Instant messaging will be all-pervasive in business 'within six years'

Instant messaging will become a key tool for business chat by the end of 2011, with 95% of workers using it as their primary communication interface by 2013, analysts have predicted.

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Instant messaging will become a de facto tool for business chat by the end of 2011 with 95% of workers using it as their primary communication interface by 2013, analysts have predicted.

Analyst firm Gartner believes that instant messaging will be a key component of the "locked-down" enterprise environment and counsels the use of enterprise-strength tools.

Gartner reports that instant messaging is increasingly being used as a vehicle for rapidly disseminating critical information about IT operations, such as network outages and schedule changes. In some cases, the instant messaging network remains operational when phone or email systems are down.

But consumer brands of instant messaging - with their lack of audit trail and location outside the firewall - have caused compliance and security headaches for businesses until now.

Capturing all messaging data and prescribing its use in a policy is the key to it fulfilling its potential within an enterprise communications suite, Gartner argued.

To date, the IT community has been among the main culprits in itsuse of insecure instant messaging, said David Mario Smith, research analyst at Gartner. “In a lot of enterprises where the company has locked down the environment you still find a high usage by the IT community of tools that are not sanctioned," he said.

But Smith expects the growing use of enterprise tools to secure a place for messaging in one communication infrastructure, which will gravitate towards "presence" technologies. At present, enterprise grade instant messaging accounts for just 25% of corporate messaging usage.

Vendors such as IBM and Microsoft provide the capability to archive instant messaging records to the server, although the continuing capability for users to save chat on their clients remains a compliance headache.

Connections with external partners or customers via federation to public service instant messaging, such as AOL/AIM, Yahoo or MSN, should be protected by the use of instant messaging hygiene or security services, Gartner advised.

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