We want to get our instant message on
August 29, 2009 10:23 AM   Subscribe

Instant messaging for the workplace: I've been tasked with exploring instant messaging options for a large department within a much larger business.

My large department would like to explore instant messaging as a means of communication among many work areas and locations. I'm not sure a conventional option like Yahoo or AIM would be acceptable to the larger company we are a part of. Are there any other options that are particular well suited for professional use? Any ideas or directions in which to begin my search would be much appreciated.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit to Computers & Internet (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
One option could be:

- Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) & client - bridges to Yahoo, Live/MSN/Bing and possibly other services.

It integrates nicely with other Microsoft products (SharePoint, Exchange, Office, etc.)

But, I honestly don't know how much it costs. Also explore Jabber and potentially Google.

You want something that you run a server on in your organization that bridges to external organizations - you need to probably keep/maintain logs for compliance and "HR issues" ;-)
posted by jkaczor at 10:32 AM on August 29, 2009

Lotus Notes has a built-in chat feature called SameTime. It integrates your email, calendar, chat, and you can link it up with as many other applications as you like.

Of course, that means switching to Notes, which may or may not be an option. But it's what my office uses, and it works admirably. It also doesn't allow you to chat with people outside the company, which is kind of the point.
posted by valkyryn at 10:33 AM on August 29, 2009

Yeah, depends on what you've got running in the background. I work in a Novell shop, so we use their Groupwise Messenger and it works well and is easy to manage. My Dad's office uses the Microsoft equivalent and seems to like it.
posted by pete0r at 10:33 AM on August 29, 2009

One strong option is to set up a Jabber server, so you can keep control and have flexibility with what client software people can use.
posted by malevolent at 10:34 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

IBM has a product called Sametime Connect that's specifically for business. I think there's an Enterprise version of Messenger as part of MS Exchange, as well. Try googling terms like 'instant messaging solutions' and 'enterprise instant messaging' and you'll find some information.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:35 AM on August 29, 2009

A place where I worked recently started using WebEx Connect. I thought it was decent although it's a fairly young product and not perfect. It is also not free. The important thing though was that the corporate bigwigs liked it a lot because of it's integration with Webex meetings, integration with MS Outlook and Calendar, centralized admin and other features that would appeal to corporate users. I suggested Google Talk at first which I use a lot personally but that wasn't for them.
posted by fx3000 at 10:41 AM on August 29, 2009

Lotus/IBM SameTime works decently enough, but its best feature is integration with the full Notes platform. Unfortunately Lotus Notes sucks, and I would never suggest switching to it just for SameTime.
posted by djb at 11:00 AM on August 29, 2009

I think Skype's IM is underrated - it does group chats particularly well, logging the contents of the discussion while you're away and then updating the conversation for you when you next log in, making it good for ongoing team-sized chats as well as one-to-one conversations. Of course you can also use it for audio and video conversations too, if you want. I've used it at work for IMing and still use it now out of choice. Two downsides: it's a closed protocol so it doesn't work with other IM clients or systems (boo!) and although the chat logging is fine within the client it doesn't save the conversations to sensible, human-readable files in the way that, say, MSN Messenger does.
posted by so_necessary at 11:07 AM on August 29, 2009

You don't say what kind of business you are in, but you should be aware that some types of business (most notably financial firms) are required to keep the contents of chat sessions stored for some period of time.
posted by procrastination at 11:17 AM on August 29, 2009

Use Jabber. It will give you flexibility on both the client and server side, letting people connect to the server from any platform (Win/Mac/Linux/mobile) and any decent client. At my old job we switched from Jabber to Microsoft OCS and it was an absolute abomination because of the terrible IM client everyone was forced to use

The IT staff wound up keeping the Jabber server online for the malcontents and eventually abandoning OCS after months of "grassroots lobbying"
posted by crayz at 11:24 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding Jabber, it can be deployed securely and can scale. It can be limited to internal communication or it can serve as a gateway to public IM services allowing clients to connect to it as well.

OCS is miserable, Sametime is miserable.
posted by iamabot at 11:52 AM on August 29, 2009

Believe it or not, but we use Spark at my work (a large insurance company), even though it's open source.


My last company (large financial company) used Reuters IM. They had to store the chats and all correspondence due to regulations.


I prefer Reuters.
posted by kerby at 12:27 PM on August 29, 2009

Seconding Openfire -- I just implemented it at my workplace and it rules. Runs on Java, so theoretically should work everywhere, and you can use Pidgin/Adium/Miranda (or anything that uses XMPP).
posted by the dief at 12:54 PM on August 29, 2009

Something Jabber/XMPP based - you get IM now and you can join in the Google Wave fun/hype/usefulness too, when it's available.

In addition to Openfire take a look at ejabberd
posted by BinaryApe at 1:41 PM on August 29, 2009

If you have Mac OS X Server on your network then you can run their chat server. It runs on Jabber/XMPP as the above posters suggested, and works with open directory and active directory, has encrypted messaging, persistent chat rooms, multiple client options and more. /end apple fanboy post
posted by avex at 1:46 PM on August 29, 2009

I manage to use Openfire, but the lack of commercial support is a problem, and sometimes it just plain does weird stuff.

I would go either the MS router, or look at the Barracuda IM firewall appliance, which is basically a commercially supported jabber server with all the bells and whistles, and a client thrown in to boot. (I haven't evaluated it yet, but 2nd hand information says it works fairly well)
posted by TravellingDen at 2:21 PM on August 29, 2009

Skype is evil.

If you have Exchange, just use MS Office Communicator. It'll integrated well.

OpenFire is darn cool, but as mentioned above - mostly unsupported. (The company that was maintaining it has focused on other projects.)

ejabberd looked darn impressive, and we wanted to explore it but couldn't because it used Erlang. And anything other than C, C#, and Java makes our architects kinda scared.

ejabberd uses XMPP, same as OpenFire.

Realistically, your choices are to go with XMPP or Office. If you go with XMPP, you can change server software later if you need to. With Office, you're stuck.

All the same... Office works well for us, even if I would have preferred an open source XMPP based solution.
posted by krisak at 2:43 PM on August 29, 2009

posted by bru at 3:08 PM on August 29, 2009

Nthing the Jabber recommendation. Open standards are your friend; you'll have a variety of configuration options, your users will have a wide choice of chat clients, and you'll be able to support a variety of computing platforms (Mac, Windows, *nix).

You don't say what platform your company is already using; I know Mac OS X Server comes standard with a jabber server and easy GUI config tools.
posted by browse at 3:24 PM on August 29, 2009

Tonic is free and requires zero configuration, install it and go (really!)
posted by ijoyner at 7:07 AM on August 30, 2009

We've used Messagelabs instant messaging service.

Secure, Auditable, integrates with other IM (if permitted), prices are fairly reasonable. http://www.messagelabs.com/products/instant-messaging/default.aspx
posted by edman at 4:19 PM on August 30, 2009

Another vote for Jabber. You can pick and choose which client you want to standardize on (my vote goes for Pidgin), but it's the best I've seen so far.

Others we've tried at my workplace that I was unhappy with: Lotus SameTime, Reuters Messenger, Office Communicator.

Funny enough, all of these exhibited the same issues: crappy, annoying, inflexible clients and constant stability issues.
posted by Nameless at 12:47 AM on August 31, 2009

Have a look at Campfire, a hosted service by 37signals. I haven't used it, but it looks well designed. You can easily invite clients or contractors into the conversation, and you can either use a desktop application or web interface.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 11:31 AM on August 31, 2009

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