Here is the scenario – You are an IT Admin for a business that is large enough or handles data of a particular type such that you have to worry about security more than the average Joe. Furthermore, you get audited from time to time. However, people want an IM (Instant Messenger) solution and… they want to be able to talk to their friends on AIM and ICQ and Yahoo, etc… and management rather than just killing the idea says “Fine… Mrs. IT Person – you go figure it out…”

After a bit of digging via the worlds most useful IT Encyclopedia — GOOGLE — you discover there are a Myriad of option for IM — but the list narrows as you start realizing that most don’t meet the following security and operational requirements:

  • No File Sharing
  • All messages must be audited and stored for XYZ period of time
  • All messages must be encrypted/secure from eavesdropping
  • You users must login using their already corporately managed Microsoft Active Directory Credentials
  • Your users want access to AIM, ICQ, etc… which also must be audited if they are using these accounts from work
  • Your users want access to corporate IM from their mobile device

That is an exhausting list. Luckily, there is one solution out there that is incredibly slick… AND it meets all of these requirements… AND… it just so happens to be COMPLETELY FREE.

Enter OpenFire Chat Server – it is going to make you look like an IT Superhero to your colleagues and to the budgeting department (you, know, if those folks actually pay attention to IT :)… more and more they do these days.) Yes, it runs on Linux. But it is very lightweight, and if you are in a Microsoft environment and have an under worked server with a decent amount of storage and some extra ram (running at least Server 2008 R2), you can convert that machine into a Hyper-V host and build your Chat server in virtual at little or no direct cost. You can also use old or cheap hardware if your organization just isn’t ready to virtualize something. This is worth jumping on the Linux bus for :).

If you still aren’t fully persuaded, OpenFire does have a Windows Distribution now available. Based on the experience I have had in the past with running software developed on Linux, for Linux then ported to Windows… I suggest you stick with Linux. It might be absolutely fine on Windows (I didn’t try it), but my general experience with getting other Linux-ported software to run on Windows has not been pleasant.