Enterprise IT Watch Blog

Jul 11 2011   6:51AM GMT

IT’s stance on social networking in the enterprise

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

When I chatted with David Sacks about social networking in 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 change of lingo, Yorkshireman doesn’t see anything different in the decisions the enterprise has to make:

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.

ErroneousGiant and Chippy088 had similar feelings. ErroneousGiant thinks of social networking sites as “a risk as you are trusting potentially valuable/confidential information to another company to look after,” while Chippy088 considers himself “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.”

Teandy spoke up in a similar vein; his company has blocked access to sites such as Facebook and MySpace due to “security concerns.” Even if the servers aren’t particularly at risk, the harm they can do to desktops just isn’t worth the hassle.

But Jblanchard stepped in with a good point: If IT is so resistant to newer, easier tools, end users will just nod politely and use them anyway. He works in higher ed IT, where they’re seeing “students and faculty aren’t receiving the functionality they need from officially supported services and tools.” What users see as the bare minimum of functionalities (“simple video uploading and streaming, unrestricted blogging, easy file-sharing, collaborative tools, etc.”) aren’t being delivered by traditional venues, and so they seek it elsewhere, much to the chagrin of IT institutions everywhere. Just because your restrictions keep you warm at night doesn’t mean they’re doing any good:

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.

Other voiced familiar fears such as disgruntled employees and the lack of control over backing up data. However, these members expressed an understanding of the use of social networking in the enterprise, whether it’s for the free photo storage or increased web traffic to company sites. Though IT departments may be changing their tune when it comes to social networking or cloud-based options as non-critical solutions, offerings such as Yammer are seen as unnecessary uses of an already small budget. From IT’s perspective: Why pay for an additional service when email can take care of it?

What do you think? Are additional solutions such as Chatter or Yammer a rip off or are they essential to the business process? Are the security risks worth the possible benefits?

Speak up in the comments section or send me an email directly at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

Melanie Yarbrough is the assistant community editor at ITKnowledgeExchange.com. Follow her on Twitter or send her an email at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

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