Verizon adds secure IM

Verizon Business, the unit of Verizon Communications that covers commercial and government markets, announced today a hosted secure instant messaging (IM) service.

The business unit has issued a stream of announcements since Verizon and MCI merged in late 2005.

Many government employees already use IM to communicate, both internally and externally, said Rick Dyer, director of information technology solutions and management at Verizon Business. The Verizon service, which is built on Microsoft's Office Communicator product, adds layers of security to the process.

“Most enterprises are finding that their users have already installed commercial IM clients on their machines, and they’re already speaking to people outside the enterprise," he said. "They realize that they need to put some controls in place.”

IM carries some of the same risks as e-mail, including the possible introduction of malicious code to an agency network, and a proliferation of commercial messages, called "spim."

Dyer added that government agencies vary in their interest toward IM in general and to Verizon's offering in particular.

“There are so many agencies that there’s a lot of different situations," he said. "Our system is encrypted. But it’s a hosted solution, so some of the intelligence agencies may not want to run on a hosted system. However, I think you’ve seen an explosion in e-mail in the government for communicating with the public. And in the future, IM may be used for that.”

The government customers who are most likely to adopt IM first are the agencies that need to frequently provide information to the public and are seeking more user-friendly and efficient methods, he said. The company has not yet set its sights on specific agencies, however.

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