Technology Briefing: Instant Messaging

  • Directory Integration: Integrates IM functions, which now use separate directories and address books, with network and workstation directories. In essence, directory integration allows IM software to function as part of the network rather than operate outside of the network.
  • Encryption: Protects transmissions during an IM session by encrypting the transmission stream. Encryption helps safeguard information, but transmissions are not protected under most IM software currently available.
  • Logging: Tracks exchanges during an IM session. These logs can be stored locally or centrally. If they are centrally collected, the logs enable IT managers to audit and control the use of IM technology.
  • On-line Presence Management: Permits IT managers and users to control when and how IM software announces the workstation’s presence on the network. On-line presence management provides an important safeguard against unauthorized intrusions and allows the user to better manage interruptions from IMs.
  • Video Support: Allows the transmission of real-time video from workstation to workstation. This represents a key feature as virtual meetings and IM communication seek broader acceptance.
  • Virtual Workspaces: Offers areas where workers can post documents, spreadsheets, or other information so that a group of workers can review and comment on the items simultaneously. When combined with support for voice and video, virtual workspaces provide an opportunity to create real-time electronic meetings.
  • Voice Support: Supports VOIP (voice over IP) conferencing among multiple users. This application appeals to IT managers because of its ease-of-use and low cost.
  • Whiteboarding: Represents the ability of simultaneously sharing a graphic space among several users. Each user can access the graphic space and add comments or information. This can include collaborative documents accessed through word processors.

Moving Forward
Managers need to develop rules for the use of IM. Like the early days of e-mail, this technology creates a democratic system of information exchange that lacks a definition of proper usage. Unlike e-mail, IM users know that the recipient’s workstation is working. When a user receives an instant message, it creates a false urgency that many find impossible to ignore. Still, the message represents an interruption for the recipient, and it may be counter-productive to respond immediately. Managers will need to establish rules to avoid being swamped by unwanted connections.

Ultimately, IM systems will become the cornerstone of more extensive collaborative applications. These multifunctional software packages will combine instant messaging with real-time multimedia exchange and tools to support virtual meetings. Until these packages mature, however, IT managers will need to support and control IM applications, regardless of how they were introduced to corporate computing environment.

This product briefing was first published on CrossNodes, an site.