The Risks of Using Personal Instant Messengers for Your Business Communication
July 26, 2018 Instant Messaging
With the growing number of instant messengers out there today, you probably aren’t alone in thinking they’re mostly all the same. You probably even have your favorite platform — which allows you text, voice and video chat, and probably even file transfer. But if you or your employees are using a personal instant messenger for your business communication, you could be exposing your business to a number of unnecessary and costly risks.
How Do Personal and Enterprise IMs differ?
All instant messengers are basically the same, right? Not quite. While both personal-grade and enterprise instant messaging (IM) solutions provide consumers the ability to connect and communicate quickly and efficiently, the difference lies in the details.
IM has often been used as a cheap or free alternative to traditional phone calls and email, but for private use. While platforms like Facebook Messenger, Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp boast user numbers in the billions, their communication channels are far-reaching, often extending to friends, family, and even social media contacts.
Enterprise IM, on the other hand, utilizes the features that have made personal IM popular — direct communication via text or group chats, voice and video calls, and file transfers — but is business specific and with enhanced administrative, collaboration, and security tools to meet the demands unique to your corporate environment.
Mixing personal use IMs with business can be risky. In fact, a 2014 study by Infinite Convergence found that 70% of IT executives were worried about employees using consumer-oriented chat apps for business communication. What’s more, 77% of enterprise IT executives indicated a highly secure, simple, and intuitive internal messaging solution would be valuable.
So what are the risks exactly? Using a consumer-grade instant messenger as an enterprise alternative jeopardizes your corporate security while hindering efficiency and productivity.
In today’s hyper-connected world, security must be a top priority. Allowing employees to share private company information on personal-grade IM platforms puts your organization at risk of unnecessary data leaks. A 2016 study by the Ponemon Institute estimates the cost of a major data breach between $2.2 and $6.9 million, though possibly much higher depending on the number of records and files involved. And recently, doubts have been raised over the security of platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
By now, it’s possible that you’ve had an experience that goes something like this: You’re chatting with your friend on the phone. You hang up, then open Facebook, only to see an advertisement about the very thing you and your friend were just chatting about. Sounds a bit creepy, right? If you’re uncomfortable sharing your personal information and data this way, why would you treat your business information and data differently?
Lack of Functionality
Unlike email, IM is a proprietary tool isolated between its users on a specific platform. Suppose you’re a WhatsApp user, for instance, while your colleagues swear by Viber. Senior management, on the other hand, may be using Skype. The lack of interoperability between these platforms means you need all three in order to communicate. Not only is this an inefficient way to communicate, but it increases the likelihood of sending delicate information to the wrong person.
Time-wasting and Impropriety
Using your personal IM for workplace communication isn’t just insecure and inefficient, though. It’s fraught with possibilities of time-wasting and indiscretion. Your personal IMs contain all of your private conversations, files, pictures, and GIFs. That temptation to “check in” or check out a funny GIF your friend sent is there each time you open the app.
Moreover, workplace conversations on your personal IM platforms could go in any direction as it’s easier to blur the boundary between work and play. You could easily say something offensive or inappropriate to a colleague, or again, send sensitive information to the wrong person — opening the door not only to embarrassment, but potential legal issues.
How Can an Enterprise IM Help?
The right enterprise IM solution can prevent all of the above-mentioned drawbacks, all while enhancing your team communication, collaboration, and productivity.
If your employees are using personal messaging apps at work, you have no control over the chat space — neither the conversation itself nor the content shared. But an enterprise instant messenger provides you a private messaging network, compatible across platforms and devices, and with strong administrative and security controls. Features like text messages, file transfers, and all other communication options are only available to users authorized to join the network, drastically reducing the likelihood of data making its way into the wrong hands. What’s more, the internal private network protects your employees from the numerous internet security threats and attacks, as well as those annoying targeted ads.
Moreover, you’ll have full control over the chat spaces, participants, and content discussed there, as well as who can chat with whom, and chat history. Need to open or lock a chat room? You can do that. Need to track communications? With chat history archive, that’s also possible. You can even enable and disable certain features for specific users. All of this keeps your internal communication as focused or flexible as necessary. So you can rest easy that workplace chat is just that — workplace chat. Plus, access to features like whiteboard, screen-sharing, and voice and video chat will truly streamline collaboration.
Data breaches aren’t just costly — they can threaten the very existence of your business. Your business instant messenger must provide and prioritize strong security. So what should you look for? Vitally, infrastructure and servers must meet the highest security standards, and a distributed and redundant server system keeps your data safe and accessible. Additionally, data compression and encryption, preferably the AES-256 bit encryption algorithm, ensures that only authorized users can interpret the data you send. Furthermore, peer to peer (P2P) communication channels keeps communication directly between users without the use of third-party servers.
Don’t expose yourself or your business to unnecessary security breaches, functionality and performance issues, or unnecessary time-wasting. Using a consumer-grade instant messenger for your business communication isn’t just extremely risky, it’s highly inefficient. The right enterprise instant messenger not only removes the risk, but enhances your workplace communication, collaboration, and productivity.
Originally published at www.brosix.com on July 26, 2018.