The world of instant messaging (IM) was once the preserve of teenagers who wanted to chat with friends. However, you could only chat with friends using the same IM service provider, whereas today several companies have begun linking their services. While this may spur the use of such technology both at home and in the workplace, there are a number of issues business users should consider.
Service-linking initiatives could further the recent growth in instant messaging usage.
In 2004, Microsoft announced that its enterprise IM platform, Live Communication Server, would link to public services such as AOL and Yahoo! At Lotusphere 2006, IBM announced that Sametime has agreements with AOL and Yahoo!, which will mean Sametime 7.5 users can chat with users of these popular IM service providers.
IBM also announced that it is in discussions to extend this interoperability to Google Talk and Apple’s iChat, but strangely there was no mention of Microsoft’s MSN or Live Communication Server.
However, before making the leap to IM using a mixture of public services and enterprise IM platforms, IT departments should be aware of the following issues with public IM services:
* Lack of namespace control: If you allow employees to install their own public IM clients and set their own IM identities, this has two major implications. Firstly, the IM identities may not be in line with the company’s naming policy, and secondly, when an employee leaves, there is no way to stop the continued use of that identity.
* Lack of security: Because IM clients can penetrate corporate firewalls, if the IM clients employed (and their networks) do not provide secure messaging capabilities (e.g. end-to-end encryption), enterprises are at risk from bogus messages containing malicious content, and there is the potential for sensitive IM content to be intercepted. Another problem with consumer-grade IM systems is that they can create buffer overflow vulnerabilities in a network, which is used by ‘worms’ to propagate themselves.
* Limited auditing and logging capabilities: If your company operates under any of the compliance regulations and you are required to audit IM conversations, consumer-grade IM systems typically do not save the thread when the session is ended. Sametime and Live Communication Server are commercial enterprise applications and adequately address the concerns above when used internally. However, the crossover to link with consumer-grade IM systems and public services requires the IT department to ensure the above security issues are addressed.
Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)