Wanna save storage? Try social networking

There are plenty of popular strategies for reducing enterprise storage usage, but up until now I've never heard the usage of Facebook or instant messaging listed amongst them -- but there's a first time for everything.

There are plenty of popular strategies for reducing enterprise storage usage, but up until now I've never heard the usage of Facebook or instant messaging listed amongst them.

Nonetheless, that's the attitude being taken by St George, demonstrating that banks -- often considered a touch on the conservative side when it comes to technology implementation -- are capable of some fairly unusual approaches.

Speaking in a panel discussion on unified communications in Sydney recently, St George's group head of architecture, Greg Booker, explained the logic behind the bank's increasing embrace of relatively novel (in enterprise terms) technologies such as IM and social networking.

"We're in the process of offering instant messaging across the entire bank," Booker said during the panel. "Folk will have access to the social networking Web sites -- Facebook, Second Life."

Given the popularity of blocking access to such sites for alleged security or productivity reasons, why is St George taking a different approach?

"What we've come to understand is, if you want to hire people and keep people, then the organisation needs to at least be in line with what they're used to doing outside," Booker said. "People coming into the workforce now, Gen X and Gen Y, have a certain expectation."

That approach isn't universally popular, of course. "That expectation is not always in line with [what] the senior executives and senior management believe, particularly inside of IT, where they believe that if you give people instant messaging they're going to chat all day."

Faced with such an argument, Booker has a simple riposte: "Well, guess what folks? They are chatting all day, they're doing it on e-mail and they're using storage. So get with it and move forward."

The notion that people can waste time with or without technology is a familiar one, but it's not often that you hear it couched in terms of storage volumes.

Booker argues that there's no reason to view this approach as novel. "It's business as usual. It's the way people are going to expect to work over the next few years."

However, the fact that there are both business and technical arguments in favour of the move makes it interesting, given the current IT management climate of don't-let-'em-have-anything-if-you-can-help-it.

If your boss is trying to block access to Facebook, you could do worse than trying the St George approach as an arguing tactic. And if you're responsible for managing minimal e-mail storage quotients, it might make a nice break from the endless hassles that will cause.