- America Online, the largest consumer ISP, launched a product last week that lets business users track and monitor Instant Messenger traffic within corporate networks.
The AIM Enterprise Gateway is the first in a series of AIM Enterprise Services the company has planned. The gateway, which was developed using software from FaceTime Communications, lets users monitor and log AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) traffic that originates from their corporate networks. The gateway sits behind a firewall and acts as a proxy between end users and AOL's network.
"The gateway lets enterprises know what users are using the service for. It maps user traffic, allows for file transfer limits, audits traffic and lets IS managers create a corporate directory of users," says Brian Curry, senior director of strategy development at AOL.
AOL is developing enterprise products because individuals are using AIM over their corporate networks, and more companies are using AIM as a communication tool among employees, Curry says.
According to a study released by Osterman Research in September, 42% of businesses are using instant messaging within their company, sometimes without permission from their IT department. Not all users are sold on the instant messaging. In fact, 23% actively block this type of traffic, and 22% have no plans to use instant messaging at all.
Yet, AOL is addressing the needs of businesses that are supporting AIM in-house. AOL is offering its optional Private Domain Service with "federated authentication," which lets companies create screen identities, or individual usernames, based on their corporate names. A company can create names such as email@example.com. The Private Domain Service also lets users add or delete screen names at any time.
Federated authentication lets companies encrypt AIM traffic between multiple sites using digital certificates. The only added cost is the fees paid to a third-party digital certificate authority that issues and verifies each certificate. Curry says users can team up with any certificate authority or use the certificate authority services of VeriSign, an AOL partner.
The company also is expected to release an enterprise AIM client that would support end-to-end encryption. AOL is testing the software and expects to release it in the first quarter of next year.
The AIM Enterprise Gateway is available now. Licences cost $US30 to $US40 per user. Customers also pay an annual maintenance fee that's based on the size of a deployment.