Study: Skype dangers may be acceptable to businesses

Corporations should seriously consider banning Skype because of potential risks, but not before weighing whether the risks are outweighed by benefits, according to a new study by the Burton Group.

"If the risk is too high -- ban Skype. If the reward outweighs the risk -- consider Skype as part of your overall communications strategy," says Irwin Lazar, senior analyst for Burton.

The downside of Skype is that it may violate corporate security policies about proprietary, peer-to-peer technologies and may present a back door into networks. It also lacks a management platform that allows call records or recording calls.

The upside is a combination of financial incentives and better integrated communications. Skype offers low long-distance and international calling and supports integrated voice, video and instant messaging in an environment that publishes users' presence status.

In addition to the drawbacks already noted above, Skype does not support strong authentication to verify users are authorized. Also, because the technology is Internet-based, there are no QoS guarantees that would be important for video, according to Lazar's study, "Debunking the Hype About Skype."

Skype could also run afoul of government regulations because it doesn't support legal law-enforcement eavesdropping on calls, nor does it provide information about the location of callers, as required by E911 rules.

While the report focuses on Skype, the merits and shortcomings can be extended to competing services from AOL, Gizmo, MSN, Tello and Yahoo, Lazar says, and that list is likely to grow.

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