It's not a question of whether your employees will use instant messaging (IM)--only whether they'll choose IM systems that leave your company open to fraud and mischief. There are no guarantees, but Lotus SameTime from IBM can reduce your exposure.
Consumer IM systems like AOL AIM and Microsoft MSN Messenger have overrun the workplace well in advance of security and acceptable use policies. You can try to ban them. But market research firm Osterman Research predicts that, by year-end, IM messages will be flitting back and forth across more than 90 percent of all corporate firewalls. Your best strategy, says Michael Osterman, president and CEO, is to give your workers a business-class alternative.
While Lotus SameTime won't eliminate your employees' use of public IM services, its user authentication, message--logging and auditing features breed accountability even when employees connect to their AIM buddies. Messages sent over the SameTime system, even to remote employees, are completely secured by 128-bit encryption. You can add an important customer or supplier to your in-house system just by mailing the client software and paying a $36 license fee.
Cheaper than long distance and offering more immediacy than phone or e-mail, messaging now occupies two hours of the typical knowledge worker's day and houses about 60 percent of all critical business information, says Osterman. The typical worker makes 10 phone calls and four trips down the hall to see co-workers every time the messaging system goes down for an hour.
IBM's own employees, who log about 10 messages per day, reduce telephone usage by more than 4 percent and save Big Blue about $13 per month per employee in travel expenses, says Kevin McClellan, IBM marketing manager.
What the numbers don't show, says McClellan, is the increased pace of collaboration that saves employees time, accelerates supply chain and customer service cycles and, ultimately, offers additional revenue opportunities.
IM is not without risks. But if you don't let your workers use it, fast-moving competitors could use it against you.
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P2P music downloads and unauthorized instant messaging steal your bandwidth and open you up to security and legal risks. This $1,200 server checks the ID of every file crossing your firewall, blocking any on a constantly updated outlaw list.
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Lindows OS Computer
|Sample Total Cost of Operation (TCO) for Hypothetical Network|
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
|Windows Desktops with Microsoft Office||$25,618||$25,618||$25,618|
|Network Attached Storage + Tape Backup||$17,338||$500||$500|
|Network Switches, Routers, Firewalls||$11,638||$626||$3,750|
|SQL Server Licenses||$18,500||$0||$18,500|
|Exchange Server License||$1,754||$1,105||$1,105|
|Financial Applications Licenses||$10,000||$10,000||$10,000|
|IT & Non-IT Employee Training||$10,000||$5,100||$8,100|
|Total Cost of Operation||$132,555||$54,006||$99,405|
|Sample ROI for Hypothetical Network|
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
|Total Cost of Operation (TCO)||-$132,555||-$54,006||-$99,405|
|IT Savings from Network Consolidation||10,750||21,500||32,250|
|Revenues Not Lost to Downtime||101,268*||156,391*||245,419*|
|Revenue Run Rate Improvement||1% more||2% more||3% more|
|Revenue Added by Network Efficiencies||$121,238||$242,477||$363,715|
|TCO + Benefits = ROI||$100,701||$366,362||$541,979|
Source: Dell Inc. For a custom analysis, call 800-917-DELL.
Mike Hogan is Entrepreneur's " Digital Edge " columnist.