- Requires little in the way of computing overhead
- easy to configure, with a well-designed interface
- does the job while conforming to standards.
Setting up your own IRC server sounds like a geeky thing to do, but in fact there are good reasons why a small business or an individual who collaborates on projects might want to do so. In contrast to teleconferencing, you can easily tell who is speaking and log what they say for later review. It’s also extremely low-cost and accessible to even the slowest computers and Internet connections – or for that matter a mobile phone or handheld user.
However, although it’s easy to find an IRC server that runs on Unix platforms, it’s not so easy to find one that runs on Windows. Microsoft bundled one inside its Exchange Server 5.5, but this product was expensive and has long since been superseded.
IRCXpro runs as an NT service and installs a ‘remote control’ module that you use to configure the server, users, operators and channels. You can do all the ordinary things like creating channels, making them public, private, hidden or secret, and restricting exactly who may use them and in what numbers. IRCXpro also supports newer features like auditoriums, which allow you to present more or less public presentations at which you allow only selected users to ask questions or participate. The server also supports port scanning (an important security measure in IRC) and linking to another server, allowing you and business partners or friends to build your own IRC network. Users access channels in the usual way with any IRC client, although IRCXpro also makes its own client, IRCXpro Messenger.
The documentation is particularly impressive. Because of its Unix background, IRC servers can be difficult to understand and configure. But Quality On Line (IRCXpro’s developer) has done a good job of providing documentation that’s clear and understandable. Although you’ll find it much easier if you already have some experience of IRC and its workings, the interface is well thought-out and easy to configure -- it’s just a matter of clicking buttons and ticking boxes. If you have a client window open, you can see the server apply the settings in the form of ordinary IRC commands.
Pricing for the server begins at £34.99 (ex. VAT) for up to 50 users and 10 permanently registered channels. The number of registered nicknames, concurrent users, registered channels and rules allowing you to restrict users based on their ISP of origin or even tailor greetings in different languages goes up in various stages to a top price of £499.95 (ex. VAT) to support 5,000 simultaneous users and 1,000 channels. The ability to link to other servers begins with one (at the £74.99 level) and goes up to ten at the higher levels. Quality On Line also sells packages aimed at corporates that include licences for both server and clients.
Plans to develop the IRCXpro Server’s capabilities further include extended filtering, the ability to specify network names, more complete logging and improvements to the invisibility mode. Overall, it’s a very nice piece of software that does the job admirably, requiring little in the way of fancy hardware. You will, however, need a way of opening the necessary port so that users can connect to your server, and an Internet connection that lets you accept inbound traffic.