Enterprise IM made easy

The JabberNow IM appliance isn't much bigger than a broadband modem.

JabberNow appliance adds secure IM with little overhead

Instant messaging has been universally panned in the office environment as a waster of both time and resources. While this could be true, IM can also be a powerful productivity tool, allowing users to coordinate tasks and get in-house answers to questions much quicker than standard e-mail.

You could load enterprise instant messaging software on in-house servers. This can be an involved process, however, and if a new server is required, it can end up costing a great deal more than first anticipated.

The JabberNow appliance from Jabber Inc. solves several problems and takes up as little space as a typical cable modem. Touted as a secure enterprise IM platform, it might be exactly what agencies need to enable instant messaging in-house.

Setting up JabberNow is incredibly easy. It took under five minutes to plug it into the GCN Lab network and get it set up. The admin just connects the power and network cable, and powers it on. It can then be accessed by typing the default IP number it generates into the URL line of a Web browser. The interface is easy to use, and once a static IP number and a subdomain are assigned, it's ready to add users.

Once users are added to the appliance, they aren't required to install client software. They simply browse to the URL given by the network admin, and a Flash-based program begins the log-in process. Users enter their assigned user name and password. There is an option to let users pick their own user names, but you can disable that feature if you want to.

Enterprise features

Ease-of-use is only one of JabberNow's strong points. Another is security. Its features (such as Secure Sockets Layer encryption) are fully configurable, so an admin can make the system as open or closed as necessary.

JabberNow can also be configured for remote access, and as long as your firewall allows access through port 443, users can access the server remotely. It can also connect to another Jabber appliance or an Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol-based system, provided both firewalls allow access through port 5,269. Messaging in either case is totally seamless to the user.

Archiving messages on the basic model is limited, but the flat files it keeps are complete and auditable. For more complete backups that comply with government storage regulations, an add-on pack can be purchased separately.

Secure AOL connectivity is also possible, but again only if another add-on is purchased. This AOL Gateway feature will be released in the near future. If users in your office regularly communicate over mobile devices, then perhaps a higher-end Jabber appliance (the Jabber Instant Messaging Advanced or Extensible Communications Platform) is for you. The basic JabberNow model does not come with support for them.

The VIA Eden ESP6000 667 MHz processor running Linux OS and Jabber's XCP 4.2 software can handle up to 600 users. That should be enough for most office environments, but if your numbers are approaching this limit, you are probably considering getting at least two anyway.

The $2,495 JabberNow appliance comes with 25 user licenses. Note that these are total user licenses, not concurrent user licenses, so you need one for each user accessing the server, not just for the maximum users you might have at one time. This is still not a bad deal, and more licenses are available if necessary. Sure, most EIM software is cheaper'and cheaper per user'but you would be hard-pressed to beat this price if you want to have a dedicated IM server, which the JabberNow effectively provides.

The JabberNow is small, light and incredibly easy to set up. It can handle most offices IM needs painlessly and securely. While it lacks many advanced features, add-ons let you upgrade the basic appliance and pay for only those you need. Even if you aren't sold on enterprise IM, JabberNow offers a reasonable way to try it out on a limited basis.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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