App stores on both computers and mobile phones are flooded with hundreds of Instant Messaging (IM) clients or applications, some of which have changed the way we communicate. Direct messages, group chats, video calling, document and file sharing. The use of emojis and stickers makes your communication more interactive. But, how reliable are these apps with?
Learning What Instant Messaging Is?
Instant Messaging or IM refers to engaging in communication via sending and receiving real-time messages in the form of texts. This is carried out through a stand-alone application, which may be owned, administered, and managed by a third-party corporation, called IM clients. IM apps have certain core unique features which keep them separate from other communication mediums such as chat rooms and emails. This includes “presence”, which allow users to know whether the user at the receiving end is online or not. Moreover, IM applications support direct file sharing in a live text session, allowing users to review docs, images, and other files in real-time and discuss on it.
How These Applications are Different from Emails?
Emails do not guarantee instant real-time communication between the two parties. It doesn’t offer immediacy in response from the receiving user despite having internet connectivity. Moreover, emails are meant for descriptive conversations in long-text form, whereas, IMs are usually shorter in length. Plus, IMs are intended to display in-person communication and do not tend to form a series of overlapping chain-based communication between multiple users. However, modern IM apps are supporting group-based conversation via group chats.
How IM Works?
A third-party standalone IM application has its own separate network server. The working of all IM clients is the same regardless of their platforms. IM applications establish a connection between their servers and the users’ device using their internet connection. The user gets the IM client started by registering a UserID and Password which is saved with the client’s server. Now, as a user, you allow IM client to access your contact list, which it checks against its list of users, called buddy list. The client would then send you the information regarding which of your contacts are the part of its buddy list and are available for connection.
Once your personalized buddy list is ready, you can select the user you want to communicate with and the rest of the process is a piece of a cake. While you chat, the client-server would act as a transmitting medium between yours and the receiver’s device.
Why Organizations May Be At Loss Due to These IM Clients?
The IM applications are easy to use, have a simple registration process, and have loads of features to give you an in-person communication experience. Plus, it’s allowing you to share files and images, and some of them are often allowing location sharing as well. So, why can’t organizations use these features to carry out their day-to-day professional communications and file-sharing? Well, there are drawbacks that may pose risks to these businesses:
- File Sharing on Third-Party Server May Cost You Data Privacy
Any information or files shared on the concerned IM client is transmitted from sender to receiver, using packets of data, through the client’s server. Those packets contain your transmitted information, which is forever stored with the client. Since these IM clients are not in-house, you have no control over protecting the privacy of files and have no control over their accessibility. You’ll be completely dependent on the IM operators to ensure that data is protected from unauthorized access. Though a lot of IM clients say that the information is always encrypted; however, who can tell it for real?
As an owner or manager of any organization, you’d certainly don’t want any of your business-associated information is shared on third-party servers. While IM companies have claimed that the data is always protected, the recent incidents of data breaches and unauthorized intelligence surveillance on IM client users say otherwise.
- Lack of Data Security
Though you can protect your device from spyware and malware via using firewall services, you can’t simply protect the line of transmission between your device and IM client server just by using a firewall.
Internet is wide and is full of malicious dangers that can harm your web activities, even by hampering your conversations. The IM clients require connectivity to public networks and therefore, their servers store and process information packets from multiple networks around the globe. This server is heavily prone to malware attacks and being accessible on any public network makes it even riskier to rely on them for security. In any successful hacking attempt, your data would be compromised, and later, it may be subjected to misuse and illicit activities.
- For IM Clients, Your Organization would be a Product
IM client applications are run by business corporations, and just like your organizations, they also have a business model. These corporations use your user information for various marketing campaigns and earn money in exchange for sharing that information with relevant advertisers. Being a business owner, one would never want his organizational information is made public to an unknown or unidentified source.
- Backup Issues and Transfer Limitations
At enterprise levels, every business would want to maintain a record of documents containing important organizational data. This data is used as a reference in future business strategies. But no messaging application would ever provide you with large backup space. Moreover, every IM client application has restrictions on character limit for texts, as well as for the size of files to be transferred. For an organizational purpose, these restrictions could be communication and data-sharing barrier.
In most cases, a business organization would opt for a separate cloud backup service besides the IM client. This would again pose a risk of using third-party servers. Therefore, your saved data always remain on an external cloud server, and you are dependent on the server’s owners for its security. So, no matter what you do, if the IM client you’re using isn’t in-house, that is, built for fulfilling office-only interests, your organization would keep facing these issues.
- Consumer Support?
There should be a bigger question mark after that. As an individual user, facing issues like data loss or server errors is no big deal. But being in an organization, these issues can cost you a fortune. An organization certainly can’t afford losing data or cope up with its daily tasks if its communication client gives up on it. Third-party servers can often face issues and sometimes are even shut down by their administering corporations for all sorts of reasons. Now good luck with juggling between their consumer service experts, while simultaneously jeopardizing your work and time.
- Next to Zero Control: Frequent Changes and Updates
Third-party IM client applications have more than one users. Therefore, there are hundreds of other consumers of such apps and all have different requirements. Now the owner company of the concerned IM client would make changes or upgrades in that app, as per the needs of its majority consumer base. You, as a business owner, cannot be certain if those upgrades or changes fulfil your interests or not.
Plus, terms of agreements, privacy policies, and user agreements are often changed without your knowledge. Running an organization with no control on data sharing and organizational communication is a risky task. Is it worth that risk?
- Possibly Low Member Participation
Why would you need an IM client for your office space? To keep every member involved connected via a common tool, and to ensure that organizational decisions and information is reached to everyone, without any discrimination. Now, there are hundreds of IM client applications out there. It is not possible that every member of the organization would be using the same IM client application. So, you’ll some of them download that instant messaging app, which they aren’t interested in. Since they won’t be willingly active there, it would affect user participation.
- It’s Not Only For Work
Which are most widely used IM client applications; WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Skype etc.?
None of these applications bifurcates between official people and your individual contacts. If your personal connections are available on the app used by your organization, they would be included in your buddy list. So now, your personal and professional conversations are merged, making your interface and your organizational communication management a troublesome task.
With all this said, it’s quite clear that using a global third-party server and Instant Messaging Client for a complete organizational use is not a good option. Since these IM client applications are operated by business corporations, they are never likely to fulfil your organizational interests with priority. Moreover, they come with all the disadvantages that an out-of-premises server would cause. It’s subjecting your information to risk of theft and abuse, keeps you off control, restricts your data transfer privileges, and most importantly, it’s sharing your data with outsiders for their commercial gains.
Do you think that this way you can run and expand a secure business in the future? With so much surveillance on your organizational activities, these IM clients would hardly help you grow. So, it’s important that you, as a business owner find an alternative, which may solve your troubles once and for all.
In-house IM clients have the potential to replace the third-party messengers. Since they run on private servers and are free of any third-party interference, they might be the best alternative modern organizations can opt for.