Email improves the office but IM is a threat – survey

Most business users find email and phone calls conducive to productivity. However, according to a survey, unified communications technologies such as instant messaging and blogs distracted workers from the task at hand – and posed a security threat.

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Most business users find email and phone calls conducive to productivity. However, according to a survey, unified communications technologies such as instant messaging and blogs distracted workers from the task at hand – and posed a security threat.

According to the survey, more than 70% of business users say email positively impacts productivity, followed by fixed-line telephony for 53% and mobile telephony for 52%. One hundred percent of respondents said they use email while 80% use the telephone and another 76% rely upon their mobile phones.

IT consulting firm Dimension Data surveyed 524 IT managers and enterprise end users to learn which means of communications improved productivity and which had the opposite impact.

"Consistent with my own research, there is a strong correlation between asynchronous communication, like email, and multitasking," said Marshall Van Alstyne, professor of information systems economics at Boston University and MIT, in a Dimension Data release.

"Although users may take more time to complete individual projects, they are actually finishing a greater number of tasks. Email does not speed work in all cases, but rather its advantage is to help people juggle projects and multitask more effectively. This increases project completion rates."

But while 66% of enterprise end users also reported they use instant messaging to communicate at work, respondents also indicated the unified communications application had the most potential to cause a breach, along with PDAs and mobile phones.

The survey found that while 52% of users said they perceived unified communications to be as secure as other information and communications technologies, just 31% of IT managers agreed the technologies were equally secure.

In fact, 16% of IT managers surveyed said they believed the technology to be moderately risky and close to 10% thought instant messaging very risky.

Some of the risks identified by Dimension Data include fraud and identity theft that could lead to the unauthorised use of enterprise services, and denial of service and other disguised attacks using the less secure applications as a means of entry.

"This result indicates that IT managers are aware of the new risk types that are associated with unified communications, while IT users are probably reasonably unaware of the risks they might be exposed to and expose their organisations to when using communications technologies other than email," the survey reads.

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