Enterprise IM strategies

Look for features such as encryption, scalability and recording capabilities

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"We would only consider supporting enterprise IM products if they offered encryption," says Blumenstyk. "In general, increased security is a major reason that companies are switching from the public networks to enterprise IM products," says Jive Software's Tucker.

In many cases, formal corporate IM use began at companies that could deploy secure IM networks. "The most security-conscious companies were the first adopters of SameTime" says Lotus' Saeedi. Now SameTime and other secure IM solutions such as Reuters IM are deployed widely in the financial sector. Traders are especially attracted to IM because "they can't have 50 phones in their ear at once, but can have 50 tabbed chat sessions open on their screens," says Paul Guerin, the CEO of Jabber Inc.

"When IT pros get a look at getting control over their operations, there is a desire to bring in management of their communications infrastructure as well as governance over the security approaches. Making sure that IM is encrypted end-to-end is one of the key factors when you are communicating with someone that you are federated with," says Eric Swift, the senior director in the Unified Communications Group at Microsoft.

Does the IM product allow recording of all IM traffic?

Not every corporation has a requirement for IM encryption, however. "We have not seen encryption become a major barrier for IM yet. If you look at e-mail, most businesses still use less secure methods of e-mail transport even though many systems for encryption exist. I believe the primary barrier to corporate use typically involves corporations needing stronger auditing capabilities," says Jones. This brings up a second issue, and how IM is seen in the electronic communications spectrum in terms of client-to-staff messages.

Some corporations demand that all IM conversations are recorded and archived as part of their overall compliance policies. Certainly if your business involves decisions that are based on IM messages, such as a stock broker getting trading instructions via IM, it might be wise to consider which products allow recording and how they do it.

But even if you don't have that kind of message traffic, you may want to consider recording IMs after hearing that a study from Akonix shows that nearly a third of respondents to their survey have been harassed or threatened by a co-worker via IM. "If businesses continue ignoring unsanctioned employee IM communications, corporate attorneys might find themselves busy attempting to resolve a growing number of complaints and lawsuits," said Don Montgomery, vice president of marketing at Akonix Systems.

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