"We need to ensure that our wireless area network is not adversely impacted by Skype traffic, so we are completing a roll-out of analysis tools and processes that will enable us to monitor bandwidth usage across all of our 4,000 sites globally," he said.But according to Richard Edwards, an analyst with UK-based analyst company, the Butler Group, Info-Tech's warning overlooks another important point: the risk that corporate computers will be commandeered by Skype to act as super nodes."We put a lot of time into surveying customers last year and one thing that came up was that approximately 25% of our 61 million registered users rely on Skype for business purposes." In October 2005 the company launched the Skype Group service, which enables a single administrator to buy and distribute Skype credits to multiple Skype accounts as well as buy Skypein and Skype Voicemail premium services for group members.

"We encourage business users to visit where there is a variety of resources available for download," he said.

"These provide guidance on the best ways to police and control Skype traffic on corporate networks, but I should add that we have never had any complaint from any business user about any of these issues." There is a growing awareness at Skype of the importance of business customers, said Klein.

According to Andrea Wilson, operations director of Dublin-based software consultancy Exoftware, two recent developments have enabled the company to dramatically cut the cost of doing business: low-cost air travel and Skype, the free internet telephony service.

"Skype is one of the best things to hit businesses in recent years.

Also, combining Skype with simple webcams has given Exoftware employees access to low-cost, easy-to-use video conferencing facilities, said Wilson.

This enthusiasm for Skype is reflected widely across a broad range of industries and company sizes.If IT managers want to allow Skype in the workplace, said Info Tech analyst Ross Armstrong, they should at least develop and enforce policies on acceptable usage, such as refusing file transfers, and warn against using it for sensitive communications.That process is already underway at Manpower, said Fitzpatrick.And at most larger companies where frequent Skype calls are made, the service is being used as an add-on to existing telephony services, not replacing them.Perhaps a more worrying issue is the claim made by industry analysts that companies using Skype are exposed to a host of undue network security risks that could seriously impact their businesses."Unlike Skype, business-level solutions come complete with network monitoring tools, which provide IT diagnostics and analyse and monitor usage, enabling the IT manager to make decisions about their network and the quality of service that is being provided.