Communication and collaboration are essential to any
business — large or small. Thus, being able to effectively send and receive ideas in
a timely manner is often crucial.

Email is ubiquitous. It’s used by everyone and found on most
devices. Instant Messaging, however, is still king when it comes to having words reach a recipient immediately after pressing send. There isn’t any lag, send/receive limits, built-in delivery confirmation, or read receipts. Furthermore, it’s available
on just about every device — from computers to smart devices. Even basic
cell phones can use SMS for text messages or MMS for on-the-go multimedia sharing.

While many free options exist, nothing compares to deploying
your own messaging server, where messages can be secured via SSL encryption
and tracked for auditing purposes. Additionally, access can be limited to local,
company networks or expanded to include a domain spanning several WANs through
federated server-to-server (S2S) capability.

Setting up the
Messages service

Here are the requirements for setting up the Messages
service on OS X:

  • Apple computer with OS X Server (1.0+) installed
  • Static IP assigned to OS X Server
  • Broadband Internet access (Ethernet or Wi-Fi)
  • Create users and groups
  • Host name registered with 3rd-party name service *
  • DNS entries registered with 3rd-party service and/or ISP *
  • SSL Certificate registered with 3rd-party service **
  • iChat servers or XMPP-compliant services
  • Firewall configuration to allow TCP/UDP ports

Follow these steps to setup the Messages service:

  1. Launch and select the server you wish
    to manage
  2. Login with administrative credentials
  3. Select Messages from the Services pane (Figure
    Figure A
  4. Click the ON button to start the service (Figure B)
    Figure B
  5. The service is now active but will work only
    within the LAN. If multi-site connectivity is needed and/or the server requires
    Internet-facing access, continue to step #1 in the optional steps below.

Here are some optional
configurations of the Messages service:

  1. Under the Settings section, check the box to Enable server-to-server federation (Figure C)
    Figure C
  2. Click the Edit… button to further configure the federation settings
  3. If you want to limit the scope of federated
    domains, select the radio button next to Restrict federation to the following
    domains, then click the plus sign [+] to add a new entry for the domain you wish to
    authorize. Enter one domain per line, and click the OK button to save changes (Figure D).
    Figure D
  4. To enable secure, end-to-end
    communications between federated servers, check the box next to Require secure
    server-to-server federation, and then click the OK button (Figure E)
    Figure E
  5. Lastly, to enable transcripts of all chat sessions, check the box next to Archive all messages (Figure F). This
    provides transparency in the collection of data communications to/from the
    server and may be necessary to comply with any security or privacy rules. Stored transcripts can be found at this location on the server: /Library/Server/Messages/Data/message_archives
    Figure F

Messaging bridges multiple gaps. For example, distance, culture, and time are often overcome when taking part in a chat room
brainstorming session with colleagues from all over the world, on multiple
devices, and with varying data connections.

Being able to communicate is an ability that helps us both
personally and professionally. In the enterprise, it’s a necessity at all
levels and throughout every department around the world.

* Optional, unless necessary to communicate with the Messages
server via URL. By registering a domain name with a 3rd-party registrar, that
host name can now be assigned to the Messaging server, ensuring that it can be
reached on the web.

** Optional, unless enabling secure, server-to-server
federation. In order to ensure communications are encrypted from end-to-end, a
3rd-party SSL certificate will need to be installed in the
Certificates section under the Server pane. Additionally, the necessary DNS
records must be added to bind the host name to the IP address of each federated

Have you setup the Messages services on OS X? What roadblocks, if any, did you experience along the way? Offer your additional tips and tricks in the discussion thread below.