The consumerisation of IT is affecting all aspects of the way we work.  As Web 2.0 technologies continue to gain popularity amongst employees, IT departments are struggling to understand and manage the challenges.

There was a time when “wireless” was taboo, and for fear of the unknown, strict workplace policies banned the use of wireless technologies.  “Thou shalt not” became the mantra of most IT departments, and has remained the mantra when dealing with applications like Facebook and Twitter.  This situation is playing out again with smartphone technologies.

Unfortunately for employers, people still found ways to partake in these activities – unmanaged and unsecured. If companies had initially recognized the potential of these outlets and found ways to embrace them in the first place, they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble in the long run.

One of the big dangers that companies are worried about with Web 2.0 is data loss or data leakage.  In regulated industries today, this is a huge problem, both through the network, and through Web 2.0 enabled devices.  If information is not encrypted – it’s a reportable incident. The other issue is increased risk of Malware compromise and identity theft.

Instead of forbidding social applications, it makes more sense for companies to simply put reasonable restrictions on them.  Employees these days, especially younger employees, expect to be able to access their network, to use their personal devices to access corporate networks.  This generation is not willing to accept limitations, and companies need to recognize that.  Doing so makes good business sense, and companies need to not only find ways to embrace these technologies, but to go a step further and actually have a face on these platforms.

Why allow Web 2.0 to be used in business?

The Internet is an incredible productivity enhancer that you have to treat carefully.  It is risky to be on the Internet, but you have to be there.  If you’re a company that deals with consumers, and you’re not involved, you’re missing out on some serious potential.
Word of mouth is the primary factor behind many, if not most, purchasing decisions. Its influence is greatest when consumers are buying a product for the first time or when products are relatively expensive – factors that tend to make people conduct more research, seek more opinions, and deliberate longer than they otherwise would. And its influence is likely to continue growing: the digital revolution has amplified and accelerated its reach to the point where word of mouth is no longer an act of intimate, one-on-one communication.

A study by Forrester Research that discusses new ways to consider influence in social media, found that consumers created 256 billion influence impressions about products and services last year and an additional 1.6 billion influence posts on product review sites and forums.

If someone you know comes to you to talk about a product you’re not familiar with, you’d most likely want to find out more about it. On the other hand, if you were to see the same product on TV, online or an outdoor campaign, it might not necessarily have the same appeal.

Facebook, blogs, Twitter and customer reviews are considered the most effective tactics for mobilising consumers to talk up products online. Users put great trust in their social networks. Forums such as Whirlpool feature millions of discussions around users asking for peer advice around product purchases in Australia.

What companies should do

Although users can’t trust every link that people post or control, companies can put forward best practices to arm employees with the tools they need to be productive and safe. Between this type of education, and technology that can block dangerous links and applications, Web 2.0 can be used safely for business.

One of the best tools to use that educate users and prevent them from going to unsafe websites is SiteAdvisor, and its free!  SiteAdvisor software is an award-winning, free browser plug-in that gives advice about Websites before you click on a risky site.  With SiteAdvisor software installed, a small site rating icon to search results appears in the users Internet browser button and ratings alert users to potentially risky sites and help them find safer alternatives.  Extremely unsafe sites will be prevented from being visited and the user will be kept safe.

Organizations also need to leverage multiple threat technologies to provide in-depth web security. Any web gateway architecture must protect the organizations’ users when opening and accessing web content and scan active elements in real time. The solution must include comprehensive signature-based coverage and web reputation to provide maximum protection. Reporting web activity is also important to illuminate how organizations use the web, helping them to comply with regulations, identifying trends, isolating problems, document inappropriate web activity, and tailoring filtering settings to best enforce web usage policies.


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