Businesses lack IM security

Instant messaging is predicted to become the primary communication tool for workers by 2012, raising security issues for businesses

Businesses need to address security issues related to instant messaging — a technology forecast to be the de facto method of business communication by 2012.

According to a Burton Group report, just 10 percent of organisations have a formal instant-messaging (IM) policy, while only five percent provide security protection for the technology.

The report warns that, as enterprises increase and formalise the use of IM for business purposes, they need to address related security issues.

The report advises organisations monitor, manage and archive IM data and make sure IM systems are free from malware.

Gartner has predicted IM will become the "de facto tool" for internal business communications by the end of 2011, with 95 percent of workers in the top global companies using it as their primary communication tool by 2013.

Gartner compares IM to the successful deployment of business email in the 1990s, saying it is already as important to knowledge workers as telephone and email.

Gartner says IM is increasingly being used in place of ad hoc phone calls and emails but also as part of pre-planned meetings and video conferences.

David Mario Smith, an analyst at Gartner, said he expects enterprise-grade IM to take over from consumer IM, with penetration rates rising from 25 percent to 100 percent by the end of the decade.

Smith added that the business benefits of IM are considerable, but also warned of challenges, including the potential for archived conversations to be tampered with if company policy has been breached, creating legal headaches.

Gartner also says presence technology — which shows availability of staff — will also become increasingly important. Analysts predict presence technology could even be offered separately from IM and email by 2012.

By 2010 Gartner predicts the IM market will be worth $688m (£344m) compared to $267m (£133m) now.