CIO Jury: Businesses need netbooks

A jury of UK IT chiefs were almost split over whether netbooks were ready for the enterprise as the pro votes liked the price while the cons questioned security.

Netbooks have received a qualified thumbs up by IT leaders in the latest CIO Jury.

When the jury of UK IT chiefs was asked whether netbooks were ready for business use, the answer was yes - by seven votes to five.

Alastair Behenna, CIO of Harvey Nash, was one head of IT already using the devices. "We are already deploying netbooks internally in a relatively limited way and the results of the pilot are extremely encouraging. I see no reason why we won't extend and expand their use," he said.

Steve Clarke, AOL Broadband systems and operations director, added the price of the devices is a compelling reason for businesses to try them out.

"The real question is whether the technology itself is capable of performing and meeting the requirements of the mobile business user. However, the idea of being able to give mobile users a free laptop for the cost of a monthly 3G dongle is attractive."

The jury's approval of netbooks for enterprise use comes in contrast to suggestions the portable computers are lacking the required security to be viable business tools and their low computing power could make them vulnerable to hackers and virus writers.

Members of the jury dismissed the idea that netbooks should be any less secure than other mobile devices, however. Iain Hepburn, IT director of Clarke Willmott, wondered why netbooks should be treated any differently from any other device when it comes to security.

"We have run a successful pilot with appropriate security as people were asking for something between a BlackBerry and a notebook and netbooks seem to deliver. Bearing in mind their purpose is to access information over the internet and not to act as a PC with local storage (we are very definite about that) then all the usual remote access security applies," he said.

However, not all CIO Jury members favored netbooks for business use and for Madhushan Gokool, IT manager of Storm Model Management, security is just one concern around the devices.

"In medium to large enterprises, the processing power and the security features that are needed, still have a way to go before the netbooks can be even an option for enterprises," he said.

Gokool was joined by Ben Acheson, IT manager of PADS, who thought netbooks would only find favor with smaller businesses.

"SMEs with tight budgets may weigh the threat against the savings and take the risk. But mass take-up by the corporate sector is not likely to begin until security is bundled in and some heavyweights will need to blaze a trail," he said.

Today's CIO Jury was:

* Ben Acheson, IT manager, PADS Printing and Commercial Stationery
* Alastair Behenna, CIO, Harvey Nash
* Chris Broad, head of information systems and technology, UKAEA
* Steve Clarke, AOL Broadband systems and operations director, The TalkTalk Group
* Mike Cope, IT director, Virgin Atlantic Airways
* Steve Gediking, head of IT and facilities, Independent Police Complaints Commission
* Madhushan Gokool, IT manager, Storm Model Management
* Paul Haley, director of information technology, Aberdeen University
* Iain Hepburn, IT director, Clarke Willmott
* Jacques René, CIO, Ascend
* Mike Roberts, IT director, The London Clinic
* Simon Stapleton, chief innovation officer, Skandia Life Investments