As soon as a new communications tool becomes popular, there is always a host of naysayers on hand, warning of the dire consequences of allowing unfettered use. So it is for instant messaging (IM). Analyst house Gartner currently estimates that one in five employees use IM at work. Within the next 18 months its popularity could outstrip that of email.
Given its popularity, it is no surprise to see some vendors lining up to predict calamity befalling companies not cracking down on IM misuse. According to a survey, conducted by YouGov on behalf of IM security vendor Akonix Systems, one-quarter of employees are using IM to say things their boss would not approve of. "We know that 97% of IM transactions are constructive and legitimate but the 3% of inappropriate transactions could be hugely damaging to businesses. These findings should be a wake-up call. IM should be embraced but protect your business adequately or the consequences can be severe," says Bill Harmer, managing director for the European region at Akonix.
The survey also found that over half of respondents use IM to talk to friends and family; while 16% had used it to send potentially sensitive company data. Most intriguingly, 7% of 18-29 year olds said they had used IM to talk to potential employers.
There was a similar fuss over email and Internet use policies just a few years ago. And like these and other technologies that pre-date it, undoubtedly businesses giving employees access to IM will want to see sensible practices introduced.
They can achieve that without any hullabaloo.