Security and Control
MindAlign primarily exercises security and control at two points: the user and the message. User authentication (are you who you say you are?) is handled at login as well as through a connection to Microsoft Active Directory. Single sign-on is available for Windows users. User validation (where can you go, and what you can do?) is handled through the Group Server and permissions policies. Provision is made for e-mail notification to users of account information.
The fact that MindAlign devotes a chapter in its administrator’s manual to message encryption is a tip-off that it is serious about security in ways few products can match. It identifies Green (users), Amber (DMZ), and Red (Server) zones of security, concentrating on the Amber zone, which can be set up with a messaging node to handle encryption/decryption proxies. Message encryption (TLS/SSL) is most heavily used for communications outside the firewall, but encryption is also used for user login and authentication. We spent a considerable amount of time installing and testing this aspect of MindAlign. It is not the simplest of tasks, but in the end we were impressed with the implementation — encryption is security with teeth, assuming you get it configured without sacrificing much in performance. For IM and its typically small messages, performance is less of a problem, but burst periods and ultimate scalability may be an issue.
Although MindAlign permits file transfers with messaging, it does not provide specific hooks for anti-virus software; nor does it provide explicit spim (IM spam) filtering. These are common features with other IM server products.
Flexible Clients and API
MindAlign offers both a full-featured Windows client and a somewhat trimmer Web (Java applet) client. These are quite different in appearance from the familiar public IM clients, largely because of the way MindAlign handles channels (rooms), groups, and other aggregated messaging. Users have considerable leeway in defining how messages and topics are represented and prioritized. Installation of clients is generally handled by a user when he or she registers at the application Web site. Java 1.3 or later must be enabled in the browser. The Windows client has five configuration files, which can be edited on the server for distribution during installation (or automatic update). A large number of addresses are ‘hardwired’ into the configuration files, so unscheduled changes in servers or other locations can be a problem.
MindAlign also has an API for client and server. Parlano started its IM business by providing for industry-specific applications (e.g., financial services), so it’s no wonder it has a better set of tools and procedures for adapting MindAlign to external software and data sources. This is one of the product’s greatest strengths.
In fact, Parlano provides separate manuals for ‘branding’ the product and using the API. This is indicative of its approach and the expectation that MindAlign (especially with the server version) will be customized for the enterprise on an individual basis. The ability to customize, along with the structuring of MindAlign for persistent forms of messaging, makes it not only
different form many IM server products, but also gives it a distinct advantage for many other applications.
Pros: Server can be run in either a Windows or Unix (Solaris) environment; Excellent API implementation; Highly customizable.
Cons: Limited back-end database support; No spim/spam filtering; Limited content control.
Reviewed by: Nelson King
Original Review Date: 1/13/2005
Original Review Version: 6.0