Starting From The Assumption That IM At Work Is Bad…

from the wrong-assumptions dept

An article talking about a new tool for companies to monitor and block instant messaging conversations seems to start with the assumption that instant messaging at the office is bad. While it certainly can harm productivity if misused, it also can make many workers much more productive. The article notes that many employees use IM, but that few companies monitor or block IM usage and immediately complains that the industry isn’t taking a “proactive response.” Perhaps that’s because they realize it’s not a problem?

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Comments on “Starting From The Assumption That IM At Work Is Bad…”

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Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

The company I currently work for block everything outgoing except HTTP[S] due to some severe paranoia that someone will upload our sourcecode to (guess they didn’t realise you could just use 100Mb Gmail attachments or something!)

The problem is, this can be a pain, as it means we can’t even upload/download from our own FTP servers, we can’t SSH into our own servers, we can’t provide support to our customers via VNC/RDP, and we can’t use support from our suppliers who only provide IM support (even the Java IM clients don’t work!) So it’s actually reducing productivity by blocking these protocols.

I probably agree though, 90% of IM usage would be for personal use, not that many companies use it for support yet.

If companies are worried about people wasting time on WebMail and blogs, imagine the amount of waste that IM would create!

Plus there’s the danger of IM viruses and spam.

Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

A friend of mine works for the State DEQ in Mississippi. Someone there whispered into the ear of a manager that the internet is evil!! They’ve blocked access to most websites including all personal email (hotmail, gmail, etc) and all IM usage.

One of the guys my buddy works with is a contractor and works offsite. They used to communicate via IM almost exclusively. Now, they have to communicate via the phone or through (ick) Lotus Notes.

Matt (user link) says:

Corporate controlled IM

My company has a pretty restrictive internet policy, blocking many harmless websites and major IM clients, presumably for the reduced productivity factor. But then we rely heavily on Sametime, a Lotus Notes chat client, for work. They obviously see the value instant messaging can provide, but they feel the need to control it. Frustrating, but there’s your “proactive response.” Luckily the IT geeks found a rogue proxy server that we can sneak Yahoo and AIM through.

Nonesuch says:

From the POV of the security guys

I’m a “infosec” guy for a big corp, so I tend to see these questions from the viewpoint of management and shareholders.

There are a number of problems with “Internet IM” — some of these do not apply to a purely internal “walled garden” private messaging system.

  • IM client vulnerabilities pose a risk of allowing in attackers, both automated (worms) and manual (hackers).
  • The various Internet protocols do not support any standardized identity protocol, anybody can go on IM and pose as “ceo@yourcompany” without accountability.
  • The majority of IM to the Internet is for non-business communication.
  • Use of IM to the Internet for business communication sends potentially sensitive information out to third parties (AOL may not have your best interests at heart).
  • Commercial IM solutions for corporate deployments are very expensive — $10/seat/year and up.
  • The “instant” in IM is a distraction, reducing productivity.
  • Most corps have low-latency intranet email systems, already providing much of the benefit that IM would provide.

Basically, Instant Messaging fills the small gap between the functionality provided by phone calls and email, but the cost and risk is often seen as outweighing the negligible benefit that can come from filling this gap.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: From the POV of the security guys

All of these assume that IM is only for internal communications… The real power of IM is that it can be used for both internal and external communications.

Of course with *any* system for external communications there’s going to be some security risks. However, assuming that all IM is bad is a solution that will backfire, just like companies who originally wanted to ban the phone realized just how stupid that plan was.

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