You monitor Web usage and email traffic to secure your company's sensitive information, but Instant Messaging (IM) and Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing networks are more difficult to control. I recently tested one solution to this problem, the Akonix L7 CM5000 Appliance. This appliance, which lets you restrict unauthorized IM and p2p traffic and monitor permitted traffic, is a 1U server with a Pentium 4 processor, 1GB of RAM, and two network ports. It comes preinstalled with Akonix's two software products, L7 Enterprise and L7 Enforcer.

L7 Enterprise acts as a proxy server for IM clients, letting you monitor and control IM traffic. You can alternatively use DNS redirection to force traffic to go through the L7 CM5000 Appliance. L7 Enforcer blocks unauthorized IM traffic (e.g., AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Instant Messenger) and p2p traffic (e.g., BitTorrent, Kazaa, Morpheus, Shareaza). The appliance I tested included L7 Enforcer 4.0, which didn't handle GoogleTalk, but Akonix informed me that a newer version of the software, L7 Enforcer 4.2, does block GoogleTalk and the underlying Jabber IM network. The company also told me that as of October 2005, L7 Enterprise would support logging and selective blocking of GoogleTalk traffic, as it does for other IM networks. I also tested the L7 Enforcer's ability to block P2P file sharing. Though there are far too many P2P clients for me to test, L7 Enforcer blocked all the clients I tried (and mentioned above). You can find a complete list of the IM and P2P networks and clients that Akonix can control at the vendor's Web site (http://akonix.com/products/enforcer_specifications.asp).

Once configured, Akonix's L7 line of IM management solutions lets you easily and effectively control traffic for the most popular IM and P2P networks. You can monitor live traffic, block unauthorized traffic, and report historical traffic statistics. At almost $10,000, this functionality doesn't come cheap, but if your company uses IM for business purposes, this appliance can help you monitor and control the valuable business data that travels over IM. —Adam Carheden

Akonix L7 CM5000 Appliance

PROS: Great control over IM and P2P; great reporting
CONS: Setup is complex; appliance is pricey
RATING: 3 out of 5
PRICE: Starts at about $10,000; contact vendor for exact pricing
RECOMMENDATION: Makes controlling most popular IM and p2p services easy, but you’ll need to keep track of new services and software versions that might require manual updates.
CONTACT: Akonix * 619-814-2300 * http://www.akonix.com