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Does IT create risky behavior?

A survey of corporate users in the US and Europe came up with the surprising conclusion that users are more likely at work than at home to click on suspicious links in an email or install software that might prove to have spyware or viruses. The reason? IT will be there to make everything all better if they really screw it up.

A survey of corporate users in the US and Europe came up with the surprising conclusion that users are more likely at work than at home to click on suspicious links in an email or install software that might prove to have spyware or viruses. The reason? IT will be there to make everything all better if they really screw it up.

According to researchers Trend Micro:

39 percent of enterprise end users believed that IT could prevent them from falling victim to threats like spyware and phishing. This belief prompted many of them to admit bolder online behavior.

Of those who admitted to engaging in bolder online behavior, 63 percent acknowledge that they are more comfortable clicking on suspicious links or visiting suspicious Web sites because IT has installed security software on their computers. Forty percent of those who admitted to engaging in riskier online behavior said it was because IT was available to provide support if problems occurred.

If that's true, it indicates that IT can't win with the current PC-based client paradigm. If users can't be trusted to not harm themselves, under the assumption that IT will bail them out, that's an unacceptable cost to an enterprise, either private or governmental. It suggests that Ramon Padilla is right when he advocates for the wholesale transition from rich PCs to thin clients.

In "Why have a desktop machine anyway?" Ramon wrote:

In 1996, Gartner Research announced the average Windows 95 desktop cost $10,000 a year to own. This includes - besides the activities mentioned above - the direct costs of user support, lost productivity, downtime, and administrative costs including depreciation, and finance charges.

The workload to manage desktops is such that a whole market of desktop management tools have sprung up to help us "control" them. Novell Zenworks, Intel Landesk, Hewlett- Packard OpenView, IBM’s Tivoli TME10, or Microsoft’s Zero Administration Kit are just a few examples. And even with these tools, the TCO for a PC just seems to stay the same or is even increasing.

So given all this, don’t you have to wonder if it’s worth it? I know I did. A few years ago, I looked at my organization’s IT budget and the amount that was being used to purchase and support PCs and said "there has to be a better way."

Maybe it's time for leaders to take seriously the cost of putting a PC on every worker's desk and look for ways to take advantage of web services and web-based applications to get their work done.

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