This question is old, but for anyone looking into this:
Could it be possible to connect to an about 100% uptime IRC-Server (there are lists, Google helps fast), and protect the channel then?
The servers would "always" be online, with uptimes like "99,99%" or "99,95%" more reliable than most servers in a LAN (expect it'll be the server of the most perfect IT company ever - but not everyone has something like that).
What's perfect about this is that there is connection about any IRC-client, even if (let's not hope so, but...) your servers break down.
Essentially, you have to do these things:
- Register the channel to the mailadress and admin username you wish.
- Set it to mode +s (not: +p). Then, your channel won't be shown in any channel list, this way cannot be seen by people you haven't given the channelname.
- Set mode to +k and set password. Only users knowing the password will be able to join the channel. Even if they knew it existed, they could only join with password.
- Care for a good client. Good IRC-clients don't require their users to be programmers or expert-users ("hackers" has never been required, btw). Good clients allow users to enter their username, their password if registered (and they can register via client, if you can realize that), maybe channelpassword and, if you let the decision which channel to join up to them, channelname and server. All these values can be entered in popular desktop clients, very good ones (from "made for nerd to feel at home"-style to "beginner-users are welcome" or truly professional appearance, everything is there to give the user the experience they wish). If you customize your web-client, you'll pre-enter values you don't want users to choose, and make the rest up to them (for example, username and user password). This also is not necessarily coding, depending on how much you want to give the client your own look and feel. You definitely don't have to write it from scratch. For server-side-running clients, I'd recommend CGI:IRC (the newest version only), or PJIRC as a friendly Java Applet.
- Set usermode to +x (masked hostname in /whois) for all users if you are able to do so. If your server does not seem to allow users setting +x on themselves, at least let a bot with operator-rights do that.
Depending on how you set up the look and feel, no user will feel they are entering the darker backstreets of the Internet, and no strangers will join and mess the channel up.
Clean, simple, easy to use and with you having good things to say ("We use SSL so all your data is transferred in safe ways.", "We are determined to provide you any kind of security possible.") about security, should that be a problem?
In fact, I never felt safe using Skype. Who could swear what is behind their codecs and so on? You're right IRC misses VOIP, but it really depends on the server, the channel admin and the end-users whether IRC is save.