Enterprise IM strategies

Look for features such as encryption, scalability and recording capabilities

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Still, "user education is the best approach to combating the problem of viruses," says David Ferrero, the CTO of Zion Software LLC in Glastonbury, Conn.

Does the IM product scale up?

Any successful corporate IM solution will eventually catch on and be used everywhere and by everybody, so it pays to investigate what will be involved in deploying enterprisewide and whether there are issues with scaling up to universal access.

Jabber's Uhlir thinks scalability is critical: "We are seeing that the top issues for our customers are persistence and scalability."

Does the IM product offer support for AIM?

AOL's IM has the largest user base of any of the public IM networks, and many corporations want a product that has connectivity from their private IM networks so that their users don't need to run two IM clients on their desktops. "AIM legacy support has made a huge difference for companies' IM use," says Lotus' Saeedi. "People want to see IM become like e-mail, and want to send a message to anyone that they choose to without having to deal with proprietary communications," says Microsoft's Swift.

An alternative is to make use of AOL's AIM Pro client, which offers encryption and authentication for corporate users while still providing the connections to the public AIM network. "AIM Pro is a really good fit for making the transition from public to corporate IM usage," says AOL's Bracken.

All of the major vendors of enterprise IM products, such as Microsoft, IBM/Lotus, Jabber and America Online offer products that corporations can use to run their own private IM networks, but still have connectivity to the public IM networks. "Our customers look for AIM and MSN support primarily, with Yahoo fairly close behind," says Tucker. Many IT managers love the fact that they can provide access to the legacy IM networks using a single client application while also enforcing security and compliance policies." (See the table below.)

IM is certainly on the rise in corporate communications. But matching the right product isn't simple, and at least these few questions will help you get on the right track towards something that will meet your needs.

Company Product Public IM connectors
Microsoft Live Communications Server 2005 MSN, AIM, Yahoo
IBM/Lotus SameTime AIM, Yahoo, Google
Jabber Corp. Jabber Now AIM, GoogleTalk
Jive Software Openfire AIM, MSN, Google, Yahoo
America Online AIM Pro AIM, Yahoo

David Strom is a writer, editor, public speaker, blogging coach and consultant. He is a former editor in chief of Network Computing and Tom's Hardware and has his own blog at http://strominator.com. He can be reached at david@strom.com.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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