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FaceTime Controls Enterprise And Public UC Apps For Compliance

FaceTime's latest--and rebranded--version of its unified communications management and audit product, Vantage 10.1, includes new control features for Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) and IBM Lotus Sametime, as well as support for Skype and Microsoft LiveMeeting. Vantage, formerly IMAuditor, lets enterprises manage, monitor, capture, audit and archive enterprise-grade UC tools such as OCS and Sametime, and consumer apps such as AIM, Google Talk, Windows Live and, now, Skype, from a central management point.

Regulatory compliance is the biggest driver for this product, particularly in the financial and energy sectors, with strict rules for archiving and auditing many forms of communications. Traditionally, this has meant e-mail and, to some extent, instant messaging, which has long been popular among traders, but now extends to Web-based meeting apps such as WebEx and Live Meeting, and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as VoIP and SMS communications.

"There's growing concern around general subject of data leaks," says Mike Osterman of Osterman Research, but compliance is still a top consideration. FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) requirements for monitoring and sampling communications, and FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) rules limiting communication around energy trading, are particular areas of concern, he says. "There's growing interest in monitoring real-time communication, but compliance is the main driver."

New granular controls include setting group-to-group policy to limit communications among designated business groups for regulatory compliance. Vantage also adds features for controlling communication with business partners and other outside parties by allowing creation of domain-based groups and registering non-employees and assigning buddy names, groups, etc. to control data-access policies and procedures. OCS enhancements include custom session notes, which can be shared with other users and captured for compliance. Call admissions control sets limits on VoIP bandwidth use to prevent OCS bottlenecks due to  voice, audio and video. The new release also introduces logging, auditing and file transfer for Sametime.

Microsoft Live Meeting sessions can now be archived, and ethical boundaries can be set to restrict who can participate in Live Meeting sessions. Skype controls include logging IM messages, whether VoIP and video are permitted, whether file transfers are allowed and content inspection of IM messages.

"We view unified communications as a host of heterogeneous silos existing alongside each other but not necessarily connected," says Sarah Carter, FaceTime marketing director. "All these silos will come together, and the requirement will be for organizations, especially those in regulated industries, to provide security, presence identity and federation, policy and management, reporting and compliance controls in a single location."

Osterman says Vantage should appeal to enterprises migrating to enterprise collaboration products such as OCS and Sametime, while still dealing with publicly available apps. "The value is really in the breadth of communications tools Vantage touches," he says. "It has granularity for managing, monitoring and blocking certain types of users."

FaceTime is one of the few vendors with products that specialize in IM and other real-time unified communications security, compliance and control. Its best-known competitor is Quest Policy Authority for Unified Communications (formerly Akonix). Vantage can be used in conjunction with FaceTime's Web security gateway product, Unified Security Gateway, which provides content inspection, and application control and monitoring over Web traffic, including social networks, as well as protection against Web-borne malware.