Email remains the business choice

A recent survey has found that despite the problems of spam and viruses, email is still preferred to instant messaging

While businesses and consumers are warming to the idea of instant messaging as an effective communications tool they are still certain it will never overthrow email.

ZDNet UK's sister site surveyed 1,000 readers and a staggering 52 percent of those said they believe IM is faster and more efficient than email -- but only 3.4 percent thought it would eventually replace email altogether.

As email has become bogged down in spam and undermined by virus attacks, users have increasingly been looking to use alternative forms of communication. And because of the costs associated with repairing the tattered image of email many companies have encouraged that search.

Only 10 percent of respondents believe email is better than IM.

However, the reasons why 76 percent of respondents say they believe IM complements but will never replace email are manifold.

Most notable is the fact that 27 percent of respondents believe IM is impractical for conducting business -- often because of perceived security issues and a lack of accountability and recordable audit trails in consumer IM packages. With email already accounting for an increased chunk of the IT budget companies may be loathe to start investing in corporate IM packages.

Another reason IM may never replace email is because 22.4 percent of respondents see it as a "time-wasting menace in the office". That's not to say email isn't, but with one such distraction in the office some employers feel they are already losing too much of their staff's time without allowing access to IM as well.