Editorial: You can't hold back the tide

Opinion by Paul Fisher

New technology arrives in waves, but in computing it washes up faster and delivers unforeseen applications, changing the way we live.

New technology arrives in waves, but in computing it washes up faster and delivers unforeseen applications, changing the way we live.

Facebook is one example.

Its rise continues unabated. There can be few companies left in the UK that don't have a growing band of dedicated users (addicted is, perhaps, the better word). Walk through any office at lunchtime and you will see the familiar blue and white logo on employee PCs.

SC has written before on the security dangers of social networking, but what is emerging is a more enlightened attitude to the use of Facebook and its ilk in the workplace. Serena Software in the US has sanctioned an official "Facebook Friday", when staff are allowed to spend an hour updating their profiles and, according to reports, recruiting for the company through Facebook groups. Clever.

In the UK, we are not quite there yet. Some organisations, particularly in the public sector, have taken the opposite approach and banned the use of social networking altogether. Rarely is this done for security reasons. If security was the motive, the use of Facebook would be modified, not banned. This is more about managers fretting over the amount of time wasted on these sites.

Serena's approach shows that Facebook can be seen as a business enabler rather than a threat if its use is managed well and its best features are exploited. Not all businesses are ready to embrace Web 2.0 just yet, but they might do well to start thinking about it.

Just as the internet itself could not be held back in the 1990s, the web is only going to get smarter and faster and all pervasive. It follows that there will be Web 3.0, 4.0 and so on. In An issue of trust, David Quainton has been taking the pulse of the profession and the challenge of adopting Web 2.0. His report starts on page 38.

VoIP, a more fundamental, but related technology, goes under the microscope in Barry Mansfield's feature (page 28). As more businesses wake up to the opportunities of an IP-based voice system, associated security concerns must, of course, be considered and addressed. It seems that a tipping point has been reached and the last piece of a total IP enabled business environment is being put into place.

VoIP is full of possibilities, and not just for Cisco and Avaya shareholders. An IP-based voice system will develop in a way copper wires simply cannot. Yes, there are security concerns but they are often exaggerated and, like Web 2.0, the potential for creating new services and communications outweighs these considerations.

Yet there are businesses out there that simply won't countenance the adoption of advanced technologies such as Web 2.0 and VoIP. They want to close them down.

Like King Cnut, they sit on the edge of the company shore trying to control the waves of new technology. There is a twist, however. According to historians, the old king never thought he could hold back the waves. He merely wanted to demonstrate his impotence in comparison to God. For the less enlightened CIOs out there, the lesson would be to think more like the Cnut they don't know.


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