An Introduction to Social Networking Applications for IT Managers

What are social networking applications? Here's a brief introduction to social networking applications along with issues they introduce to corporate networks.


Social networks are web-based applications people use to connect with others with whom they share common interests, either professionally or personally. Users post content to the application to update connections and share personal news, accomplishments, interests and more. This content can be in the form of simple text status updates, videos or photos. People use social networks to find a new job, find new clients or stay in touch with long distance friends and family. Examples of social networks are LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Social networks often offer additional applications that extend their functionality. Facebook users play games or take quizzes within the framework of the website. LinkedIn users can pull their WordPress blog posts into their profile. These applications can be built by third-party developers and have the potential to introduce privacy and security risks.

Mobile versions of social networks allow users to stay in touch while on the go. The mobile-friendly applications are scaled down versions of the full websites, such as the Facebook and Twitter mobile apps. They can also introduce vulnerabilities that put the user at risk.

Although social networks are primarily intended for consumer use, companies are increasingly recognizing their business benefits. This creates a unique challenge for the IT department. In addition to the benefits social networks pose, they can negatively impact productivity, network bandwidth, users’ privacy, data security and the integrity of IT systems (via malware and application vulnerabilities).

We recommend businesses block access to social networks except where needed for specific business use. We advise users to visit their privacy settings and disable all functionality. Once you know how you want to use the application, go back and enable functions accordingly.

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