Thursday, July 30, 2009

Streamlining Small Business Communications Using Free Windows Instant Message Server

I've written a previous article about using Windows Live Messenger as a poor mans Office Communication Server. In the mean time our Instant Message requirements keep growing. Some of the things we wanted to do:

-Connect multiple Public Instant Message services into one client
-Have a tool to connect our website and blog to us via web live chat
-More central control over our internal Instant Message system
-Have a more business oriented IM Client (Tired of Live Messenger MSN pop ups!)
-Archive IM chats
-Persistent Group Chats
-All this functionality combined into one IM client.
-Oh, we want to be able to change when we are not inside our network too.

Our first thought was Microsoft Office Communication Server 2007. After reviewing OCS my thot was that it was a bit "heavy" hardware requirements and configuration wise. I talked to another Microsoft Partner who tried OCS and moved to Openfire. So we took a look at Openfire. I was amazed at the features, ease of installation and low hardware requirements. It seems to be a perfect fit for small business. It runs very nicely on Windows Server and is a breeze to administrate.

We achieved all of our objectives above along with some interesting benefits I didn't expect:
-Tabbed IM client really make heavyIM users screen less cluttered!
-The "Close Stale Chats Tabs" really saves time too.
-the IM client has ability to integrate to SIP IP PBX's

So far what did I notice that we don't have that OCS would?
-Pocket PC IM client with tight integration to IM Server
-OCS voice features on Pocket PC
-Any integrations to Dynamics products (like GP) that OCS will have.

Openfire IM Server is a free product and seems like it could fit us quite well at this time. We are still watching if Microsoft will release SBS OCS!


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