Social Media Marketing

Dean Redman (Australia) - The Changing Face of Corporations: Social Networking & Web 2.0

A recent Nielsen survey highlighted that Australians spend an average of 6.5 hours on social networking per month. A separate report from the Australian Communications and Media Authority showed that almost 40% of Australia's population now uses social networking sites, while the volume of content over the web swelled has by 57% in the year to June 2010. When speaking with CIOs and IT Managers here in Australia, I have noticed this has become an increasing concern.

The widespread use of social networking sites creates new challenges for IT administrators who - now more than ever - need to prioritise critical application bandwidth and increase network and user productivity. It may be a case of completely blocking social media and gaming applications from the corporate network or limiting the times that it can be used. Whatever it may be, the change in employee communications needs to be addressed.

There are many stateful packet inspection firewalls available to corporations that may address part of the problem but they often rely on ports and protocols. Firewalls such as this cannot identify cloud and SaaS applications or many of the Web 2.0 and Social Networking services that rely on the browser for the delivery of application. These firewalls cannot distinguish the ‘good from the bad' and often leave the IT departments with a ‘block or allow' approach to traffic control.

In my opinion, an effective firewall needs to deliver comprehensive intelligence, control, identification and visualisation of all the applications on the networks - including the Web 2.0 services. This type of firewall or ‘Next-Generation' firewall can manage business and non-business applications, and help increase network and user productivity - thus addressing the increasing issue that we are seeing among CIOs and IT Managers.

So, what do these firewalls do that is different than the stateful-packet inspection firewalls on the market and why are we recommending these to our customers? The Next Generation Firewall can:

• Scan all application traffic: This requires going beyond simple inspection to conduct deep packet inspection, regardless of port and protocol. Additionally, the firewall's deep packet inspection engine should be updated dynamically to identify the latest intrusion threats, malware attacks, spyware, and Web sites that could affect the security of your network.

• Fingerprint and show applications scanning through the firewall: The Next-Generation Firewall must let you monitor and visualise all your network application traffic. To do this effectively, the device needs to fingerprint the specific applications running on your network, and understand for whom the traffic is destined.

• Create granular application control policy: For example, you might grant access to a particular application based upon the business need of the person in the organisation using it. Someone in your marketing group might have legitimate reasons to access Twitter and Facebook for social media campaigns, while someone in your accounting group might not.

• Manage application bandwidth: It is critical for the Next Generation Firewall to prioritise bandwidth allocated to essential and latency-sensitive applications (e.g., Salesforce.com, LiveMeeting, or VoIP). At the same time, it needs to let you limit bandwidth allocated to non-essential applications (e.g., YouTube, MySpace or Facebook).

• Block application-borne malware: Malware no longer requires user intervention to run. Distribution of malware has evolved from simply sending virus-laden executables and attacking systems on local networks to exploiting documents, files and browser features traditionally considered safe.

• Control distributed applications: Because today's branch office networks connect directly to the Internet, you need to be equally vigilant in securing application traffic to and from branch sites. Managing bandwidth is also crucial to optimising distributed network performance and remote employee productivity.

• Deliver optimal performance: None of this matters if your firewall doesn't have the horsepower to get the job done. Your firewall needs the performance capability to control applications fully, without bogging down your network.

A Next Generation Firewall can manage both business and non-business applications, and help increase network and user productivity, letting CIOs and IT Managers sleep easy at night.


Dean Redman is country manager for SonicWALL in Australia and New Zealand.



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