The Exchange 2000 Server Instant Messaging Service
Real-time collaboration solution
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, you’ve no doubt heard of Instant Messaging. AOL, Yahoo!, and Microsoft have all done their part to bring Instant Messaging capability to all users with an Internet connection. Lately, there have even been some open source projects that produced IM clients capable of signing into more than one service on behalf of a client and populating their “buddy” list with users from multiple services.
In addition to the three core parts of the Instant Messaging solution outlined previously, Windows 2000 Domain Controllers play an important role in the IM process. Instant Messaging uses the NTLM protocol and digest authentication to allow user access to the IM service. Windows 2000 Domain Controllers perform this authentication. If you are running in a mixed-mode setup, you can still leverage the power of the Exchange 2000 Server Instant Messaging service as long as the Exchange Active Directory Connector is installed.
Under the hood
Before we go any further into configuring and using the Instant Messaging service, it would be beneficial to understand what is going on in the background to make it all work.
The Firewall Topology Module, Node Database and Locator function together as the Server Application Layer. The Server Application Layer uses Exchange Interprocess Communication to talk to IIS. Clients use the Rendezvous Protocol to talk to the IM system.
Instant Messaging is actually one of the simpler services to deploy across Windows 2000, but there are a few things you should keep in mind
The latest version of the Instant Messaging client that will work with both the .NET service and the Exchange 2000 Server service can be found on a special download page here.
A couple more points about Instant Messaging before we move on to installing and configuring it
Configuring the Instant Messaging Service
The process to configure the Instant Messaging Service is fairly simple, but requires some planning and time. There are three basic steps to the process: creating a home server, configuring users for access, and installing the client software and connecting users.
Enabling user access to the Instant Messaging Service:
In this article, I’ve covered the background and basics of the Exchange 2000 Server Instant Messaging Service. You can have contacts from both the Microsoft .NET Messenger service and also from your Exchange Instant Messaging Service. The Instant Messaging Service is a great asset to a company and be used for any number of purposes, including (but, of course, not limited to): help desk support or immediate employee communication that does not require permanency (such as email or paper communication).
Lest you should think that Instant Messaging is all good, remember that with its built-in capability to transfer and share files across the connection, you are bound to run into problems. Tom Shinder has written an excellent article on just this issue entitled How to Block Dangerous Instant Messengers Using ISA Server, and it may well be worth your time to have a look.