Enterprise instant messaging: Coming to a customer near you

By Joel Shore, ITworld |  Opinion

Well, who woulda thunk it - now e-mail is apparently too damn slow.

It's not enough that cosmic systems intertwine, it seems we want to read
each other's minds, and do so without delay. Used to be that waiting 30
seconds for an e-mail message to get from sender to recipient was
tolerable. No more. Now, it's gotta be instant. Pity the poor Postal
Service.

The transformation of instant messaging from teenager's chat tool into
an honest-to-goodness (well, maybe not so honest) corporate
communications platform has already happened. It happened when no one
was looking.

We've all used products like AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and
Microsoft Messenger. Sure, they're great when your pal is online and you
want to have a quickie conversation. It's cheaper than picking up the
phone, and yes, it is actually faster than e-mail. It really is instant.
(How do I know? Because I phoned a West Coast friend from my East Coast
office so I could hear the little audio signal indicating an incoming
message. The instant I'd hit the enter key, that little chime sounded on
my friend's computer, some 3,700 miles away.)

Regardless of a company's IM policy (usually non-existent), employees
have adopted IM as an everyday, all-day-long business tool. Boot the PC
in the morning and launch IM. It's always there, always on, always
ready.

But IM makes IT cringe. Really. It's not so much a bandwidth-sucking
problem as it is an old-fashioned business - and legal - problem.
There's no audit trail. Type those instant messages, converse back and
forth, and then, when you close the IM window and end the session, well,
the conversation is gone forever (unless you did an explicit save, and
no one does). You can't get it back. You can't retrieve it. Poof! Pffft!

Yep, IM is really IA (instant amnesia). No doubt some celebrity insider
traders swear by IM, but corporate lawyers are probably swearing at it.

The Rockies may crumble and Gibraltar may tumble, but IM is here to
stay. Deal with it.

And who's dealing with it? Why your buddies at Microsoft, of course.

If you're not already familiar with Microsoft Live Communications Server
2003, get ready for industrial-strength enterprise instant messaging.

Quote Microsoft's Web site: "Live Communications Server 2003, formerly
known as Real-Time Communications Server 2003 (RTC Server), is the new
enterprise instant messaging (IM) solution and extensible real-time
communications platform . . . [that] enables an enterprise to deploy a
managed IM solution with functionality including logging, archiving,
file transfer, audio/video conferencing, and application sharing."

In other words, IM'ed words live forever and get archived to tape, just
like genuine e-mail.

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