Corporate Instant Messaging Gets Smart

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 (www.groove.net), 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 john_taschek@ziffdavis.com.