Jabber appliance IMpresses with ease of installation, use

Jabber says its JabberNow appliance creates an IM environment that is easy to install, simple to maintain, highly secure and interoperable with other IM systems. In our tests, we found the device lived up to our expectations.

How we tested JabberNow

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JabberNow was easy to install and administer. Each device could support as many as a few hundred clients, and it worked well with Active Directory, AOL Instant Messenger and GoogleTalk. It also enforced good message privacy on the local network. We did have some concerns - the appliance wasn't able to thwart a malware attack, it is too small to fit into a rack space and we think the license fees are somewhat higher than they should be. But overall JabberNow quickly and painlessly lets a company set up a business IM environment.

JabberNow instant messaging appliance
JabberNow instant messaging appliance.

Great response, good features

The system responded well during our tests, even when we simulated 100 and then 200 concurrent users (see "How we tested JabberNow"). JabberNow impressed us with useful collaboration features, such as presence-based IM and text conferencing. The unit's internal database archived all our IM traffic, giving us an audit trail in case we needed to produce messages for compliance or legal reasons. The audit trail records such details as the source user ID, destination user ID, and date and time of each message. The audit trail and message base are searchable. The message-store backup feature creates a snapshot for copying or restoring message activity.

The appliance operates in one of three modes - it can process local IM traffic, local and remote IM traffic, or local, remote and intracompany IM traffic. You select a mode by giving the device an IP address accessible only on the local network or from remote computers, by inserting entries in your company's DNS server tables and enabling or disabling IM ports in your firewall. You therefore control access to JabberNow by using your network's own access-control mechanisms.

When exchanging IM with other companies' networks, JabberNow uses the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) standard.

JabberNow encrypts all IM traffic, ensuring confidentiality as messages cross the network. However, the device lacks the ability to detect and thwart IM-borne malware. When we attacked the JabberNow IM environment with the W32/SDbot-ADD worm (a rootkit-based program that lets hackers control your computer), we easily infected all our IM clients. Any IM-borne malware would have had the same result.

In contrast to GoogleTalk, connecting to AIM requires a digital certificate, which is obtained from AOL and uploaded, along with a private key, into JabberNow. Clients then communicate with AIM users via AIM buddy lists.

Another option tells JabberNow to store its IM user IDs in Active Directory instead of in the default internal JabberNow data store. Integrating JabberNow with Active Directory also added a button to the Jabber client interface, which gave us searchable access to Active Directory's lists of IM user IDs.

The 8.5- by 6.6- by 3.3-inch appliance sits on a table or mounts on a wall, but it was too small to rack-mount. We believe the roughly $50-per-seat license fee should be $25 to $30, about the same price you would pay an ISP for an e-mail account.



Price:$5,000 for 100 users, Active Directory option is $495; Message Archive and Reporting option is $999.
Pros:Quick setup; interoperable with AOL Instant Messenger and GoogleTalk.
Cons:Expensive; security does not block IM-borne malware.
The breakdown
Messaging 30%4Scoring Key: 5: Exceptional4: Very good3: Average2: Below average1: Subpar or not available
Security 20%3

Ease of use 20%

Interoperability 20%4
Installation/documentation 10%3

Plug it in and go

Installing JabberNow involved connecting it to a hub or switch, powering it up, assigning an IP address and stepping through a few configuration items. Each JabberNow user downloads the Jabber client from the appliance. The network administrator can convert existing IM users to JabberNow users by instructing them to use the new client and by blocking ports at the firewall.

JabberNow's browser-based interface was simple - just a few Web pages - and easy to navigate. Setting up a new IM user is a simple matter of entering a user ID and password. The unit's self-registration feature is turned on by default but is easily disabled.

If you're thinking of setting up IM in your business, you should take a close look at JabberNow. It's especially appropriate for small and midsize businesses that want to start using IM with as little fuss as possible.

Nance runs Network Testing Labs and is the author of Introduction to Networking,, and Client/Server LAN Programming. He can be reached at barryn@erols.com.

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Nance is also a member of the Network World Lab Alliance, a cooperative of the premier reviewers in the network industry, each bringing to bear years of practical experience on every review. For more Lab Alliance information, including what it takes to become a member, go to www.networkworld.com/alliance.

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