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Instant messaging goes corporate. (Up front: news, trends & analysis).

If you don't know what "SUP" or "TTYL" means in instant-messaging (IM) speak, you will soon.

The technology, where "SUP" means "what's up" and "TTYL" means "talk to you later," is coming to an office near you.

Last spring, CIO magazine reported that a consortium of eight leading investment banks had extended an IM network to 2,000 institutional investor clients to allow easier communication among traders, brokers, and clients. During the summer, equities traders and clients also signed on.

Long considered a toy for teens, IM software now is beginning to invade the business world. According to a recent survey by Osterman Research, a technology research company, almost half of all U.S. and Canadian companies are currently using some form of IM. IM is faster than e-mail, delivering messages that pop up on your computer screen instantaneously, no matter what you're working on. Employees can use it to see if someone is in or to avoid time-wasting email and phone tag.

IM software typically shows a "buddy list" of friends and colleagues who are online at any given moment. By clicking on a name displayed in a small box on the computer screen, the user can type a message that pops onto the recipient's screen seconds after it is sent--and get one back just as quickly. IM conversations can be one-on-one or include several users.

According to data from independent research firm IDC, workplace use of business and consumer IM is expected to grow from 65.6 million users today to 260 million by 2007. Forrester Research said IM is finding users much faster than e-mail did when it was first introduced. In the last year alone, the number of instant messages has grown by more than 50 percent, so that nearly one-third of American adults are now "IM-ing" with their children, friends, clients, and colleagues.

But as more employees download popular IM tools, companies must recognize the immediate threat that these systems can pose to network security. IM can leave a multitude of unsecured doors open to unauthorized eyes that can gain access into desktops and, ultimately, into company computers at all levels.

The software's major stumbling blocks to widespread success in business are the need for secure systems and common standards. IM services, which send unencrypted messages through public networks, won't make things easier for IT managers worried about protecting firewalls. IM also can become a liability for companies that don't ensure the reliability and security of sensitive information. In fact, Osterman's research reveals that these concerns have pushed 22 percent of companies to block IM traffic from their networks altogether. The New York Times reported that some companies limit IM use to within the enterprise and keep records of the typed conversations that would otherwise disappear into cyberspace.

Another hurdle is the interoperability of IM solutions. The technology would grow faster if the major providers--AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo--would allow their software to work together. Until then, IM users will be limited to IM-ing only their friends and colleagues that use the same software that they do.

As organizations adopt IM services as a communications medium for conducting business, they must manage and control instant messages as electronic records. The highly regulated financial services industry is leading this trend and has acknowledged IM as falling under the electronic communications umbrella, subject to archiving and reporting requirements specified under the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Rule 17a-4, which specifies the time period for which brokers or dealers must preserve records and other documents pertaining to the business.

Some records and information management services providers already have expanded their offerings to include compliant IM records archiving and retention solutions.
Who Has the
Most PCs?

Country Computers

United States 164,100,000
Japan 49,900,000
Germany 30,600,000
United Kingdom 26,000,000
France 21,800,000
Italy 17,500,000
Canada 16,000,000
China 15,900,000
Australia 10,600,000
South Korea 10,600,000

COPYRIGHT 2003 Association of Records Managers & Administrators (ARMA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Swartz, Nikki
Publication:Information Management Journal
Geographic Code:00WOR
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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