Facebook is said to be testing an alternate version of its social network called “Facebook at Work,” targeted to people at their jobs, complete with file sharing and company-specific instant messaging, according to a report by the Financial Times. Business Insider notes that Facebook has already been using the service for its own employees.
The idea of providing business-friendly social networking and collaborative tools is not new, but it has gathered urgency as employees increasingly adapt their own mobile devices, apps and social networking habits into the workplace. “Workforces have become much more virtualized,” says David Seimer, a managing partner at the tech venture capital firm Wavemaker, who has investments in enterprise technologies. “Having just a network drive or whatnot, used to be considered kind of collaboration, and now you need a lot better tools.”
With a lack of such tools, a lot of employees have been using consumer-oriented networks, such as texting apps and cloud-based shared drives. That brings security pitfalls in open online communications, says Kabrina Chang, who researches business law and ethics at Boston University.
“People posting on Facebook or saying on some sort of social media platform things as seemingly innocuous as my boss is at a meeting in Switzerland … doesn’t seem very meaningful … but to competitors … that actually might be an indication of something cooking,” Chang says, adding that the SEC might pay extra scrutiny to such communications.
With the need to re-secure enterprise networks, there are hundreds of companies now seeing new opportunities — from start-ups to Internet giants.
“Part of this is a big land-grab. These vendors are really struggling with each other to sort of capture your content,” says Trevor Hellebuyck, Chief Technology Officer at Metalogix Software, which helps companies with Microsoft cloud computing. Helleybuck says it is important to capture businesses initially, as they are transitioning to cloud-based systems, because switching between systems later would be onerous.
He also says the number of players are actually few, when considering which companies have multiple tools in one platform and thus may be most attractive for enterprise customers. “Enterprise social, file sync and share, team-based collab … there’s really only a couple players that have that out there. And it’s Microsoft. It’s Google. It’s potentially IBM,” says Hellebuyck.
In fact, IBM added another player to the competition this past summer, when it signed an enterprise deal with one of the biggest players of them all: Apple.
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