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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Computer Business: Risks of Instant Messenger and Business Communication

Instant Messenger (IM) was once reserved for the social practices of teenagers that used the same IM chat provider. However, this changed in 2004 when Microsoft announced its enterprise IM program, Live Communications Server that could link to other public chat services such as AOL and Yahoo. In January, IBM pronounced that its IM program, Sametime now has agreements with AOL and Yahoo that will make it compatible with more platforms.

While the prevalence of IM programs in business certainly makes communication easier in many ways for companies, there are some issues with public IM services that should be taken into account by companies before they take the plunge into real-time communication.
The first issue is that IM programs give no namespace control. If employers allow their staff to install their own public IM programs and set up their own identities, the identities might not be in line with the company’s naming policy. Also, if and when the employee leaves the company, there is no way to prevent that employee to continue to use the identity.

Another issue is the important one of security. Because IM programs can and do break through corporate firewalls, companies make themselves susceptible to malicious and dangerous instant messages. There is also the risk that messages containing sensitive and important company information can be intercepted by an outside party, or even that worms or other dangerous viruses can be transmitted.

Still a third issue is limited monitoring of conversations. If your company runs under any of the compliance regulations, such as Sarbanes Oxley or Basel II, which require you to monitor and log all IM conversations, consumer-grade IM programs will not allow threads to be saved. Sametime and Live Communication Server both deal with this issue when used internally by a company, but you have to be careful when linking to outside systems and public IM programs.

Blogged By: Joshua Feinberg