difficult to control. More important, its difficult to archive, which will most likely mean something legally in the future.

Two ways to manage IM are either to adopt IM collaborative platforms, as offered by Groove Networks (, or to cut off access to IM clients by using bandwidth managers, content control firewalls or a combination of both.

But there are better alternatives. Whereas Groove is application-specific and cutting users off may result in mutiny, corporations can also implement their own secure IM platform or manage all the free clients that users are going to use anyway.

WiredRed Softwares E/Pop enables corporations to implement their own messaging infrastructure. WiredRed is modeled after packaged e-mail applications. The company is in a good position, having scored deals with financial services companies, but it faces stiff competition from Lotus Sametime.

Another alternative is to manage the software without changing the way it works. Thats where FaceTime Communications IM Director platform comes in—it manages all IM traffic, regardless of what client is installed.

There are advantages to each approach. FaceTime leverages the infrastructure of existing IM platforms yet still gives IT control over them. E/Pop re-creates the infrastructure, giving IT complete control over messages but also allowing the creation of corporate buddy lists and other things that come from being able to connect into corporate directory services.

Are companies putting IM at the top of their priorities? I dont think so. But maybe they will soon.

Should IT manage IM? Write to me at

As the director of eWEEK Labs, John manages a staff that tests and analyzes a wide range of corporate technology products. He has been instrumental in expanding eWEEK Labs' analyses into actual user environments, and has continually engineered the Labs for accurate portrayal of true enterprise infrastructures. John also writes eWEEK's 'Wide Angle' column, which challenges readers interested in enterprise products and strategies to reconsider old assumptions and think about existing IT problems in new ways. Prior to his tenure at eWEEK, which started in 1994, Taschek headed up the performance testing lab at PC/Computing magazine (now called Smart Business). Taschek got his start in IT in Washington D.C., holding various technical positions at the National Alliance of Business and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There, he and his colleagues assisted the government office with integrating the Windows desktop operating system with HUD's legacy mainframe and mid-range servers.

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