Instant Messaging (IM) is a well-established tool, with multiple applications available on the market. Aspects of IM are also entering more and more into the personal and professional spheres, with an increasing amount of people relying on IM for their day to day communication. Given its increasing importance, it’s crucial that every IM user is well grounded in the reality of what IM is and the nuances of its use. It’s easy to find straight forward definitions of IM ala Wikipedia, but there are certain not so well known facts that are crucial to take into account when using any IM app.
There are a wide variety of IM apps on the market, however, not all are of the same value or appropriate in every situation. Depending on what your ultimate goal is (keeping in touch with a friend, providing customer service, etc.), certain IM apps will be more appropriate than others. It looks one way when communicating with a potential client of your business on Skype, and a completely different way when doing so on your own private IM network, for example. Picking the right app is crucial for sending the right message at the right time, and in order to do so you should take into account the following.
While the term Instant Messaging defines a certain type of online communication, not all applications that use IM are the same. Some focus on different types of usage (personal vs. business, for example), some emphasize different features, some are free and some are paid. These are the obvious differences that separate IM applications, but there is an even more important, and not always apparent, aspect that defines them: security.
Business IM apps differ greatly in the level of cybersecurity protections that they provide. This is an ever increasing concern as stories of hacks and data leaks flood the news cycle, and consumers rightfully take the issue of cybersecurity more seriously. It’s largely on consumers (that is, you) to invest the time and energy into researching this issue. A good place to start is the level of encryption provided for transferred data on the given app. If you want your communication to remain private, and avoid exposing P2P data you send on your network to potential hacks, then encryption is crucial. Another important security feature is anti-malware software, and whether your IM application is compatible with your preferred software. This will help you avoid any malicious files entering your system.
There are a plethora of IM applications on the market, but the vast majority of them are geared towards personal use. These apps inevitably come with limitations when used in a work environment, such as the security issues outlined above, or a lack of full team collaboration features. Luckily there are several options specifically geared towards the workplace and focusing on private team networks that grant you full administrative control.
If you’re looking for a workplace IM solution, then it’s worth investing in a private team network that will allow you to tailor the IM to your organization’s needs. The most efficient of these networks are hosted on the IM company’s servers, leaving you free of any system maintenance. While these networks do require some financial resource investment, it is well worth your time if you are serious about encouraging team collaboration. This is particularly crucial for businesses with remote employees and teams collaborating from a distance. The ability of your business to foster virtual collaboration will often determine the overall engagement and productivity of your employees, and private team networks are the best tool for this.
In the IM world there are several names that jump out in most consumers’ minds. Mainly, these are free apps with large user bases, and inevitably they are the ones that most people flock to when seeking out an IM solution. These apps’ popularity, however, is not always equal to their usefulness. This is something that you most likely have found out when looking to have a video call with several contacts at once on a free IM app, or when trying to transfer large files via an IM app. It’s truly worth investing the time into researching the right app for you, based on your needs and the features provided. Start with what types of things you want to do on the app, and go from there. In this way you will choose your app based on its specifications and how they align with your needs, and not just on hype alone.
Instant Messaging is an ever prevalent aspect of the modern world. This prevalence comes with a heavy dose of conventional wisdom around IM, but quite often this only goes so far and does not always reflect reality. Doing research into the subject will quickly lead you to the conclusion that not all IM applications are equal; some have better security than others, some are more appropriate for business use than others, and the most popular apps are not always the most useful. Understanding this will allow you to make the right choice when it comes to your IM app, and make the most of this exciting technology.