IM Deal Holds Promise for Businesses

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2005-04-14

IM Deal Holds Promise for Businesses

More and more businesses are using instant messaging. Oh, it may not be with the CIOs blessing, but the numbers dont lie: The Radicati Group claims that 85 percent of all enterprise employees are already using IM.

Who can blame them? IM combines the immediacy of a phone call without demanding the sole attention that a call requires, and it doesnt add one penny to the telephone bill. Whats not to like?

Well, a lot, if youre trying to manage the business network. IM spam, or spim, is growing, IM security violations are always possible, and Sarbanes-Oxley now requires companies to maintain IM archives.

Thats why AOLs Thursday announcement that its partnering with four mid-tier business IM companies—Antepo, Jabber, Omnipod and Parlano—is a big deal.

Read more here about AOLs plans to team up with the enterprise IM companies.

Of course, you could run your own IM network with Microsofts LCS (Live Communications Server) 2005 or IBMs Lotus Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing (aka Sametime) 6.51.

Both programs give you a lot more control and accounting power over your companys IMs. In addition, LCS enables users to talk with AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger users.

Click here to read more about Microsofts enterprise instant messaging and presence server.

But both the high-end solutions tend to be expensive and demanding.

LCS, for example, requires, in addition to its own software, that it run on a Server 2003 system with SQL Server 2000. And, of course, you have the costs of managing these high-end IM systems.

Its no wonder that many companies have looked to universal IM clients that enable their users to talk to other users on other IM networks.

For example, if all your customers are on AIM, but your IM users on your in-house network cant reach them, your IM solution isnt really that good.

So it is that universal IM clients like Cerulean Studios Trillian for Windows, the open-source Gaim for Linux and Windows and Epicware Inc.s open-source for Mac OS X, are quite popular.

Personally, I use Gaim all the time on both my Linux and Windows boxes.

Most of the business IM users use either Trillian or Gaim.

Besides enabling you to talk with people on most of the public IM systems, they offer more features then the single-use IM clients.

Next Page: Bad for business.

Bad for business

Unfortunately, even though theyre used in businesses, theyre really not that good for business.

First, you cant really manage them from a centralized IT viewpoint. These programs are standalone clients.

Next, with these clients, youre essentially outsourcing your IM to a third-party system over with which your company has no contract, no guarantee of service and no real control over what they may, or may not, do with your business IMs. It may be easy, but its sure not business reliable.

To read more about AIM privacy, click here.

Heck, for that matter, IM carriers such as AOL and Yahoo, can, and have, just shut down interpretability with your third-party clients. After all, its not like these companies are making money from your clients using their networks.

Yes, to date, the clients programmers have always managed to recover quickly from being blocked, but just try living with a broken IM system once youve gotten used to IM. Its not pretty.

Some day, somehow, one of the universal IM protocol standards like the Jabber-based XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol) or IMPP (Instant Messaging and Presence Protocol), will be approved. Im not holding my breath, though.

Thus, when you look at the current business IM situation, I think youll agree that AOL AIM-enabling these smaller companies IM offerings is very important.

As these companies roll out AIM-compatible business IM programs, companies should start seeing IM services that are more affordable, safer and easier to manage than any of the other solutions that are currently available.

And that will be something worth shouting, and not just IMing, about. Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.

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