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Email improves the office; IM is a threat

Survey shows that email boosts productivity

Most business users find email and phone calls conducive to productivity. However, according to a survey, unified communications technologies such as instant messaging, blogs and softphones distract workers from the task at hand - and pose a security threat.

According to the survey, more than 70 percent of business users say email positively impacts productivity, followed by fixed-line telephony for 53 percent and mobile telephony for 52 percent. One hundred percent of respondents said they use email while 80 percent use the telephone and another 76 percent rely upon their mobile phones.

IT consulting firm Dimension Data surveyed some 524 IT managers and enterprise end users to learn which means of communications improved productivity and which had the opposite impact.

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"Consistent with my own research, there is a strong correlation between asynchronous communication, like email, and multitasking," said Marshall Van Alstyne, professor of information systems economics at Boston University and MIT, in a Dimension Data press release.

"Although users may take more time to complete individual projects, they are actually finishing a greater number of tasks. Email does not speed work in all cases, but rather, its advantage is to help people juggle projects and multitask more effectively. This increases project completion rates."

And while 66 percent of enterprise end users also reported they use instant messaging to communicate at work, respondents also indicated the unified communications application had the most potential to cause a breach, along with PDAs and mobile phones. IDC estimates that the market for unified communications will grow to $17.5 billion by 2011, but Dimension Data warns IT managers and enterprise users must be aware of the security threats posed by such applications.

For instance, 52 percent of users said they perceived unified communications to be as secure as other information and communications technologies, but just 31 percent of IT managers agreed the technologies were equally secure.

In fact, 16 percent of IT managers said they believed the technology to be moderately risky and close to 10 percent think instant messaging is very risky.

Some of the risks identified by Dimension Data include fraud and identity theft that could lead to the unauthorized use of enterprise services, and denial of service and other disguised attacks using the less secure applications as a means of entry.

"This result indicates that IT managers are aware of the new risk types that are associated with unified communications, while IT users are probably reasonably unaware of the risks they might be exposed to and expose their organisations to when using communications technologies other than email," the survey reads.


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