As an application, it's only loosely tied to the network, but as any administrator knows, an enterprise's choices regarding the use of public instant messaging clients can spell trouble for network security.
Typically the larger the company, the larger the risk when it comes to IM. Whether it's sensitive conversations taking place outside the realm of the company security policy, or unscanned files sneaking past the perimeter, the risks are impossible to ignore. Yet communication between an enterprise's workers and those outside the company often relies on public networks, and banning access to them would at best harm productivity, and at worst directly lead to lost revenue.
That means the only option is finding a more secure way to IM with public users. As News Writer Jim Rendon wrote, Microsoft recently threw down the gauntlet by announcing that its upcoming Live Communication Server 2005 will be the first enterprise IM product to allow users to exchange instant messages with users of the three big public clients, namely AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger.
While IBM Lotus and other corporate IM vendors downplay the significance of Microsoft's announcement and the overall relevance of interoperability with public clients, it's hard to ignore that LCS 2005 should provide enterprises with the first legitimate enterprise IM product that provides the public interoperability support that's been needed for some time. Pricing and implementation details will likely make or break LCS 2005, but Microsoft seems to not only be positioning itself to corner another market, but is also making a proactive effort to help network admins keep IM secure and perhaps sleep a little easier.