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IM Grows Up

We tested seven products that deliver instant messaging you can control, with security and handy collaboration features.

Of course, everybody and his brother wants to play in this market. We invited more than 35 companies to participate in our review, but our requirements were strict: The product must support a corporate directory, such as Microsoft Active Directory, for authentication; it cannot rely on public or outsourced IM networks to function; and it must be installed and run locally, on the LAN, with no Internet connection necessary. Furthermore, we insisted the application be appropriate for rollout to as many as 5,000 employees.

Not all the organizations invited make full-blown, enterprise-scale IM packages. Some products, such as AIM (AOL Instant Messaging) and Yahoo, rely on public IM networks. If the AIM network or Internet connection goes down, so do you. Furthermore, we didn't want to review just IM clients--hundreds of vendors would have participated--and we chose not to include IM enhancement software.

The Magnificent Seven

Seven vendors whose products met our criteria chose to participate: Gordano, IBM, Ipswitch, Jabber, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and WiredRed Software.

To test the products, we set up chat rooms and contact lists, moderated discussions, shared presentations, scheduled meetings, broadcast announcements and created polls--all in our Syracuse University Real-World Labs®. For our IM server, we used a Dell Computer OptiPlex GXa 600-MHz Pentium 3 machine with 512 MB of RAM. We ran Microsoft Windows 2000 Server SP3 (Service Pack 3) with all products except for Jabber's, which ran with Red Hat Linux 7.1. We set up another OptiPlex, running Windows 2000 Server, as an Active Directory domain. Client machines ran Windows 2000 Pro and Windows XP. All computers were connected with an Extreme Networks Summit48 switch.

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