Maintaining secure instant messaging without compromising network security or exceeding your technology budget is a problem today for many small businesses that have come to rely on real-time communications.

While your company may be able to deal with the currently low numbers of Spim (the IM equivalent of spam) that is making its way through IM networks, what you can't overlook is the rising threat of Trojan and worms passing through IM channels. These malicious threats not only jeopardize your confidential business information, but your network along with the networks of any clients or associates who are in the contacts list of your IM client.

All real-time Internet communication tools are a security risk and have the potential to release confidential information -- not to mention the fact that they are essentially breeding grounds for the propagation of viruses. Akonix Systems recently published a new IM Threat Watch that identified more than 51 new threats targeting IM and P2P systems. This figure represents more than half of the total threats recorded for the first quarter of 2005 more evidence that IM virus protection is becoming a necessity for small businesses.

Solutions for SMBs With Bigger Budgets

Small businesses have looked at some of the enterprise IM security solutions (available from vendors such as IMlogic, Akonix and FaceTime), but most couldn't justify the accompanying price tag. In response, many of the top IM security vendors now offer scaled-down versions of their products for SMBs.

IMlogic, for example, offers IM Manager for SMB. Starting at $5,000 (pricing based on the number of users), it provides policy management, file transfer control, virus scanning, centralized reporting and compliance archiving for public IM platforms. Akonix has also recently announced L7 CM5000, which includes both Akonix L7 Enterprise and Akonix L7 Enforcer. This solution, while designed to support large networks, can also serve networks of 25 to 100 users.

For many small businesses, the cost of implementing additional security and protection every time they add a new tool is just too high. Andre Yee, president and CEO of NFR Security, suggests that while threats are the same regardless of the size of your enterprise, small businesses may find it more affordable and efficient to manage IM security under the broader base of general network security.

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