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Group Chat Evolving Into E-Mail 2.0

More than just a substitute for e-mail, group chat is a productivity booster that's becoming a must-have app in the enterprise. Here's what to consider as you assess how to

Group online chat -- the latest technological iteration in the thrust toward improved real-time communications -- is becoming a must-have application in the enterprise. Chat has morphed from a late-night consumer favorite into a legitimate business tool as businesses have evolved their infrastructures from voicemail to e-mail and finally to instant messaging.

Buying Chat Apps:
Questions To Ask

1. Do you need your own server or a hosted service?
2. How many different rooms or discussions do you want to host? Make sure your system won't run out of gas when it becomes popular.
3. What happens when you aren't in the room? How the chat products archive and search on previous conversations is critical.
4. How does your chat software populate its directory structure and interact with your existing Active Directory or LDAP servers?

5. Do you want to interoperate with public IM systems such as AOL or MSN?
6. Can your system create rooms on the fly from one-on-one conversations?

However, while all of those technologies have been one-to-one replacements for single conversations, chat is the beginning of a new movement toward replacing group meetings. It offers workable communications support for far-flung project teams, with the attendant obvious boost in productivity

The added good news is that IT managers can easily support chat applications, and CIOs can make a strong case for chat's return on investment, especially when compared with traditional voice conferencing and videoconferencing.

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