Symantec IM Manager
Strengths: User-friendly, intuitive interface, access to threat centre
Weaknesses: Complicated rules, management can be confusing
Verdict: A robust security suite with comprehensive reporting capabilities
Symantec IM Manager offers instant messaging management and security with support for public IM networks and enterprise IM platforms including AOL, Jabber, IBM Lotus Instant Messaging, ICQ, MSN Messenger, Microsoft Live Communications Server, Reuters, Yahoo! and GoogleTalk.
For Windows Server 2003, the installation procedure was fairly straightforward. The configuration allows for setup on a single machine or across multiple computers, depending on the size of the organisations.
The first minor frustration we encountered was that we had pre-empted the requirements of the software suite and installed a number of updates on our Windows Server 2003 machine, including Microsoft's XML Core Services version 6.0. As it turned out, we needed version 4.0 to run the suite and had to abort installation to download the older version of XML Core Services.
The software suite includes database support for Microsoft's MSDE, SQL server or Oracle, with the option to install MSDE during the security suite installation. Once installed, an MMC snap-in allows you to configure IM Manager to capture IM messages into Microsoft's SQL database server and query against them. The administration proper is carried out via a browser-based interface, which in this case was installed on the local machine.
This is where we encountered our second problem. The installation appeared to have broken at some point and most of the local files needed to access the interface were not present.
The second time we tried, the process went smoothly and we got into the Symantec dashboard without concern. As befits a Symantec product, the interface is very smooth and intuitive, with a comprehensive and accessible set of reporting facilities.
Although we were focusing on the IM-related capabilities of the product, the interface also gives access to a threat center, where you can govern other security features. The policies and rules list for instant messaging services allows you to manage users, file transfers, set alerts and archive conversations.
The one big complaint here is that there is no granularity for rules. Everything is on the same list, potentially making the task of administration confusing for larger organisations