Enterprise chat for your own server

Team chat is becoming more popular. Organizations with security or compliance requirements might want to take a look at own-server chat.

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It's becoming pretty obvious that email is running rampantly out of control for communication in all but the simplest of projects within an organization. Waves of arbitrarily cc'd, dubious noise inundates employees all day—clearly affecting productivity.

So the question many may be pondering is just what to implement as an alternative. Team chat is one option.

I recently wrote about some alternatives to email in a post titled "Stop using email in 2015," and chat was one of them. Chat has been used in customer service for a while, but for communicating within a team, it's been less common. That may be changing.

We're beginning to see it make inroads in enterprise products, what with search-friendly darling Slack, group messaging in Campfire, and incumbent Facebook's Facebook at Work, among Google and others.

A potential problem for organizations that have security compliance and regulatory issues is that those aforementioned solutions are all web-based and in the cloud. For financial services, government, and healthcare organizations, cloud solutions may not be as well-received as traditional implementations.

And that's where HipChat comes in.

Atlassian's HipChat is positioning itself as a somewhat trendy chat app, complete with video and audio, a la SnapChat and its ilk, but installed on an enterprise's own server—behind a firewall and with administrative controls. It's just released a new version.

What you get

HipChat Server starts at $10 a year for 10 users. Server-side, it's compatible with Open Virtualization Format and Amazon Machine Images. User directory support includes Active Directory and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol.


Lync Server from Microsoft is also worth taking a look at. It pitches its chat element as being "persistent." Persistent Chat is where discussion rooms persist over time so people with a common interest can come back. Messages are also saved there.

As one would expect from Microsoft, though, the purchasing process is a bit more complicated than HipChat's. HipChat has a one-button order and download web page. Ordering Lync involves going through the TechNet Evaluation Center, coupling it with Office 365, or finding a system integration partner—in other words, it would be a project just to check it out.

A taste of things to come?

HipChat's blatant pitch at own-server installations harks back to an earlier time. In the early days, websites were often run on boxes at our feet, or on a local rack, rather than in the ethereal cloud.

Those of us running websites on shared servers in distant states—for earthquake and wildfire vulnerability reasons, in my case­—were considered a bit unusual by some. There was a perception that the remoteness put it out of our control.

Now, I'm not saying cloud services are susceptible to hacking. But today there could be an argument that, as hacking attempts become more prevalent, business owners—including the non-security-au-fait shareholders, who might have just had a bank card hacked that bought a few nights at a hotel in Moscow—are going to make knee-jerk demands for more visible security. Circle the wagons.

One hold-'em-at-bay option might be to publicly stick everything back on one's own servers again. Even if it isn't any more secure than the cloud, the perception may be that it is.

Perhaps, even "cloud" will ultimately just be a blip in the timeline of computing. Stranger things have happened.

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