It used to be so easy. Workers took timed breaks, and were rewarded with company activities and holidays. The rest of the time, apparently, they were being productive. Home and social life were separated from work by time and space, with only the telephone able to invade. The mantra “don’t call me at work” was enforced by raised eyebrows as personal conversations were conducted with hands cupped around receivers.
Then along came Instant Messaging (IM). For now, IM is in the eye of the storm in regards to bandwidth. Present IM applications provided by AOL, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and most recently Google, are simple enough as consumer-based applications. The enterprise, however, is another matter.Text
Suddenly employees could have silent, real-time conversations with friends or co-workers while sitting at their desks. The ruse was perfect: people at computers busily typing away. The only problem, of course, was that little real work was getting done.
Carmi Levy, a Senior Research Analyst for Info-Tech Research Group who tracks trends in IM usage, knows this all too well. “IM grew up in the consumer space, free, uncontrolled, non-audited,” he says, adding that because IM entered the enterprise under the radar, over time it exposed organizations to serious productivity and security risks.
Business, however, has a way of turning lead to gold. It has become apparent that, if anything, enterprises were victims of IM’s own success. Surely such a popular communication tool could be harnessed to help the enterprise. The viral spread of IM was proof that it was a new, rich way to communicate.
Nonetheless, wide access to IM over a distributed, mobile network does present some challenges. First, every access point represents a vulnerability; and, second, the introduction of audio and video conferencing risks blowing out bandwidth. Though today’s text-messaging is hardly a network strain, Levy points out that early versions of ICQ were huge bandwidth hogs. The demand for a media-rich IM environment is growing. This means that, according to Levy, there is now a lot of room for commercial products that adhere to scalability, bandwidth usage, as well as limitations and rules for other deployed technologies.
Aisha Umar, Director of Integrated Communication at Microsoft for Canada and Latin America, doesn’t think bandwidth will be a major concern, even as Enterprise Instant Messaging (EIM) increases in popularity. “If there is a document requiring a lot of bandwidth then people create their own portal site. Alternately, a company like Microsoft can host Live Meeting on its server.”
For now, IM is in the eye of the storm in regards to bandwidth. Present IM applications provided by AOL, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and most recently Google, are simple enough as consumer-based applications. The enterprise, however, is another matter. According to Dave Senf, manager of IDC Canada’s IT/Business Enablement Advisory Service, 50 per cent of Canadian organizations are either using or intend to use EIM. Consumer Instant Messaging (CIM) adoption, at 21 per cent, leads EIM, at 12 per cent, but IDC expects this gap will narrow given the need for greater security and adherence to regulatory compliance. This, in fact, is a key advantage of EIM.
Jim Alfred, director of product management at Certicom, agrees that the regulatory environment is driving adoption of EIM over CIM, stating that “In some environments the FEC won’t let you use an open network.” He points out that government offices are now demanding validated cryptography modules. Enterprises are also shifting to hosted applications in order to adhere to new corporate policies.
Furthermore, converged devices now must have secure authentication, with HIPPA and Sarbanes-Oxley largely determining the regulatory environment. “Across the board,” says Alfred, “and this includes EIM, there is demand for robust security models with secure ID tokens for authentication and two-factor identification.”
As InfoTech’s Levy points out, the Swiss cheese reality of networks with multiple access points is still a challenge for IM. As a rule, e-mail has always had its own resource team, whereas IM has not. Ironically, it is only with the acceptance of IM as a valid enterprise product that it is receiving the proper attention.
In fact, it is IM that really established the concept of “presence”. The true nature of such two-way demands was first revealed by IM applications’ ability to provide an online “presence status” by simply stating whether one was on the phone, busy, or away. I have people all over the Americas and with Enterprise Instant Messaging I don’t have to wait for an e-mail response. Live Integration Server can bring customers into that chat to address tech