Your “Instant” Messages May Be Forever

Despite the name, instant messages can stick around for a long, long time. Your conversations may live on, long after you’ve shut down your IM client – depending on what service you’re using and what controls you or your employer may have in place.

For example, Google saves every chat session conducted in Gmail automatically and makes those chats fully searchable. Trillian, a standalone client that supports AIM, Yahoo, and Microsoft Live, also automatically logs all conversations. On the other hand, the basic messaging clients for AIM, Yahoo and Microsoft do not automatically store conversations but can be configured to do so.

More IM services are coming out with enhanced versions for corporate use. AIM Pro, a free version for individuals and businesses, offers better security, voice and video conferencing, and integration with Microsoft Outlook. And Microsoft’s Live Communications server allows corporate IT departments to log and search employee conversations, including those on IM services like Yahoo and AOL.

So what’s the take-home?

When you’re at work, be aware that your employer’s policy toward email may extend to instant messages and don’t write anything you wouldn’t want your boss to read. And look on the bright side: just as email provides you with a digital paper trail for work-based communications, saved instant messages can serve much the same function. As instant messenger enhancements continue to develop, this tool will only become more valuable.

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