Ask a group of IT administrators how many have used the old-school IRC chat services and plenty of hands will be raised. There’s a good reason for that–the IRC chat rooms are filled with developers, administrators, and users , all of whom are ready to talk tech. IRC has always been a great means to find solutions for issues haunting your servers and desktops (or development projects).

As it stands, IRC is aging, so it’s about time a service attempted to bring the technology into the modern era. Such is the case with IRCCloud. With this service, you can join any IRC channel or even create your own teams, for cloud-based collaboration. To make this even more appealing, IRCCloud offers access via web, desktop client, and mobile app. The desktop client is available for Linux, MacOS, and Windows. If you’d prefer to use IRCCloud on the go, there are apps for both iOS and Android.

You can use IRCCloud for free with up to two IRC networks (other than If you’re looking for unlimited IRC connections or team collaboration, you’ll have to pony up $5/per user per month. If you’re wanting enterprise-level usage, you’ll have to contact IRCCloud for more information on pricing.

Sign up for the free account on the IRCCloud main page. After signing up, you will receive an email so that you can verify your account. With that taken care of, let’s install the desktop client and see how IRCCloud can make you IT life a bit easier.

SEE: Essential reading for IT leaders: 10 books on cloud computing (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Installing the desktop client

I’ll be demonstrating the installation on Elementary OS. Since the client is still in beta, the installation is a little bit wonky. Let’s walk through the process:

  1. Download the .deb file from the downloads page
  2. Open up at terminal window and change into the directory housing the download
  3. Issue the command sudo dpkg -i irccloud-desktop-XXX.deb (Where XXX is the release number)
  4. Allow the installation to complete (with errors)
  5. Issue the command sudo apt-get install -f (this will fix the errors)

Once the above is complete, you should find the IRCCloud client in your desktop menu. Open the client and then log in with your account credentials (Figure A).

Figure A

Click on the Sign in here link at the top of the window and then enter your IRCCloud credentials. Upon authentication, you can then select a network to join (Figure B) and start chatting via old-school IRC, via a new-school style.

Figure B

If you don’t see the channel you want to join from the Hostname drop-down, you can simply type it out and then enter the channel(s) you want to join. Make sure to include the # sign before the channel name.

The nice thing about using the desktop client is that it gives you easy access to menus you don’t have with the web-based version. For example: Need to start a pastebin, click File | Start a pastebin; or need to add a new network, click File | Add a network.

Once you’ve added a network, it will remain saved in the right side navigation so you can gain quick access (Figure C).

Figure C

Registering your nickname

This is important. If you plan on joining certain groups (such as #ubuntu), you need to have a registered nickname, otherwise you cannot view the ongoing discussion. To do so, join the group and then issue the command:

/msg NickServ REGISTER password

Where password is a password you can remember and is an email address you have access to. You will then be sent instructions on how to verify your nickname registration. Once registered, you will be able to better experience public IRC.

A nice means of getting help

What I like about IRC is that you can get quick access to admins and developers (especially in the realms of open source) that can help you with seriously tricky problems. And with the help of this modern-day, cloud-based take on IRC, you have a real winner on your hands.