October 18, 2010, 11:48 AM — They're a productivity sink and a bandwidth suck. They're a vector for malware and a gift for corporate spies. They're a data spill just waiting to happen. And like it or not, they're already inside your enterprise.
Meet the Social Network. No, not that movie about Mark Zuckerberg -- the real social network, from Facebook and MySpace to Twitter and Flickr, used by your coworkers and colleagues every single day, whether they're officially allowed to or not.
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But social networking inside the enterprise is not only inevitable, it's essential. Used correctly, social media can help your company solve problems, burnish its public image, recruit top talent, and generate ideas. Implemented poorly -- or worse, ignored -- and it can create a world of pain.
You can get on the social bus, or you get dragged behind it -- your choice.
Taming the social network: With friends like these, who needs enemies?What could go wrong with giving unfettered access to social networks at work? Plenty. Even if you manage to keep employees from spending all day milking cows and harvesting crops in Farmville, a host of other potential threats lurk just below the surface.
Take bandwidth, for example. Social media is consuming ever increasing amounts of network resources, according to Palo Alto Networks' Application Usage and Risk Report. While the number of social media apps found on corporate networks has remained relatively stable over the past year, the bandwidth these apps consume has more than doubled and is expected to grow even more.
"Social media traffic is massive," says Rene Bonvanie, vice president of worldwide marketing for the network security vendor. "We see the bandwidth demands going up substantially through social media apps. In many cases, it does conflict with business systems in these organizations, which could lead to continuity issues."