Collaboration

Top Instant Messaging applications in the enterprise

It appears that the enterprise have largely given up on controlling the use of IM, and existing policies, if any, were largely ignored.

Palo Alto Networks, a company specializing in enterprise network products, summarized application traffic assessments for 20 large organizations -- representing the behavior of over 350,000 users, and came to some interesting conclusions. It appears that enterprises have largely given up on controlling the use of IM, and existing policies, if any, are largely ignored.

Below is a chart from page 7 of the source report. Now, the data appears to be computed by site level, I thought the relative popularity of various IM apps was interesting.

IM Usage

Does your company discourage or mandate the use of IM?

[Source: The Application Usage and Risk Report]

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Palo Alto Networks prides itself in providing strong visibility and policy-based control over applications running off enterprise networks.

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

21 comments
Comiter
Comiter

I think the IM application isn't a necessary thing and spend the time unless it used for useful purposes

Hurell.Lyons
Hurell.Lyons

I work for Qualcomm and they use and maintain Office Communicator (Currently using 2007) and I have to say if you are a fan of text messaging it works in the same way..... You don't have to talk to someone over the phone and you can control the conversation (esp. with people who like to talk to too much). I can also multitask from my desk (I'm a system admin but I'm all things IT for this office).

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

I've used the MyTeamwork functionality that is packaged with the Alcatel IP Telephony solution. You can chat, do desktop/app sharing, and conference calling. Good thing is that it utilizes internal infrastructure and doesn't allow connectivity from the outside. Perfect solution for a compliance concerned organization (prior to the inception of this product, IM wasn't tightly controlled...the company enabled detailed sniffers/captures, and it turned out some medical info was going out on IM...YIKES) that uses Alcatel as their telephony system. On a related but different note, I had a question: Does the chat feature from the Yahoo mail website go out as IRC, or HTTP traffic? I ask, because I know of a few companies that are blocking IRC, but don't block access to web-based mail...and if this is going out as HTTP, this would seem to be a way to circumvent policy (nowadays, why anyone would risk that when you can just use your phone is beyond me...but it's their job on the line, not mine).

Meesha
Meesha

These metrics are very misleading. Especially since MSN is forced on everyone's PC simply because they had to buy the PC with MS everything on it. Organizations that allow such cowboy IMs into their environment are inviting a whole world of headaches. For example, there is no real security around these public style IMs; there is no real ability to monitor; no ability to archive conversations for compliance or litigation; etc. Of the bunch listed, only IBM Lotus Sametime is truly a corporate class IM. But it doesn't stop there. Sametime also is a web/video conferencing tool and is very powerful in it's capabilities. It totally is able to record sessions and secure sessions. If you're adverse to IBM, even MS has a slightly more secure product in Citrix/GoTO. Corporate laziness seems to be the true metrics here. I believe that the 20 "large" orgs representing 350K users is based on bad business not the lack of ability for "controlling the use of IM, and existing policies". Try more of the Fortune 100 and then if the numbers still stack up find out why this is so when there are true corporate solutions available.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I would be lost without it and so would Orange Business Services. It is invaluable when you are working on a case that involves multiple countries and every one is in a noisy data center. Using Communicator to pass information is a whole lot easier than fighting to understand everyone's accent.

lb63640
lb63640

We use AIMPro, and utilize the desktop sharing for remote support.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

We've got an in-house solution within the IT department, but it gets minimal use. I'm not aware of the use of external IM solutions by end users. Obviously that doesn't mean they aren't being used. However, I'm reasonably confident less than 10% of my users are accessing external IM resources from company systems. Maybe it's just that our older workforce isn't familiar with the tool and thus hasn't asked about it. Frankly, I don't see the advantages of it over telephone or e-mail. I haven't pushed it as a solution since I don't know what problems it solves.

paulmah
paulmah

Does your company discourage or mandate the use of IM?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

There are benefits to instant messaging and voip in a business where staff are not in the same room or floor. Sometimes, it takes longer to pick up the phone and call or walk across the office and ask rather than pop open your IM and drop a quick string. We've also been using it for conferencing in more than one person on a quick topic rather than call a meeting gather around a desk. IM during conference calls is also a big advantage. One does have to decide if it will actually benefit there own business based on architecture and physical locations though.

paulmah
paulmah

I just joined a local college and Microsoft Office Communicator is apparently a standard installation item. However, the organization as a whole is quite forward looking, not sure if its the norm in other educational institutions around the world. Apparently, there is no filtering on any IMs also if you opt to install them. Regards, Paul Mah.

torturednacho
torturednacho

I Work in a Large Corporation IT Center.Without Office Communicator I and the other 500 or so people would be lost without it. Quick Questions,Small Conversations,I'm not sure how they got along without the Communicator.But I know that we wouldn't be as good as we are now W/O it.

Kevin Quillen
Kevin Quillen

Yeah... tried this out. I found it kinda buggy and sluggish. A good alt for this is Trillian, or, Openfire if you are more ambitious.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

So far, those seem to be the advantages with the new IM here at work. It's the same advantages that attracted everyone outside work; I can see when my friends are available and leave quick messages for them. This is also the new MS business IM offering so it ties into exchange server and adjusts my availability based on the Outlook calendar when I am logged in. It ties into there "MySite" facebook for business offering also. I must admit that it's a rather slick package when you account for all the functions merged together though I imagine other enterprise solutions are comparible. Email is great when you need to leave a message, have more than a few lines of details or need a slow response. I can avoid going too Outlook (run on second machine) for a two line message and see that the person is responding for a quick reply. More email in my inbox is the last thing I need with it's chatter back and forth too. The phone is also better for longer conversations but interupts meetings, does not tell me if the person is available and does not indicate if they are responding. In generall, I'm getting more communication with less variables. Like everything, IM has it's uses and place in the blend of communications paradigms.

Kevin Quillen
Kevin Quillen

We use server software called OpenFire, based on Jabber, to solve internal IM (and keep outside IM away). Totally privatized, and comes with its own IM client 'Spark' - or can be used with any Jabber supportive client. They recently took the Enterprise version to open source, so its all free. Very great solution for small-medium businesses. It can also hook into telephony systems like Asterisk, so if someone is on the phone, it will show that as their current status in the buddy list. Check them out: http://www.igniterealtime.org/projects/openfire/index.jsp

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm not really sure how we're using the word 'presence'. Since I don't feel the need to know where my co-workers are every working moment, I can't appreciate this. I know I don't want to spend my time updating my location or status. I guess I still don't see the need for most people to be in constant communication. Convenience, yes; requirement, no. If I'm running or attending a meeting, I expect the other attendees to be participating in that meeting, not responding to outside distractions. I get paged several times a day about subjects that aren't time-sensitive and could have been sent as e-mail or left as voice mail. "I need a computer for an employee starting in two weeks." "The printer has been jammed for three days." Do these topics require my immediate attention at the expense of the person I'm already supporting? (Obviously I'm already supporting someone else, otherwise I could have been called at my desk. We have one manager who never calls anyone, he just pages them repeatedly until they answer.) If it can wait, I phone or send e-mail. If it can't, I'll have you paged. If you're in a meeting and it really can't wait, I'll have it interrupted. If the problem is something that can be answered in a text message, it's probably a problem that can wait until the meeting is over. All these tools are making it too easy for people to avoid prioritizing their communications. Many people can no longer differentiate between the truly urgent and the merely convenient. End of rant; I'll get back in my rocker.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

We've a little one and yelling between floors or running up and down the stairs is not always the best solution. For a two second thing, it can be easy to simply type it up when we're both already doing our own thing on respective machines. If the little one is sleeping, it can be quieter to type a quick message from the same room. We don't make a "special trip" of it too talk by IM. I would be as saddened and, being in the relationship, rather concerned if our only communication was by IM. It's not chosen for the novelty value but in some cases, it makes sense. My wife border's on technology hostile so it's definitely not like she's looking for novelty ways to include tech in everything. :) What was really sad was my roommate and I talking by IM in university while living in a two bedroom dorm; but then, it was for novelty effect back when this new strange ICQ thing was soon to be all the rage. ;)

enduroktm300
enduroktm300

As a fellow southerner (I am from NC) I truly appreciate your perspective. However, the great advantage of IM, is that it allows the recipient to determine the level of importance of the message at a glance. It also "can" free up email traffic. It doesn't sound like your particular business would see much gain, but mine sure would.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"My wife and I often use IM to talk between floors at home..." I don't know why, but that struck me as one of the saddest things I've read in a while.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'll have to check it out. My wife and I often use IM to talk between floors at home rather than yell or intercom call. It may also become of use to contract clients in future. Now too find a good groupware package or does anyone know if the eGroupware drama settled down, that was a great package.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Looking back, I missed the importance of one of your first comments: "It's the same advantages that attracted everyone outside work;" Apparently no one where I work sees any advantage to it here or at home. I suspect this is because of the average age of our workforce. I personally have seen no benefit to using it within the help desk staff, and the other six members are 500 miles away from me. So much for location :-) Obviously there are parts of this I don't understand. How does presence get updated? If I have to do it manually, I might as well change my voice mail message when I leave my desk, or set an auto-response in e-mail when I go to the can. The only IM-capable device I have is my computer. I don't know how to reach anyone via IM on anything other than their company computer. Since they can respond by phone if they're at their computer, I don't think there are any advantages to us. When you send IM traffic using something other than company-owned equipment, who foots the bill for the traffic?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

We are not all sitting in the same area; three of us are here, the boss around the corner, the supervisor is out of town on business. IM means that location is no longer relevant. Yesterday I had a five minute discussion with someone elsewhere in the building and another person traveling on business; solved the issue without long distance phone calls playing email tag back and forth. "Presence" being the indication of one's availability by IM or VOIP. Just like every other IM, I can see the status of those on my contact list and instantly know if someone is available to answer questions or busy in a meeting; the link too Exchange's calendar is a nice touch. I think there is a balance between responding too a colegue's needed question (if only we could work on one task at a time) quickly without interupting a meeting and the crackberry habit of overdueing it too the point of wasting a meeting table chair. In my example, the person I needed a response from was on a conference call so IM meant a question and response in 20 seconds without interupting or detracting from the conference call. In other cases, it's not such an intimate five person meeting. Naturally, it depends on your company size and layout. We are distributed throught different locations and floors within locations so having everyone side by side digitally helps. Most things apear as a convenience initially until there more beneficial uses are figured out. No one but on call emergency workers needed pagers or cell phones but once you have a cell phone, it's not likely you'll live without it. In our case here, IM has been a benefit so far; still no wiki for colabortive jamming but I suspect that will come soon enough. I can see your grief from constant pages too. That becomes an example of overdoing it through the pager; both cases need some degree of training on technology ediquette. Good technology often gets a bad image due to users being stupid. My favourite example is the Blackberry due to the number of times I've almost overrun some zombie suddenly getting a new email. Your also on the oversturated side of it where being more available does not make you more productive. I don't miss being in that possition. I do agree with the last bit fully though. Each degree of communications has it's uses and abuses. Not all forms are beneficial to all business setups either. I wouldn't discount one form simply due to it's pop culture use without exploring unexpected benefits but I also wouldn't impliment something just because it was the new cool toy.