Verizon Business is offering hosted instant messaging services for companies looking to secure, control and monitor employee usage of internal and public real-time communications systems.The Hosted Secure Instant Messaging Service is available for enterprise and public IM networks."Our Hosted Secure IM Service is aimed at IM usage in the workplace both within the workforce and for employees using public IM services to communicate with people outside the company," says Rick Dyer, Director of IT Solutions Product Management at Verizon Business. "We address the security concerns that IT officials have about employee usage of IM. When companies have folks communicating about their business on IM, they prefer to have those communications over a secure encrypted channel. The second issue is the security holes that public instant messaging network open up within the corporate network."The enterprise IM service is based on Microsoft's Office Communicator software. It uses encryption to secure communications. It offers the ability to search an integrated directory of IM users and set up online chats with up to 30 participants.The public IM service allows IT shops to manage traffic to and from IM networks available from MSN, Yahoo and AOL. Network managers can limit usage to approved public IM networks and disable file transfers to ensure security.With both the enterprise and public IM services, administrators can enforce policies, log and audit IM conversations, and create regular reports. Both services offer anti-virus scanning. The public IM service adds protection against unsolicited instant messages known as spim as well as protection against worms.With its latest managed IT service, Verizon Business is bringing together several off-the-shelf software packages including:* Microsoft\u2019s Live Communications Server 2005 and Office Communicator 2005.* IM Logic\u2019s Threat Center for worm and virus protection.* Sybari\u2019s Antigen for anti-virus protection.Verizon Business provides its own Web-based user interface for its hosted IM solution that is the same as for its hosted e-mail services. Administrators have an interface that makes it easy to add and delete users, enable and disable options and view usage statistics.The Hosted Secure Instant Messaging Service is available immediately throughout the U.S. Prices start at $5.95 per user for the enterprise IM service and $3.50 per user for the public IM service.For more information, click here.