by August 9, 2003 0 comments

Instant messaging has become an essential part of most corporate messaging setups. Today, instant messaging is available to everyone, be it an enterprise-wide network, a small organization, or even individuals. Gone are the days when you had to sit up all night for weeks on end writing Java or C++ code to implement instant-messaging servers and a few weeks more writing and testing their custom clients. 

Configuring the server using the Manager

Today, you can do a simple search on the Web and end up with hundreds of free and custom servers and clients that you can download and customize for your specific needs. For individuals, the likes of Yahoo and MSN Messenger need no introduction. For organizations, there are both free as well as commercial solutions available. Plus, instant-messaging functionality has also begun to come built-in with a lot of mail servers. Here, we feature a lightweight, yet useful, instant-messaging solution for Windows-based networks. It’s called Ipswitch’s Instant Messaging Server, from the same people who gave us the popular WS_FTP FTP client. 


Set up server and clients
The machine we will use as the server should run Win NT 4.0 or above (we used Win 2000 Pro). The clients can run any version upwards of Win 95 OSR2, and the hardware configuration required is also pretty low. All you need is a Pentium 350 MHz CPU with 64 MB RAM and 10 MB space for the software on the hard disk. The server must, of course, have a static external IP address, since the client cannot be configured to a specific IP address.

The installer is a small 6.9 MB executable file. You’ll find it on this month’s PCQEssential CD.

Adding new users

Double-clicking on it will automatically extract it and begin the installation. During this, you have to select the folder where you want to place the files (default is: Program Files\Ipswitch IM Server), the name of the program group folder (default is: Ipswitch IM Server) and the type of user database (IMail or NT. Select NT here). At the end of the installation, it will ask you if you want to start the Ipswitch IM Server Manager. Here, you click on Yes.

Note that Ipswitch Instant Messaging Server accepts connections on Port 5177. So, set this port open on your firewall. You must also set up the clients to use a Persistent Data Connection if you are using NAT. (We will discuss the option to do this later.)

You can install the clients only after you install the server, for the simple reason that the installer is inside the server’s installer and is extracted to the server’s installation folder. So, go there (Program Files\Ipswitch IM Server) and copy the file to a central location (shared folder or FTP site) from where your users can download it. Installing the client is painless, requiring hardly any user-intervention.5

More Corporate 
Instant-messenger products
Sun ONE Instant Messaging Server
Source: Sun Microsystems
Platforms: Windows, Sun Solaris, Linux
Exchange Conference Server
Source: Microsoft Platforms: Windows
Jabber Messenger
Source: Jabber Products
Platforms: Windows
Lotus Workplace Messaging
Source: IBM
Companies such as AOL, Yahoo and Lycos also provide customizable instant-messaging solutions through their existing public networks for a fee. 
Their general service is free but lacks features needed for corporate messaging.

You can start/stop the server through the Services applet on Win NT/2000. It appears here as Ipswitch Messaging Server. You can also manage it through a Start/Stop button on the General page of the IPSwitch IM Server Manager.


Configure server 
Open the Ipswitch IM Server Manager from the program group (it should have been opened at the end of your installation). If the service is stopped, start it for
now. The Categories panel shows the menu of this application. Go to the General page.

Select the Authentication Database to Ipswitch IM Server (for maximum flexibility). Other options are Windows NT and IMail Server (another product from this vendor). If you
don’t want to store conversations, set the Store Conversations For to 0 days. You can also
reduce the Check For Dropped Users After parameter to 5 mins(this is the lowest possible value),
otherwise you will find that deleted users still keep appearing on the clients’ screens. You
can set up other values on this page as per your requirements.


Create users
Now it’s time to go and create the users. To do so, click on the Users category and on the New button on that screen to add users. The Account Address must be in e-mail form (for example,  format). If you are not on a domain,you just need to enter the desired username, the @ symbol and the name of your PC (for example,
john@homepc ). Click on the Add To Public Contact List” if you want
these names to appear automatically on every client’s contacts list.
Click on Next to enter a display (friendly) name for this user. You can add the person’s e-mail address and website URL any 
number of times by repeatedly clicking New on this screen. You can also type in any other property’s name (for example, phone number) in the upper box and add such values as well. If you select the Allow Users To Change Their Display Name option, they can change it from what you assign here.

The IM client’s main window. The lock at the bottom-right corner indicates security

Next, scroll down the categories list and go to the Public Contact List item. This allows you to categorize your contacts into various groups, such as business,
family, friends and so on. To create a hierarchical list, click on the folder under which you want the new one to appear
before you click on the New button there. If you clicked on the Public Contact List, the
item will appear in a linear list.


Set up the client 
The client’s installer places a shortcut both on the Start menu and in the programs group.

To set up the messenger, enter the account name and password and click on OK. After a brief pause, with a progress display, the client logs you on to the server.

Sadly, there is no option to change your instant-messaging server. If you are accessing the server through a firewall using NAT, go to View> Options>LogOn and tick on the Use Persistent Data Connection box. Other options in the configuration box are similar to those on other popular chat clients.


To send an instant message, simply double-click on the contact’s name and start chatting in the familiar looking instant-messenger window! There are quite a number of interesting smileys available, too.

This is the Personal IM Window. Add other online users and create conferences here

The instant messages are secure in transmission (indicated by the lock icon on the client’s main window at the bottom right-hand corner), but get logged on the server by default. So, if you want total privacy, turn off conversation logging in the server’s manager.

As with other chat programs, you can set your status and send each other files. The interface is pretty intuitive, although some options (like the one to select your instant-messenger server) seem missing. However, the online help provided with the software is pretty extensive, giving you detailed information on each

Technically speaking, the server program takes up 3 MB of memory while the client takes up nearly 6 MB (double that of MSN Messenger, but lesser than Yahoo’s client). 

Also, the client’s interface can be pretty slow and jaggedly drawn at times, with its custom non-rectangular windows. 

Sujay Sarma

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