Software

Five enterprise instant messaging systems

Wally Bahny takes a look at five instant messaging systems that are designed to be used within a private corporate network.

Instant messaging is one of the earliest created network-based collaboration tools and still stands as the basis for all of the others. Pretty much every collaboration tool available on the market offers an instant messaging feature in addition to the voice, video, or screen sharing features they are most known for. However, for most instant messaging and collaboration tools, the service is hosted over the public Internet, resulting in the potential loss or theft of sensitive data or information, especially the data protected by laws such as Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA. Because of this risk, companies have looked for systems they can host within their own private network that will still offer the communications they need to conduct their business.

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In this edition of Five Apps, we take a look at five instant messaging systems that are designed to be used within a private corporate network. These systems are generally client-server based (with one exception), have various feature sets, and are priced by client, by server, both, or - in one case - free.

Five apps

1: BigAnt Instant Messenger

BigAnt is a basic instant messaging system with a few additional niceties. In addition to the basic chat feature, it also offers offline messaging, group chat, and voice and video chat. Accounts can be set up manually or imported from Active Directory for easy setup. In case of audit by a regulatory body, BigAnt can log messages which the administrator can search, view, and print. The BigAnt client is able to be rebranded to show your company's logo and name. BigAnt Standard costs $299 for the server and $15.90 for each client license, which reduces with quantity. Additional features, including desktop sharing, bulletin boards, and document management are available with the Pro version.

2: Bopup Communication Server

Bopup has many of the same features as BigAnt, but it stops short at voice and video. It is capable of bulletin communications, Active Directory imports, file transfer and distribution, and they advertise that the client software works well with Citrix and Terminal Server environments. Again, message archiving is available for regulatory purposes. Bopup costs $190 for the server and $12.90 for each concurrent connection, with the client pricing reducing at certain quantities. Bopup also has a special offer for small businesses purchasing 10-20 client licenses: the server software is free.

3: DBabble

DBabble has one of the smallest feature sets of the software on this list (one-on-one and group chat) but it is also highly customizable and configurable. System administrators are able to change nearly every piece of text on either the web or Windows client and insert images in designated spots, such as logos and even advertisement. DBabble has the capability of creating groups for IT support where the user is randomly assigned to an available support person for one-on-one chat. DBabble servers are capable of being configured in a master-slave architecture, but with an alleged capability of 10 million user databases and 10,000+ concurrent users per server, it's probably not something most admins will use. The DBabble server is available for Windows, Mac, and many versions of Linux and UNIX, and the web client only requires a browser with JavaScript 1.1. Pricing is per-server at $485.

4: Openfire

Openfire, along with its client, Spark, is the only free, open source system on this list. It also has a small core feature set - just text chatting - but has many plugins available to extend the functionality including voice and video. Openfire is also the only server software on this list that does not run as a system service in Windows; it must be run as an application. Openfire does not link to Active Directory, nor does it have any sort of batch user creation natively (there is, however, a plugin available).

5: Winpopup LAN Messenger

Winpopup LAN messenger is the only selection on this list where the server software is optional; the client is capable of either client-server or peer-to-peer communications. However, given the fact that the server software is free, there's no reason to limit yourself to peer-to-peer communications unless you simply do not have a machine to put it on. Because of this simplicity, Winpopup LAN Messenger simply does not have a deep feature set either. It is limited to group and one-on-one chat. Winpopup LAN Messenger is free for up to three users and then costs $14.95 per license - again, like the others, with diminishing cost breakpoints.

Have you used one of these or another enterprise instant messaging system? Share your recommendations and thoughts in the comments below.

21 comments
sergei
sergei

Try Softros LAN Messenger it was most useful messenger we evaluated for our company network

tahocannan
tahocannan

If you guys actually do not need the server take a look at Softros LAN Messenger http://messenger.softros.com that is working in company LAN\WAN networks only without any server and an Internet connection, but nevertheless supports terminal services server.

srimax
srimax

Outlook LAN Messenger has more function and price is very reasonable too. Its peer-to-peer for small companies and server based for corporate companies with active directory syn function. try the 20 days trial.

trishrdh
trishrdh

SideNotesIM is peer-to-peer corporate instant messaging, very easy to set up and try for free, and costs around $160 for up to 200 users. Customer support is on the spot. A few small bells and whistles, but it is extremely streamlined to do what it does well.

Kokooi
Kokooi

Brosix has quite a lot useful features. I think it also has Active Directory Sync

ppuschmann
ppuschmann

Integration with Active-Directory is available! You just have to setup LDAP. Done.

JamesRL
JamesRL

We have an exchange infrastructure so it makes sense.

extremeskillz
extremeskillz

I run it on server 2008 r2 enterprise and runs fine. I did find that you do have to kill the applcation first before adding it as a service. Once done the service can be controled in the services.msc area. The applciation icon is rather useless at this point and if launched i have had it corrupt having the app and service running at the same time. It required a reinstall but I never launched the app again afterwards. Hope that helps you in your setup.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I guess I'm too old and ingrained in my telephone / e-mail ways, not having grown up with IM tools. TR members have offered a few examples, but none of them apply to how I work. We use MS Communicator and will be upgrading to Lync this summer. I'm not opposed to this class of tools in general (other than what appears to be a universal lack of a spell checker), but I just don't get why someone would rather type than talk.

stefanch2
stefanch2

We use Brosix. It has tons more features than mentioned here.

Pargilo
Pargilo

Hi all, what about Microsoft Lync? It's not free but we use it and it works well also with external collaborators

Ken487
Ken487

I tested OpenFire on a SBS2008 setting it to ran as a service and it broken networking on the server. I had done some other work about the same time and it took a lot of troubleshooting to determine that OpenFire was the problem. Uninstalling OpenFire did not repair the problem, it required removing some registry keys to repair the network. My advice would be that you will want to be very careful attempting to use OpenFire running as a service.

extremeskillz
extremeskillz

I use this combination for one of my clients and love it. It is integrated into AD as it's supported when you setup Openfire. Openfire's documentation also mentions how to add the application as a service. It's a simple command found in the application's bin folder. This combination queries AD and I have a security group that I just add members to to populate the buddy lists automatically. It's a nice piece of software and works well.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Have you used one of these or another enterprise instant messaging system? Describe how well it is working for you.

pcarmitchel
pcarmitchel

The beauty of business instant messaging is that while it is not intended to replace email, it puts email in it's place. But the only way that can happen is if the IM app has the fundamental tools teams need to get things done and is not just a glorified chat tool. Take a look at what we've been working on at Glip (https://glip.com), I just put these quick videos together to show how powerful chat really can be at work: https://vimeo.com/user30150559/videos

tahocannan
tahocannan

@sergeiyeah 6 years with SLM on 150-user environment in 3-terminal server farm, still happy with it

stefanch2
stefanch2

Yes, it has Active Directory Sync, spell-checker and many more features. You can get a 30 day free trial and just try it yourself - there is no risk.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Like on those endless conference calls...

Slayer_
Slayer_

That's my problem anyways.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

That's what I'd have to do anyway if the recipient was offline; why not start there? I keep a copy in my Inbox to remind me to follow up if I don't get a timely reply. Maybe I'm not using the utility correctly but it doesn't strike me as any easier to type in an IM client than an e-mail message, either sending or replying. With an e-mail, the pressure to reply immediately isn't there, there's a spell-check capability, and I can add additional people without having to see if they're on line.

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