Monday, November 12, 2012

Akeni Instant Messaging software - Business LAN IM is a client/server instant messaging platform that allows companies to keep their own secured private IM talks. The client has an user interface similar to AIM, ICQ, or MSN Messenger. It supports all the standard IM features such as chat, group conference, presence management, file transfer, offline messages and emergency alert/notification. Extra features include contact management and optional tabbed chat sessions.The server has advanced administration tools for managing user accounts, client-side logging capabilities and peer-to-peer file transfers. Akeni Pro Messenger can be setup on a private network without connecting to the internet and can easily be setup for use inside and outside the company firewall.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Can Instant Messaging Really Be Safe?

As IM fever engulfs business, pricey products promise to secure it.

Frank Thorsberg, special to

Instant messaging may have started out as a tool for teens, but it has morphed into a valuable communications tool for millions of business users. And as those businesses discover IM's benefits, they also encounter its risks--and a host of new products aimed at reducing those risks.

These new products are available from everyone from big-name companies such as Microsoft and America Online to smaller start-ups, such as IMlogic Software and FaceTime Communications. They vary greatly in price and scope, but most of the products offer similar features: risk and security management tools, including searchable storage, usage monitoring, and controls over employee usage.

But beyond the basic features, these products can vary widely. So how do you know if your company needs the security they offer, and whether you're getting your money's worth?

Small Firms, Big Worries

Companies of all sizes are discovering the advantages of using IM for rapid-fire communications with peers, partners, and customers. In 2002, there were 80 million IM users in the United States, and 25 million were business users, according to The Yankee Group. Those numbers are only going up: IM is expected to post a compound annual growth rate of 150 percent through 2005, according to the latest Yankee Group forecast.

But the advantages of IM come with some real risks.

Without messaging security, users could publicly expose sensitive company data and information. Unlike e-mail, IM leaves no record of communications. And IM file transfers aren't subject to server-level virus scans, so users face a real threat of virus infection.

Caught Napping?

Whether you're aware of it or not, IM is probably already widely used in your office. Millions of workers jumped from personal use to business use of IM tools before system managers realized what was happening.

"It's crept in from the bottom up, not from the top down," says Michael Gartenberg, research director for Jupiter Research. "Now that it's here, there are rules and policies, as well as technology, that have been used for voice mail and e-mail that they will have to (use) for IM as well."

It's up to businesses to provide the safety and security needed to gain the full benefits of IM for employees, experts say. Just as they have done with other communications systems like the telephone and e-mail, businesses need to centralize their IM systems and standardize how instant communications are implemented.

"If your employees are using AIM, Microsoft Messenger, or Yahoo Messenger, you have no central control like you have with an e-mail server or telephone switch," says Glen D. Vondrick, FaceTime president and chief executive officer. "There's a need to block key words, be protected from legal risk, security risk, virus risk--all of the things associated with information on your network leaving the firewalls and being inappropriate or subject to competitive risk."

Pick a Product

So, where should a small company turn for protection? Most small firms can rule out expensive hosted IM solutions (like Reuters Messenger) and enterprise server solutions (like IBM Lotus Sametime and Microsoft Exchange Server) as too costly and lacking interoperability with public systems like AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Instant Messenger, and MSN Messenger.

Several big-name technology players, including Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo, have jumped into the business IM market. AOL's business IM service, in fact, may be a very viable option for smaller companies.

AOL's business offering uses the company's free, and very popular, AIM instant messaging service. (AOL claims more than 195 million registered AIM users.) Users get the same AIM interface they are accustomed to.

Behind the scenes is an added security service called AIM Enterprise Gateway. This software was developed by AOL using technology from FaceTime, which also markets its own IM security software.

The AIM Enterprise Gateway works as a proxy between AIM users behind a corporate firewall and AIM users on the public network. Companies pay between $34 and $41 per year for each user plugged into the gateway. The software allows your IT staff to manage and monitor IM traffic, log and audit messages, and limit access to certain features, such as file transfers.

More Software Solutions

Additional likely IM solutions for small businesses will come from platform-independent players like FaceTime and IMlogic. They offer similar features, including customer service controls and enhanced collaboration capabilities.

Both services allow instant messages to be stored in searchable archives, and can satisfy compliance and audit requirements. Like AOL's offering, these services can also map employee screen names to maintain consistent corporate identities, and can identify specific employee or workgroup usage. IT managers can control employee access to IM networks, and can block file transfers via IM.

But control isn't cheap. FaceTime's server and network license packages start at $5000. User fees range from $15 to $50 per employee, depending on volume. The pricing is based on a few different variables, including the number of networks being used, the number of users, and the number of servers.

IMlogic offers a "quick start" package for $15,000 that covers up to 100 employees. Included is support for all ten networks that IMlogic supports, including AOL, MSN, Yahoo, and IBM Lotus Sametime.

Added Benefits

IM isn't all about risk--it can deliver key benefits. "It's saving you telecommunications, network costs, and storage," says Francis deSouza, president and CEO of IMlogic.

DeSouza, former head of Microsoft's Real-time Collaboration Group, says that IMs save companies more than time.

"Sure, there are a lot of IMs, but each IM is very small in size or pretty short," he says. "It actually cuts down on e-mail traffic, and e-mail is very fat. So the odd thing we discovered is that it [IM use] actually drops overall network traffic and drops storage requirements."

Central controls on IM systems are a natural fit for the financial and legal industries, but they also have value for energy-trading and manufacturing companies, especially small companies that are suppliers to much bigger firms.

"It's especially valuable for any information knowledge industry where a lot of what they do is communicate with customers and suppliers...outside the firewall," deSouza says.

By their very nature, small businesses have a greater need for outside communications, and that makes them prime targets for increased IM usage.

"They have a lot of constraints--they are concerned about telecommunications costs, concerned with storage, and they have a lot of out-of-the-company communications, and their people are often more widely distributed and not necessarily in the same location," deSouza says. "Those are a lot of reasons you want to do IM, and why it can be an especially important tool for small business."

Monday, March 26, 2012

IM and P2P Security

You have all your e-mail and Web-filtering software in place, and you carefully monitor message logs for signs of abuse. But little do you know that for months, a disgruntled employee has been instant messaging company secrets to a friend who works for one of your competitors. And he's been using commonly available utilities to disguise sensitive files as MP3s, which he shares openly using peer-to-peer file-sharing services. The explosion of instant messaging and P2P file-sharing applications in the workplace is a new security challenge. Employees can easily download such applications for free, often without IT detection. The threat from such applications amounts to much more than simply lost productivity and wasted time.

Divulging company secrets is only one of the serious threats posed by IM and P2P applications. Both provide new entry points to your network for intrusions, data theft, denial-of-service attacks, viruses, and worms. In fact, security vendor Symantec reported in one of its biannual Internet Security Threat Reports that the number of attacks over IM and P2P systems quadrupled from January to June 2003. Both applications are adept at bypassing firewalls using port-scanning and tunneling techniques. And none of the popular IM clients offers strong authentication or encryption, so they are vulnerable to account hijacking and eavesdropping for valuable or damaging company information divulged by unwitting employees.

Then there are the bandwidth issues. Since each P2P node is acting as both a client and a server, your precious network bandwidth may be devoured not only by your internal P2P and IM users but also by P2P users all over the planet downloading songs from your users' shared directories.

And don't forget the legal issues. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has repeatedly warned Fortune 1000 companies that they could be liable for employees that break copyright laws by using their networks to download, store, or distribute music or movies illegally. In fact, the RIAA sued one Arizona-based software company in 2002, resulting in a settlement of $1 million. Companies that don't prevent downloading of pornographic material risk hostile-workplace lawsuits and negative publicity.

So what can you do? First, set up a company policy that clearly states when, how, and by whom IM and P2P applications and services may be used. Then you should use available network hardware and software to block or regulate the applications, or (in the case of instant messaging) bring them in-house, where you can manage and secure their use.

One way to block IM manually is to add the server address names or IP addresses of all known IM servers to your firewall block list. This is only a start, however, because it's not easy to keep up with all of them. Some firewall vendors have added protocol detection capabilities to their products, allowing them to identify and block IM and P2P applications or, in some cases, to identify common attacks that use such applications. To get even more granular protection, install personal firewalls on all your PCs, which you can configure to deny communications at the desktop level to specific applications, including IM and P2P.

If you want more fine-grained control, gateway-scanning and -filtering solutions from Akonix Systems, FaceTime Communications, SurfControl, and WebSense sit behind a firewall, where they can monitor the use of IM and P2P apps, block them, archive messages, or, in the case of Akonix L7 Enterprise, enforce specific corporate policies involving message content, file transfers, time-of-day use, and other variables. L7 Enterprise can also keep all internal IM communications behind the firewall.

The best way to reap the benefits of corporate IM while protecting your company may be to invest in an enterprise IM solution. For more information, see our story "Corporate IM".

Finally, an enterprise antivirus package from McAfee, Symantec, or another vendor is essential. You should incorporate antivirus protection on every desktop and make sure you keep up with your antivirus definition updates in addition to OS, IM, and P2P software patches.

Author: Leon Erlanger

Monday, February 6, 2012

Jabber Gets on Video Bandwagon

The budding area of linking text-based instant messaging with other media receives another boost, as IM provider Jabber, Inc., plans to add video to its platform.

Denver-based Jabber licensed technology from NetGen Video, which enables users to send TV-quality video messaging clips to each other. Because the video is sent at intervals, the system avoids the problems frequent in streaming media -- like buffering delays and dropouts that occur even with relatively high-speed connections. The resulting NetGen video clip plays at 30 frames per second, scaling in resolution to accommodate the viewer's processor.

While NetGen Video's ImageIQ process uses Windows Media Encoder as its actual compression codec, the file is reduced in size before encoding using the company's scaling technology. After decoding on the receiver's end, ImageIQ scales up the image to the appropriate resolution.

In return, Westborough, Mass.-based NetGen Video's parent, LegatoVideo, has been a Jabber developer since last year, licensing the company's platform for use in its own video IM product, CliqueVM. The product will formally debut in February.

After integrating the technology into its system, Jabber said it would pitch IM-based and presence-enabled video to its client base, which includes enterprise customers like Hewlett-Packard, media giants Walt Disney Internet Group and Gruner + Jahr, and ISPs including Bell South and France Telecom.

"We'll be looking at select customers to present this to, with ... a view towards integrating this as an element of our product suite," said Frank Cardello, vice president of business development at Jabber. "That's our goal here, to go to our installed base and say, 'This is what the technology does, these are the enhancements it can offer, would you like to consider how this technology can enhance what you do?'"

In addition to promoting the services to clients, Jabber, Inc. would encourage the technology among its community of independent software developers for use in their own products, based on Jabber's IM and presence platform.

"From our experience, it's not about application development to end-user communities -- that's important to us, because Jabber does sell IM applications to customers -- but what we really do is provide IM infrastructure to communities," Cardello said. "We view IM applications as low-hanging fruit, while we work very hard on the channel to take our applications and platform into other environments."

The companies also said the joint work could help introduce NetGen Video's product to the open-source Jabber community.

"We would encourage that, and be helpful and be encouraging in any way we could," Cardello said.

Looking at the Prospects

While it's not instantaneous videoconferencing, the two companies expect that adding video to instant messaging still fills a gap in companies' communication needs.

"Video is useful in an IM framework," said NetGen Chief Operating Officer Jeff King. "Sometimes we reach for the phone, and sometimes for e-mail. E-mail doesn't require the immediacy of a phone call, but we might want to have these types of conversations documented. If there's a lot of substantive content around your conversation, you would use e-mail with attachments. But you can't get together and still have a visual component to leave an impression."

Granted, King admits there are "some issues" with the system's use of asynchronous video, rather than an arguably more intuitive, always-active stream. But the benefits outweigh the negatives, he said.

"We want to have highly impactful communications," he said. "Our technology allows you to experience 30 frames per second over smaller bandwidth connections, leveraging both existing bandwidth and the ability to effectively communicate using video -- two things we've seen gated over last several years."

Despite whatever questions exist about the solution's usability, the timing certainly seems right. Videoconferencing technology, which has existed since the 80s, has only been available for inexpensive, enterprise-class use on desktop PCs within the past few years.

Corporate buyers and developers have been further encouraged to consider IP-based videoconferencing and personal video communications by a confluence of recent trends, including safety and budgetary concerns about travel, wider and cheaper broadband availability, and improving Internet video technology.

In August of this year, Web portal Yahoo! added more advanced, near-broadcast-quality "Super Webcam" features to its IM client, which it debuted in 2001. PC peripheral maker Logitech and a host of startups like elive2u and nanoCom also have debuted Webcam add-ons to public IM networks. (nanoCom in September added an enterprise-friendly firewall-bypassing feature to its system.) Streaming audio/video e-mail player Talkway Communications landed $3 million in venture financing last month.

Video's not the only medium being attached to IM. In spring, MetraTech and Octave Communications struck a deal to launch multi-party phone sessions from an IM client, while Yahoo! Instant Messenger has for several months supported voice chats. In addition to continuing to support text, video and audio in NetMeeting, Microsoft also has been bundling voice chat and Net2Phone-like features in MSN Messenger since last year.

Meanwhile, major players in infrastructure, networking, and technology services -- like Avaya, Nortel, Cisco, and earlier this month, IBM -- continue pitching Voice-over-IP services to enterprises, potentially paving the way for other, less expensive Internet-based solutions in the process.

Microsoft also remains focused on the IP-based communications space with a push that began with its launch of Windows XP last year, which featured built-in IM and videoconferencing technologies and a host of partnerships. The software colossus plans to further refine the offering with its Greenwich real-time collaboration platform, due sometime in the coming year.

Additionally, the enterprise isn't the only place where text-based IM is being tied into other media. In recent months, dating Web site DateCam unveiled a combined streaming video and text chat service, while MatchNet began testing a similar offering that includes audio.

By Christopher Saunders

LAN Instant Messaging Software - LAN Messenger

LAN Messenger is an instant messaging software for home or office users that can be very useful for your work. LAN chats allow you to commu...