THE BLOG

Social Media and BYOD: Should Businesses Block These?

09/09/2013 14:12 BST | Updated 06/11/2013 10:12 GMT

If you're reading this article, you're online. Do you have access to Facebook and Twitter? Are you streaming music from Spotify? Are you in the office?

A Microsoft study earlier this year showed that use of social media at work increases productivity - as much as 35% in the UK and 25% in France. Employees said using social media boosts collaboration and teamwork among colleagues, both of which foster a positive work environment.

Still, our 'Killer Apps' report last year showed that 67% of European CIOs block Facebook and 49% block Twitter. Admittedly, CIOs do have their reasons for blocking these sites. Productivity loss is a large factor. Studies like the above are increasingly addressing these concerns.

Many CIOs say the decision to block certain social media sites was driven by a desire to free up the company's bandwidth and IT networks, ensuring that priority is given to applications that are critical to the business. The last thing you want is a conference call dropping out because colleagues are feverishly streaming YouTube.

Even as companies block social media, people are finding ways to access social media at work. When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge left St. Mary's hospital on July 23rd, the BBC tweeted a picture showing the first glimpse of Prince George. Even though the picture was released at 11:20am on a Tuesday - during the work day - it was quickly retweeted over 10,000 times.

The Daily Mail posted a picture on Facebook of the Duchess of Cambridge leaving the hospital with Prince George alongside a picture of Princess Diana with Prince William at about noon the same day. This picture received more than 16,000 'likes' and was shared over 6,000 times.

Based on the timing, many of the people sharing both of these posts must have been at work.

With the BYOD trend, social media, mobile, and the cloud are inescapable parts of the modern-day workplace. Employees bring their own smartphones, tablets, and laptops to work. They use their own devices for accessing the company network, be it for Facebook or accessing work documents via cloud-based storage.

Businesses need to keep a close eye on the impact of IT applications (social media or otherwise) on their networks. Once they're able to see what's going, companies can create a strategy to ensure their business network isn't placed under too much strain and can still function efficiently.

I strongly believe that not implementing a strategy can leave a company vulnerable. First, many companies don't have the tools in place to monitor their IT activity. Second, such companies may not be able to control the applications flowing across their networks. They can't prioritise business-critical apps (like Salesforce) above things like YouTube or social activities. This means all apps are thrown into the same traffic queue, and business apps might falter. This is why companies now more than ever need a strategy - one that addresses social media, BYOD, and the security of their networks.

With a few precautions, businesses can resolve potential issues. These precautions are about having a good strategy, understanding traffic across the network, and having solutions in place to handle the technology of the future. This future isn't about blocking social media or stopping BYOD - it's about being smart, guaranteeing business applications in all circumstances and making sure that you're prepared to manage today and tomorrow's IT transformations.