Businesses are increasingly making use of instant messaging, but enterprise IM tools such as Microsoft's Live Communications Server (LCS) and IBM SameTime are losing out to programs originally designed for home users.

That's the conclusion of a survey of 340 European IT managers carried out by Sybari Software. Nearly 90 percent of the IT managers agreed that instant messaging needs management, but 56 percent said they had no plans to do this by installing enterprise IM software.

More than half of the businesses surveyed are already using consumer IM tools such as AOL, MSN or Yahoo Messenger instead. Tom Bueonillo, Sybari's VP of product management, says it's because they've found security tools to let them do that safely.

"You are seeing IM become recognised as a business tool - in some industries it's a requirement for people to do their jobs," he says. "What I'm hearing people say is that they have to get IM in and get a handle on it." he says.

The primary concerns vary by sector - Sybari's survey shows viruses, Trojans and worms are the top worries overall, while in regulated industries such as finance and healthcare, Bueonillo says it is compliance and message logging. "People are saying yes to public IM for business because they know they can cover those concerns - companies like IMlogic, FaceTime and Akonix can manage all that," he adds.

Those companies provide secure proxies or gateway devices to identify and manage IM traffic, while Sybari's role is to add tools such as content filtering and anti-virus. Bueonillo says it works with Microsoft to help secure LCS, and with IMlogic to perform the same role for consumer IM.

So does enterprise IM have a future? "It's a valid question," says Kailash Ambwani, president and CEO of FaceTime. He adds that while LCS and the like might integrate better with other applications in the future, today you can achieve the same results by adding management to public IM.

Tom Bueonillo agrees: "We want to take the fear out of IM for administrators," he says. "The number of people who are going to keep on blocking IM is going down."

Read our interview with FaceTime's Kailash Ambwani here.