IT Directors are faced with bandwidth and security issues stemming from employees’ in-company use of social media.

Social Network Use Inside Companies Still a Cause for Concern

Employees frequently access social networks from the company network and this creates bandwidth and security issues. We already highlighted in an earlier article that European IT Directors tend to be wary of social media and these concerns have led many companies to block access to the social networks. Now a new study carried out by Clavister , a Sweden-based provider of mobile and network security solutions for large enterprises, cloud service providers and telecom operators,has found that the explosion in use of social networks is indeed nowadays a big headache for IT Directors. First of all, the fact that social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook command a wide audience means that they are often used as ‘launch pads’ for cyber attacks. A second concern is that some sites - YouTube for example - consume a great deal of bandwidth. If this usage is not controlled, it can both affect access to business critical applications and impact staff productivity. It is therefore essential for IT Directors and systems managers to be fully aware of the threats and to put countermeasures in place to minimise risk.

Measures a company should be taking

Social media are today part of an employee’s toolkit and they can prove very useful, but organisations clearly need to be fully aware of the various threats that use of these media poses to security, productivity and bandwidth consumption. Clavister CTO John Vestberg: “IT directors have a lot to think about when it comes to social media in the workplace. Is it stifling productivity? How much bandwidth is it using and is it putting us at an increased risk of security threats?” Companies should therefore be putting in place new measures to cope with these dangers. Clavister recommends controlling use of in-company access to the Internet – i.e. specifying which users have access to which websites and when. The Swedish network security specialist also advises establishing parameters for each application: the user profiles which are allowed access, how much capacity they can use, and when.

Ring-fencing the use of social networks

The use of social networks in the workplace must be controlled, as it can cost a lot in downtime, warns John Vestberg. “If an organisation has 500 employees and each member of staff spends 30 minutes a day on social media, that could equate to as much as €3 million per year in lost productivity,” he points out. When it comes to bandwidth, Clavister has developed a system that enables a company to give priority to business critical applications. That means bandwidth can be allocated for social media only when it isn’t going to disturb more important traffic. In an enterprise network environment, organisations also need to make proper use of application-aware firewalls, preferably with intrusion detection and anti-virus scanning support. They must also make sure client software is updated regularly and hold employee training to raise awareness on a broader level, stresses Clavister.