Five Across has upgraded its workgroup instant messaging client by adding RSS support and developed its first workgroup instant messaging server, the company announced on Wednesday.
Five Across customers will now have the option of bringing instant messaging (IM) traffic in-house behind the firewall by purchasing the new Five Across Workgroup Server. The server is for companies that want to have a tighter handle on their IM communications' security and performance than is possible using Five Across' IM network. The server also has features for logging and auditing IM sessions.
"We're providing the server for security-conscious businesses," said Kathy Englar, Five Across' marketing director.
The company aims to provide businesses with an IM alternative that has more workgroup features than consumer-oriented IM services, such as America Online's AIM, Yahoo's Yahoo Messenger and Microsoft's MSN Messenger, but that is less expensive and easier to manage than enterprise IM platforms such as Microsoft's Live Communications Server and IBM's Sametime.
Five Across, founded in late 2003, released its first product in August. The InterComm 1.0 IM client is offered via download in a free and a fee-based version, both of which are meant to be run on Five Across' proprietary IM network. Although the fee-based version, which costs US$29 for a one-time fee, has more features than the free version, both are designed with a workgroup architecture in mind. This lets users organize their buddy lists by groups and store group documents in a server-based repository for sharing and collaboration.
On Wednesday, Five Across also will upgrade the InterComm client software to version 1.1, which features support for RSS (Really Simple Syndication), a technology for distributing and aggregating online information, typically news articles. InterComm 1.1 lets users set up RSS feeds for their groups.
Tris Hussey, a consultant specializing in collaboration and business blogging, uses InterComm and recommends it to clients he thinks might find it useful. Although he wouldn't be interested in the workgroup server for himself, since he is the sole employee in his company Larix Consulting, he thinks the product will appeal to companies that don't feel comfortable conducting their IM communications over the Five Across external network.
Meanwhile, he's personally interested in the InterComm RSS support, saying it has "a lot of potential" and is a feature that complements the other workgroup capabilities of the product. Hussey creates InterComm groups with his business partners and clients.
In future InterComm upgrades, Hussey would like Five Across to add the capability to lock a shared document, so that while a user is editing it, others can't modify it simultaneously. "If someone is doing a major revision of a document, you don't want other people to work on it, so if there was a way to lock it that would be helpful," he said.
For companies that don't buy the workgroup server, Hussey hopes Five Across will further enhance InterComm's security beyond what is offered now via password protection and the safeguards that are available when InterComm runs on the company's proprietary network. "Making sure that the product has a good security model is important. It has a pretty good one now, but it's always something that can be worked on and improved," he said.
"It would be nice to move to a point where everything is encrypted," he said, while acknowledging that might require a lot of processing power and thus not be entirely viable. If end-to-end encryption can't be implemented, Hussey would encourage Five Across to explore some other security technology or approach to "make sure that the controls are put in place so that it's difficult for an unauthorized person to get access to files or IM conversations."
The Five Across Workgroup Server and InterComm 1.1 are both available now. Pricing for the server is based on simultaneous users and starts at US$3,490 for a 20-user license. Meanwhile, the InterComm 1.1 client is available via download from the Five Across Web site (http://www.fiveacross.com) for free, while a version with more features called InterComm 1.1 Pro costs US$29 for a one-time fee. InterComm 1.1 comes in Microsoft Windows and Apple Computer's Mac OS versions.