Choosing an Instant Messaging System: Page 3

We examine the criteria IT pros should consider when selecting an instant messaging system for their enterprises, and also look at some of the IM offerings on the market. Third in a back-to-basics series on enterprise IM for IT decision-makers.
(Page 3 of 3)

Continued from page two.

e/pop's strengths lie in its strong attention to security, excellent logging capabilities and content vetting. The e/pop client has also has some cool features including a spell check and a message expiration capability.

Licensing costs are dependent on the number of client licenses, but examples of what WiredRed calls its most popular small business packages work out at around $40 per user. This includes the e/pop server software and the client software and access licenses. Server support is confined to Microsoft operating systems. System requirements from a hardware perspective are modest with the minimum processor requirement of a 486.

  • Ipswitch Instant Messaging
  • If all you want is basic IM capability with not too many frills, then Ipswitch Software's Instant Messaging product could be the one you for you. Although it has good levels of security and logging functionality, it lacks some of the more collaborative tools found in other IM products.

    Pricing is some of the most aggressive around at $695 per server with unlimited clients, but support on both the server and client sides is restricted to Windows operating systems.

    Gateway vendors

    In addition to the slew of hosted enterprise IM vendors, there are also a number of major players offering proxies that businesses run on their networks to authorize, monitor, and manage employees use of the public IM networks, like AIM/ICQ, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger. Typically, solutions require little in the way of infrastructure investment; annual licensing fees run upwards of $24 to near $50 per user, with volume discounts.

  • FaceTime Communications
  • Since 1999, FaceTime has been offering enterprise IM solutions starting with IM-based call center applications and later moving into the IM gateway space. There, Foster City, Calif.-based FaceTime has proven itself one of the driving forces in the industry -- signing a number of major financial institutions to its client roster. Furthermore, America Online turned to FaceTime to provide the technology underlying its own enterprise IM gateway (see below.)

    FaceTime offers separate products for IM blocking and monitoring, logging, and full-fledged management for employees' use of the public instant messaging networks. Its products integrate with corporate directories such as Microsoft Active Directory, Lotus Notes Domino, Sun ONE Directory Server, and Novell Directory Server.

    In addition to formalized partnerships with AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo! to apply management controls to their IM traffic, FaceTime also has agreements to support a wide range of third-party IM systems popular in financial services, such as Communicator Inc.'s HubIM system, Reuters Messaging, and Lotus Instant Messaging.

  • IMlogic
  • Entering the IM gateway market with a bang in 2001, IMlogic has captured a marquee list of customers like Merrill Lynch, Bear Sterns and Stifel Nicolaus for its gateway solution. Like FaceTime, IMlogic manages public instant messaging traffic -- provisioning IM capabilities to some, limiting access by others, and blocking unauthorized users, at the discretion of corporate IT.

    It similarly offers support for major enterprise IM systems like Lotus Instant Messaging and integration with LDAP directories.

    IMlogic also brings to the table a close relationship with Microsoft. As a result, its IM Manager application will integrate with the software giant's "Greenwich" Real-Time Communications Server, and IM and presence platform slated to ship later this year. IM Manager also has been named as Microsoft's technology partner enabling companies using Greenwich to communicate with external users of the MSN Messenger network.

  • Akonix
  • Competitors tend to point to the fact that Akonix doesn't have formal relationships with AIM, MSN Messenger or Yahoo! Messenger for management of their IM traffic.

    But the San Diego-based IM gateway vendor has close ties with Microsoft's Internet security group -- the gateway vendor is also a Microsoft business partner -- and in November, began offering integration with Microsoft ISA Server 2000. It also is partnered with Check Point Software: it's Check Point OPSEC Certified and integrated with Check Point FireWall-1.

    In addition from such well-known allies in the infrastructure security space, Akonix also has boasts relationships with compliance and storage firms like Iron Mountain, Zantaz, Persist and Legato -- at least one of which is potentially already in use at businesses in heavily regulated industries.

    Despite the lack of formal messaging relationships with the Big Three public IM vendors, strong relationships in the security field and a growing client base are proving their own testaments to Akonix's effectiveness.

  • Public Networks Solutions: AOL, MSN and Yahoo!
  • In addition to third-party gateway providers like Akonix, IMlogic and FaceTime, the major forces in public IM also have launched their own proxy-based services. Unlike those three vendors, however, the solutions from America Online, MSN and Yahoo! police only their own, single IM network -- making these offerings ideal for businesses that have standardized on one public instant messaging client.

    The chief value of the solutions is that each provides for federated authentication and namespace control -- enabling IT staffs to create user@company.com identities for employees that ensure that IM users representing themselves as company employees, are, in fact, who they claim to be.

    At a lower price point than its rivals, Microsoft provides little more in its Connect for MSN Messenger gateway, opting instead to rely on partners like IMlogic to provide logging and more advanced features.

    Yahoo! offers integration between its Yahoo! Messenger Enterprise Edition and other applications that businesses might use, such as WebEx Internet conferencing and BEA Systems' WebLogic Workshop. As with MSN, advanced logging services are handled through the product's integration with partners like FaceTime or IMlogic. Yahoo! Messenger Enterprise Edition runs on Microsoft Windows 98/NT/2000, and requires SunONE Web Server (with support for BEA WebLogic Server coming soon.) Corporate directory and portal integration requires SunONE LDAP, Microsoft Active Directory or Yahoo! PortalBuilder 4.5.

    AOL's AIM Enterprise Gateway recently added LDAP compatibility to its product and support for linking the Gateway to other enterprise apps via a Java API. The product supports Intel-based Red Hat Linux and Windows 2000 Server/Advanced Server platforms and Oracle 9i and Microsoft SQL Server 2000 databases.

    Drew Bird is a contributor to our sister site IntranetJournal. Christopher Saunders, managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.com, contributed to this story.


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