Open IT Forum: What are your views on social networking platforms in your network?

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I chatted with David Sacks, CEO of Yammer, last week at Enterprise 2.0, and we talked about IT's changing attitude toward cloud-based offerings such as social networking platforms. I'd love to hear from practicing IT professionals about the impact of these platforms on the network, whether it's security or storage. Share your opinion or experience, and we'll share 100 Knowledge Points!
ASKED: June 28, 2011  3:28 PM
UPDATED: July 8, 2011  11:46 PM

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“Cloud based Offferings”

We used to call these ‘computer bureaux’

We used to be extremely concerned about handing custody of our business critical data and trade secrets to a 3rd party.

Nothing has changed.
Handing over control of your property to someone else doesn’t let you abdicate responsibility for it.

Computer systems, like nuclear power stations or space shuttles, will always fail. Lots of examples of hacked sites, and cloud based systems failures to prove it.

The only question is how much risk you are prepared to take with your company.

‘social networking’ is merely another way of taking money from the gullible. email is superior for most things – for one, it’s private, and can be made confidential if necessary. Anyone I want to email, I have the email address for. Anyone who knows me can find my email address and mail me, or phone.
And speaking of gullible – isn’t that just why ‘companies are taking notice’ ? – anywhere the gullible gather is fair game to the hawker, the mugger ( look up the origin of the word) the confidence trickster and the ethical salesman. I have no problem with that. I’d liek some of that free money. Just lets not pretend they are valuable.

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  • MelanieYarbrough
    [...] also warns against social networks, which often create a back door entry point into companies. His suggestion? “Aggressive [...]
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  • ErroneousGiant
    I personally view social network sites and cloud based products as a risk as you are trusting potentially valuable/confidential information to another company to look after. All you need is one disgruntled employee at the cloud based company and your data is freely available online. That said the company I work for allows Facebook and other social networking sites because the company itself has a presence on these sites. The knock on effect is that 97% of web traffic is now from sites regarding social networking, we have multiple complaints regarding inappropriate language or messages between people as well as the security risks these sites place on the company. Regardless of the flaws I can see a number of benefits also, take Facebook. For all intents and purposes it is free, unlimited, highly accessible photo storage. The real draw for me would come from cloud server farms for hire for large processing jobs as it is on demand power without the permanent cost of upkeep.
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  • Chippy088
    I think I am one of those oldies who can't see more of an advantage to cloud computing, than the disadvantages caused by security breaches, and leaving crucial backups to the competence of strangers. Why would I want to endorse a system where we are going to pay to store crucial business information, and have no control over the backup of our "backups". What are the odds their system won't crash when we need it most. Local backups, under our own control are more sensible, and more accessible. Cost? On site access of backups, man hours under it control. Offsite backups are down to when they want to do it. Short term saving are pennies, long term when a disaster recovery is needed, expensive. You have to wait until the backups are available. Remember, you have to reinstall the basic systems locally, before you can access the distant backups. if you have to do that, why not do a system restore from disc images. Data backup images would be instantly available. Social networking is the easiest way of causing security breaches within a company. I have recently joined facebook, as I wanted to what all the excitement was about. I spent 8 hours locking down my personal account on my local computer, and have been astounded how naive long time users are about what is safe. Most of them have just created the account and started using it, safety has not been something they have thought about. I have family and friends, who think it is totally secure. They log on using http, where I only use https. Links passed from friends are automatically clicked on, without any understanding what the link really is about, or how it is going to effect their computer. Facebook and many of the other social networking sites don't seem to think it is important to ensure their users are aware of the many dangers inherent with using these sites. Their interests are in having as many accounts as possible, for subsidies from backers, and personal security is not within their remit. Company users are most often originally home users, and if they have been using these sites before they started in the company, who do you think they are going to trust if a sysop puts a ban on these sites.
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  • Jblanchard
    What we see happening in higher ed IT is that students and faculty aren't receiving the functionality they need from officially supported services and tools. The users expect simple video uploading and streaming, unrestricted blogging, easy file-sharing, collaborative tools, etc. When the university offers a home-grown or licensed tool that doesn't work as well or as easily as the free, cloud-based services that are out there, they abandon the secure, university services for the third party solutions. So while higher ed IT institutions are burdened by poor funding and FERPA compliance which hold them back from innovating as quickly or adopting the third party tools, the users are going to the cloud anyway because it's just... easier. Since third party apps are so easy to use without thinking about the security risks, higher ed must focus on usability as a security issue.
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  • Teandy
    I can't see the value or wisdom of trusting our data and the personal information of our customers to someone else. Especially someone using a wintel type solution. As far as social networking goes, we have blocked access to things like Facebook and MySpace because of security concerns. While we do not have to worry about things like malware and virus’s on our main business server (an IBM i5), they do play havoc with the desktops.
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  • James Murray
    The original question was regarding “…the impact of these platforms on the network, whether it's security or storage.” I think the ramifications of Cloud computing, SaaS and social networking platforms will be a much bigger change. I think we are watching in-house networks changing from business necessity to a business commodity. For example: My youngest daughter was working on the year book for her Jr. High school. In the physical world she was alone in her room. In the virtual world she was working with 12 other students create the layout, articles and pictures for the yearbook. Not all the students were online at a given time yet work was being done 24X7. The teacher watches the students and validates they aren’t missing the school vision, but for the most part are not involved. These virtual work spaces are easy to work in because they are just like the social media platforms kids play in every day. By centralizing the data and the application the school reduces cost and increases the reliability and security of their systems with no obligation to the technology itself. This, for me, begs the question, “What is a social networking platform vs. a business networking platform?” From a technical standpoint a social networking platform and business networking platform are the same underlying technology used in the almost the same way. We already see SaaS in the B to C market place focused on gaming and social gatherings. Take that same software and build a business interface and we have a B to B business platform using the same technology engine. Here’s silly example: A classic online game, World of War craft could be modified to be called World of Business craft. Gamers within the virtual environment build businesses, hire employees and management teams. The World of Business Craft (WOB) would have hooks into the every business software from accounting to operations and production. Online managers would determine vision and goals. Online employees would provide products and services. In this virtual space though there would be a difference the results would produce real world profits or real world losses. While the example seems like out of the box fantasy, how different is it really from my daughter working remotely on collaboration software hosted by a vendor of her school. Social networking platforms impact the traditional business network in terms user expectation. My daughter will bring her own expectations into the workplace. If she has already worked on virtual teams as a teenager, she will look for the same tools in the workplace. As she demonstrates real world efficiencies, her bosses will take notice. As systems administrators, we are really are seeing the natural growing pains as user expectations continue to grow. Again the original question was regarding “…the impact of these platforms on the network, whether it's security or storage.” It’s not hard to see that servers and applications will continue moving out of the office and into the cloud. Infrastructure and even applications are becoming more of a commodity like a phone system or electrical power. As systems move into the cloud, so too will the system administrator. The biggest worries will be more than just security and storage. For the system admin the vision will continue to be focused on security, reliability, availability and the usability of the technology.
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  • TomLiotta
    Computer systems, like nuclear power stations or space shuttles, will always fail. . Failures will happen in cloud clusters as they will also happen in closed business data centers. Cloud offerings that have long-term success will be ones that have more built-in redundancy and recovery, probably transparent. Few companies think twice about using 3rd-party programming for things like anti-virus. That's because strong AV requires expertise beyond what most companies can acquire. There's little reason to think that hardware and network expertise is much different. Yet, using 3rd-party AV effectively hands "custody of our business critical data and trade secrets to a 3rd party". Essentially all critical data is already in the hands of 3rd-party OSes and DBMSes. Lots of examples of hacked sites, and cloud based systems failures to prove it Most hacked sites are not those involved in open social networking or cloud-based offerings. Most are at sites that stay away from those. Granted, many of them that make "big news" will be ones that a lot of us have contact with. But that's because those sites simply are "big news" when hacked. If someone hacked into one of the AS/400s I have at home, I might say something related to it in a comment at this site, but otherwise essentially no one would ever know about it. (The incident might only be news because we rarely hear of AS/400s being hacked into at all.) In the past, the majority of hacked sites never reported the incidents. (Probably still true today, thought regulatory coverage forces many larger sites to disclose, as well as those suffering some types of breaches such as when personal data was accessed.) And the majority of those hacked sites were not for social networking nor any form of 'cloud' storage. Regardless, I tend to agree with the fundamental point. A general area of disagreement might be in the type of data that should be stored in a cloud given the current maturity of offerings. It might make sense to store historical general order line-item data in a file in a cloud. Not so much current open orders, just old filled orders. The line items could refer to an OrderNumber which would require access to a locally controlled file to determine anything about a customer identity or other useful info. Millions of historical line items might occupy space in a cloud without being considered critical. Now, if OrderHeaders were also stored there, along with CustomerMasters, etc., then things could indeed be dicey. Or maybe encrypted backups should be candidates for cloud residence. (Or encrypted 'anything'.) In the past, a lot of tapes might have been used and transported for off-site storage. A lot of stuff simply was never backed up regularly for long-term retention due to storage costs. I'm aware of many system audit journals that aren't capable of having data from more than a few months ago restored in any rational time frame if at all. Cloud storage could make storage and retrieval nearly trivial in comparison, with little risk. Risk might even be reduced. Tape errors may happen more frequently than cloud-storage problems. I believe that more tapes are stolen than clouds have been hacked. There are lots of possible reasons why company security could be enhanced by greater reliance on 3rd-party assistance. I don't think that control by 3rd-parties is as important as the content of what is controlled. Tom
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  • MelanieYarbrough
    [...] the enterprise, he seemed to think that IT was coming around to cloud-based offerings. But when I posed the question to the IT Knowledge Exchange community, the response wasn’t as progressive. Despite the [...]
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