- Security risks. Along with everyone else, IM is growing in popularity with hackers and criminals, too. The number of IM attacks, including viruses, worms and phishing scams, has risen from 20 in 2004 to 571 in the second quarter of 2005 alone, according to a study by the IMlogic Threat Center. As with many e-mail viruses, worms and spyware, IM attacks can steal confidential information from your computer, turn your PC into a spam zombie, and more.
- Legal risks. As with any business communications tool, you or an employee may inadvertently write something that can cause or complicate legal issues later. For example, two employees swapping crude jokes via IM could subject your business to a sexual harassment suit from an offended employee. E-mail and IM are often admitted as evidence in legal proceedings, too. And yet, most companies--even those in regulated industries--don't properly retain and archive their employee's instant messages, according to the 2004 Workplace E-Mail and Instant Messaging Survey.
- Decreased productivity. When used improperly, IM can be an ongoing distraction for employees. In fact, 58 percent of IM users engage in personal chat at work, according to the Workplace E-Mail and Instant Messaging Survey.
- Limited interoperability between IM systems. Most IM systems still don't enable users to swap messages with anyone outside the system. As a result, many IM users sign up for multiple services.
Peter Alexander is vice president of worldwide commercial marketing at Cisco Systems Inc., the leading supplier of networking equipment and network management for the internet.