Bring your own laptop to work

Bring your own laptop to work

Summary: Gartner predicts (with 0.6 probability--so maybe, maybe not) that by 2008 ten percent of companies will require employee-purchased laptops.

TOPICS: Laptops

Gartner predicts (with 0.6 probability--so maybe, maybe not) that by 2008 ten percent of companies will require employee-purchased laptops. Today, many workers use their own desktop or laptop system at home and are a source of malware introduction in corporate networks. They also have increasingly more functional smartphones, PDAs, flash drives, game machines and other digital devices that connect to corporate networks. The situation isn’t that much different from how instant messaging and Skype has spread virally in enterprises, and is almost impossible to stamp out.

The Gartner report, titled “Your systems, someone else’s PC,”  notes that IT can’t effectively lock down systems and keep images clean, so accept that anarchy is the norm and that employees use their desktops, laptops and mobile devices for work and personal use. It’s part of the blurring of work time and personal time, and the overall convergence of computing, communications and digital entertainment. The culture of work in the wired (and wireless) world is moving toward multitasking and constantly shifting workloads and contexts during waking hours.

Once you accept that anarchy reigns, it’s a question of setting requirements and procedures for sanctioned employee-owned systems. Requiring employee-owned systems, however, is extreme. Employee-owned machines should be an option that has formal support from IT, as long as users follow the guidelines and procedures to secure the network and corporate data. We see it today, where Mac lovers in a Windows-based company, user their personal Apple systems but don’t get much in the way of support from IT departments. 
Maybe Gartner thinks that corporations want to shift the cost of owing and maintaining a PC to employees. That seems like a non-starter. A company could pay for part of the cost (for the business use) of a system in the form of a stipend, but the cost of the machine is the least expensive component in the total cost of ownership. Employees will want to be compensated.

How do you separate support and maintenance between business and personal usage? What are the procedures for archiving and back ups?  If there is a problem with accessing the corporate network, for example, the employee would deal with desktop support. If a hard disk crashes, with unencrypted corporate data, does the employee just work with manufacturer who has the service contract?  Does the employee pay for 24x7 support?

Gartner recommends establishing a group rate option for support and maintenance. Employees would likely also form buying groups to get the same discounts on bulk purchasing of systems. It’s just shifting the responsibility from the company to the employee.

Gartner views improved authentication methods, on demand solutions and virtualization technology as ways to protect networks from malware and other security breaches from non-company systems. Gartner predicts that by 2010, 75 percent of PC will have embedded virtualization capabilities. Partitions could be set up that encapsulate the corporate system image and disable file transfers with the host to ensure that personal and business data are separate.

Topic: Laptops

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I wish

    I've been using a personal laptop for the last five years on company travel because the $COMPANY laptops were totally unsuited for the work I was doing.

    Since attaching a non-$COMAPANY machine to the $COMPANY network is an instant-termination offense, I've had to sync up via various kludges. Being allowed to actually use my own machine officially would be a big improvement.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • YBK, for once we actually agree.

      I agree with you that both the employee and the company are better served with a PC (lappy?) that is set up for and how the employee works.

      Fortuantely the new security system MS has put together to protect the corporate network is specifically designed to deal with this issue. Will it be perfect? Naw, nothing is. Will others follow suit? I suspect so. But the thing is, the issue is being looked at and attempts to get it done are being made.
      • Have a look at

        The new VMWare player -- freely distributable, no license fee. It would allow a couple of very slick alternatives:

        1) User's laptop, company image in the VM. Effectively, the user has a virtual trusted machine carried around with hir. That VM could even be passed back and forth between the laptop and a company server or desktop. Since the VM piggybacks on the host network environment, there's very little need to give the traveler VM admin rights, so the system can be kept buttoned down quite well.

        2) Company laptop, user's VM. The user has a familiar environment available (copied from home, perhaps.) Trouble with this one is that the employee needs to have full VMWare to set up the VMs.

        If it isn't obvious, I find #2 a poor substitute.
        Yagotta B. Kidding
      • What exactly is this new security?

        I've yet to see a solution to the whole laptop security problem.
        • My solution...

          is to use a Mac.

          Even if I did somehow manage to get a virus, it wouldn't be a
          virus that would do any harm on an all-Windows network.

          Any company that has a problem with me connecting my
          PowerBook to their network is not a company I'd want to work
          for anyway. It's kind of like an IQ test. If their IT people think
          there's any harm in connecting my virus-free PowerBook to their
          network then they're a bunch of idiots, and trying to work with
          them would be more trouble than it's worth.
          Immanuel Tranz-Mischen
    • Security Nightmare...

      This idea would be a security nightmare and a quagmire of personal rights vs. corporate security needs.

      There is a reason why a company has an instant termination policy in regard to connecting a non-company owned PC of any flavor. Security is a very precise and it only takes a minor misconfigurattion to open a major hole in an otherwise secure network.

      With growing legislation and regulation that is beginning to force companys into a due diligence standard of data security and liability for failures, the idea of employee owned laptops used in the workplace is a non-starter.
  • It might be possible

    With apps like CSA and the rate that built in network intelligence is maturing it could be possible but I doubt it will happen by 2008.
  • i hate the idea myself...

    Who takes responsibility if the laptop owned by the employee is left in the open at the office for a few minutes, user comes back it's gone? I know I wouldn't be paying for it. What business in their right mind would take the responsibility of someone elses personal porperty. What happens if said employee quits one day, how do you make sure there is no data he shouldn't have on his machine that is company property is returned? I mean, not every employee has morals, not every employee is 100% trustworthy when it comes to the almighty dollar and your data is easily sold to their next company, be it a company you are directly competing. This is probably one of the stupidest things i've ever seen thought about, far too much responsibility for company, and too little for employee. I just see too many ways for the companies to get screwed over, and you have all seen the users i speak of. "I was working over the weekend, and my laptop dropped into the bathtub"...Until things like stupidy can be assesed from user to user, this is bad mmmmkay
  • An Employee Owned Laptop! Ha!

    No freaking way would I pony up the cash for a laptop for the job UNLESS the company paid me, up-front and extra to pay for it. Employers and corporations are required to compensate employees for work related materials like safety equipment and for Workman's Compensation. Why shouldn't they be required to pay for equipment required to do the job whether its a hammer or a computer? Would you expect a front-end loader operator to come to work with his own front-end loader? What if I liked Macs and the employer had an application I would have to use a x86 PC to run it? Even sweat-shop operators don't expect their employees to bring their own sewing machine! Gartner and Co. have been inhaling too many lattes or maybe its the late night ethanol.
    • If your company had Fords, but you drive a Chevy

      Would you bring your truck to work everyday...(getting dinged up, smashed, miles, gas)
    • You drive to work don't you

      Do you expect the company to buy you a car. Sure some do but it's not the norm.

      So why is it so hard to use your own laptop? That way you have full control. You can do what ever you want with it. You bring it to work sit down connect to the network and the Citrix server gives you access to you apps. Do the same from home if you want to.
    • I wouldn't without clearly defined rules and the right compensations

      Yes, company cars are the norm for a number of businesses that specialize often in car intensive or related industries, but besides insurance, a valid license, and signing off on a percentage of user caused damages, the employee doesn't usually get any additional rights and privileges to said vehicles (you normally can't take it on your family two week vacation) even if you get to drive it home. Try pimping your bosses ride for employee of the week status. Not gonna happen at H&R.

      IMO, employees would expect that a business would have its own computer equipment because of long standing history of such. Freelancers in the carpentry and electrical, magazine, music fields may bring their own tools due to their training and nature of their fields, but the computing work force hasn't had to bring a copier, a fax, a water cooler, the phone system, nor the lights to perform the employers tasks and employers would not have had much support for bringing in diverse and maybe adverse equipment into their central work/network. Without good reasons, compensation for wear and tear, a policy on replacement (insurance) due to damages caused by and on the job, assistance in purchasing suitable work to home laptops, a newly defined policy on what is privacy on such machines (hard drive scans, remote control, where the work e-mail begins and the private e-mail ends, ramifications of home activities vs. work activities . . . ) it seems more like an area full of landmines to cross if instituted across the board and something to avoid until clearly defined. Now I can see why unions form.

      You'll have a slew of pioneers who'll do it that way, but for a fleet of workers to bring their own laptop, expect disasters, lawsuits, and hilarity to ensue. Next week, everybody bring your own electricity to work, exposed sockets may or may not be provided. Next month, that roof you've been looking for Les Nesman.
    • Give me an example...

      of an application you need a PC to run. So far I haven't found one.
      There's nothing you can do on a PC that I can't do on my Mac. The
      best tools, like eclipse, are cross-platform anyway, and I can open
      Viso files in Omnigraffle Pro and Project files in PMX or any of a
      dozen or so other PM programs.

      The only thing I can't do is run Windows viruses.
      Immanuel Tranz-Mischen
  • Don't most craftsmen own their tools?

    When I look around at other fields most craftsmen seem to not just own their own tools but take a certain pride in that ownership. I mean ask a good carpenter to borrow his favorite hammer or a surgeon he favorite scalple and see what the answer is. And just to head of the cost factor, most good car mechanics have more invested in tools that any PC your going to buy. Heck I know guys where the empty tool box (Mac Roll-A-Round) cost more than a PC. Any decent mechanic applying for a job at a car dealership is expected to have his own tools.

    No, I see nothing at all wrong with the idea of being required to own the tools of your trade...
    • sounds good in theory

      but the aspect of who is held responsible for the lapto(in this case)? If it breaks outside the office, say a smash of is stolen, it's definitely the owners responsibility. What happens when said laptop contains unencrypted data and it's stolen though? Do we hold the owner responsible for the data or is it our fault because we allowed the data onto the personal laptop? There are still far too many unanswered questions in this realm. I agree with you that it sounds great on paper, but in the real world, something has to be drawn up so companies/employees know when and who is responsible for the matters that could possibly surface.
    • However..

      they don't own ALL the tools. Go to a construction site and see how many tradesmen brought their own ladders, rebar saws, jackhammers, cranes, etc.

      These jobs that require workers to have their own tools have always been that way. They didn't change ways after 20 years. That is the problem the whole "buy your own computer" will have.
      Patrick Jones
    • The Axe obviously does not work in corporate IT support...

      If he did, such silly comparisons would not have been made.

      Last time I checked, a Wrench didn't develop BSODS.

      Then again, it has been 25 years since I was a mechanic. Maybe things have changed.
      • My Eyes!

        [i]Last time I checked, a Wrench didn't develop BSODS.[/i]

        I just had this horrible vision of a truck heading down the road with "[b]Mac[/b]rosoft" on the side and pictures of wrenches with little LCD screens ...
        Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Good Idea

      Let's also make employees purchase all the applications like
      office, and their license to connect to company servers. Let us
      also allow the IT dept. to audit all employee computers for
      unautorized apps. We wouldn't want someone involved in a frag
      fest on their break. Oh, and make sure to check all that
      personal email residing in their own account.

      In my province, apprentice tradespeople get a gov't credit to
      help purchase some of their tools. They also (used to) get all of
      their college schooling paid for with employment insurance to
      boot. Auto mechanics are an expeption because the cost of
      their tools is higher than most trades. Most tools that
      tradespeople use will last far longer than a pc anyway. And if
      you work for a good company, sometimes they'll replace your
      broken tools. Maybe Snapon should get into the computer biz?

      Some people prefer to use their own computer at work, others
      aren't allowed to. I think that if you want to use your own
      machine, you should, as long as the company allows it.

      If companies want people to buy their own machines, they
      should offer some incentive (financial) to do it. A lot more
      people would go for it, and the company would still save a lot of
      money in the short term.
    • Yup, that happens when you own the company

      My brother is a trademan who is an employee. He doesn't own the tools he uses at work. He has his own set of tools at home though.

      A friend of mine is a trademan to but does contract work and he uses his own tools.

      I also see nothing wrong a tech have the tools of thier trade, a PC or Laptop. But requiring a secretary to suppy thier own laptop would be going too far.

      Also Tradesmen get re-imbursed the cost of thier tools from the company or via the ability to write the cost off on thier taxes.