Enterprise instant messaging security tools are entering the market, but some analysts wonder if anyone will care.

A Houston, Tex.-based software manufacturer has announced the release of an instant messaging security application meant to safeguard enterprise use of IM.IM-Age Software Inc. CEO, David Pulaski said that enterprises are usually introduced to intant messaging as an internal communication tool but almost always extend the use past the firewalls. Once messages begin flying over the public networks, the enterprise makes itself vulnerable to malicious code and sensitive information leaks, he said. His solution, the IM-Policy Manager v3.0 addresses those security issues.

The software intergrates seamlessly with all versions of AOL, ICQ, Lotus Sametime, MSN, Exchange IM, Reuters, Yahoo! and AT&T messengers. The solution can also be customized to run overtop propriatory systems, Pulaski said.

Once installed, it essentially becomes an IT deparment-controlled monitor. The application can be set to block file transfer through IM, which reduces the chance of a virus by-passing the central mail server and getting onto the network. It can also monitor IM activity for particular words or phrases.

“”You can select different words or phrases for different groups of people. For example, you may restrict the sales team from using the word ‘guarantee,’ but the entire company from maybe using a word in the ‘sex’ category,”” he said.

Many industry insiders predict big things for the enterprise use of IM, with IDC forecasting that the IM applications market will reach US$1 billion by 2005.

There are still linguering questions about the role IM will play in the enterprise and how relevant its role really is. IDC Canada senior software analyst Warrien Shiau, for example, said that while instant messaging has made its way inside the office it largely remains an ‘under the table’ technology.

“”People are downloading Instant Messenger or ICQ and just using it basically for personal communication in an office setting,”” he said. “”You usually don’t see IT departments sanctioning the use of (IM), or giving out an in-house instant messenger.””

There are many issues surrounding the use of IM in the enterprise, he said. Some of them are as obvious as being able to save the data passing back and forth through these programs. But some of the issues are much simpler, he said.

“”If I send a message to someone in my office over the e-mail system, they get it pretty well instantly. There isn’t that much of a difference between Instant Mesenger and the e-mail system,”” he said. “”So I don’t know if its really that much of a productivity enhancer in an enterprise environment. I feel that the appeal with instant messanging really is for personal communication because it’s outside the

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