With the latest release of Lotus Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing, IBM has made a number of small refinements that will help companies improve communications with customers and business partners.
Formerly known as Sametime, IBMs Lotus Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing 3.1 began shipping at the end of July and is priced at $48 per user. In eWEEK Labs tests, we found that the improvements in this version made it easier to manage connecting with other users via the Sametime Connect IM client, while adding polish to the Web conferencing experience for attendees and presenters alike.
On the IM front, we found numerous improvements in the way the Sametime Connect client manages contacts. In Sametime 3.0, IBM added support for connecting with external users using SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and SIMPLE (SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions). In this release, users gain the ability to connect to an external user by using the external users e-mail address.
IBM Lotus Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing 3.1
IBM has made a number of improvements that will enhance the IM and Web conferencing experience for users. With the latest IM clients, IBM makes it easier for companies to support connections with business partners and customers outside the firewall as well as support a broader range of client options, and the Web conferencing components have better fit and finish. Lotus Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing 3.1 is priced at $48 per user.
EVALUATION SHORT LIST
Connecting with business partners and customers outside the firewall isnt as clear-cut as the hype around SIP would imply. Administrators will need to configure settings for the end user to get past firewall and proxy issues. The other thing companies will need to gauge is users willingness to forgo many of the features available in the Sametime client that do not work when connecting to users via SIP—including group chats, message broadcasts and file transfer.
The ability to transfer files is new in this release, and we have mixed feelings about how it works. The feature has limits that restrict users to sending a single file at a time to a single user at a time. Wed rather see options that set limits based on file size and type rather than number. The ability to restrict by senders and recipients, instead of entirely blocking transfers to external users, would provide the kind of discretionary security that doesnt impede productivity.
We liked the more robust options available in the way the IM client handles alerting the user when someone in the users contact list becomes active.
The release has small usability improvements for Web conferencing that most users will value. For example, we could change a presenters IM status to "do not disturb" from within a Web conference. This solves problems in previous versions in which a presenter could block incoming IMs only by changing status in the Sametime Connect client.
Client support has improved considerably, with the addition of clients for Solaris 8 and Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Linux 7.2.
On the server side, the ability to configure the product to work with reverse proxies makes it more secure. This release requires running Domino 6.02, so companies will need to upgrade their instant messaging servers before installing this release.
Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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