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AOL offers secure instant messaging for business

America Online has unveiled security and control features designed to give its widely used instant messenger product the extra security needed by business employees.

The company said its Enterprise AIM Services (EAS) would allow IT administrators to have more control over IM usage, while adding long-desired security and auditing features critical for business.

The EAS package will include AIM Enterprise Gateway, which is to be installed behind a company's firewall to help provide tighter control over incoming and outgoing messages. An optional Private Domain Service featuring federated authentication is also on offer, to allow companies to manage users through their existing corporate server directories centrally.

AOL is also providing developer packages and programs so applications can be written to integrate with AOL's IM client.

Still missing from the AIM client package for business are encryption capabilities, which are being worked on in beta versions and are due for release by early next year.

Last month, Yahoo! was the first major consumer IM company to announce an enterprise edition of its IM software.

Rather than redesign a corporate IM client from scratch, AOL is using its existing consumer IM client and wrapping it with the enterprise services package, said Derick Mains, an AOL spokesman. To add security and archiving features, AOL got help from third-party IM security vendor FaceTime Communications, which embedded its technology into the AIM client to provide needed features.

Digital trust services vendor VeriSign is also working with AOL to integrate encryption capabilities by next year.

Fees for business usage of the new AIM are expected to be approximately $34 (£22) to $40 (£26) per seat. The new services and features, with the exception of the encryption capabilities, are available now.

AIM is the world's most popular IM client, delivering more than 1.5 billion instant messages each day, AOL claimed. There are about 180 million registered users of the AIM service, including both consumers and business users.

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