Bring your own laptop to work

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