Bring Your Own Computer…huh?

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12Oct2010

Bring Your Own Computer…huh?

  • By Andrew Garrett
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Matt and I attended the Melbourne CIO Summit last week (thanks CIO Magazine!) and one of the subjects that came up a couple of times, was the “Bring Your Own Computer” model.

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To be honest, it made us go “huh?” (or words to that effect).

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So, we did some research. Here’s what we (now) know.

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BYOC is a model most commonly targeted at the Gen Y personality type – and one of their attributes is a mingling of work and personal lives, where the lines between the two ‘modes’ are blurred. Another is that they (we?) tend to care more about their technological tools.

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The BYOC model is based upon the employee having their own personal computer, which is used for work purposes as well as for their own personal stuff. Initially, my Security Manager side had fairly major conniptions at the idea of letting everyone’s personal, probably virus/spyware infected computer onto my precious and pure network – even more-so, at the idea that they might be able to load my corporate data onto their laptop with all the security risks that that implies.

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Obviously, I’m not the only person who would cringe at the idea of that level of security exposure – so that’s not the way it works.

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BYOC is based on some form of desktop virtualisation – where the computer’s local Operating System is only used as a platform to provide rudimentary networking (to connect to the server where the virtual desktops are held), and as means of launching the virtualised desktop environment. This means that security and control is actually more centralised than it is under the normal model, ultimately making it easier for your IT support people to manage the desktops.

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\n Citrix started a pilot program of 200 users in 2008 which gave users $2,100 stipend towards buying a laptop and a three-year service plan. The users could choose any type of computer from wide screen to light weight or even a custom ultra fast speed demon. Citrix stated that they were spending $2,500 to $2,600 per laptop to buy and manage it.\n\n

There were some restrictions. Citrix required that employees use either Windows or Mac operating systems, have antivirus software and buy a three-year, full-service warranty so that tech support from the manufacturer can be on hand within 24 hours and supply a loaner if needed.

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[source: Confessions of an IT Manager – Bring Your Own PC]

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If you already have some sort of virtual desktop facility in place, perhaps used for remote/VPN type access, this could be a good way forward for your organisation.\n

But what are the benefits?\n

The main one comes from giving your staff the choice about something they care about. Gen Y personality types tend to be passionate (if not fanatical) about the technology they use – Some might prefer very very fast machines, while others would rather have a light, ultra-portable machine and a large external monitor in the office. Some prefer Apple computers, while others would rather run the latest version of Windows from Microsoft. The key thing is that they care, and by providing something they care about, you induce an element of employer satisfaction that wouldn’t normally exist, which will help with retaining the oft-regarded as un-loyal Gen Y types.\n

Secondly (as I mentioned above), this model actually serves to enhance security. Virtualised desktops are inherently more secure than locally installed software, enable much easier centralised management, and allow for very locked down and restricted application sets, which are much easier to support and upgrade without requiring user interaction.\n

On the downside, your security and acceptable usage policies would need to be reviewed in-depth, and there are probably tax implications (particularly Fringe Benefit Tax). There are a lot of factors to consider before you make this change to your organisation. Setting this service up would have a cost associated with it. But, if your organisation has a lot of employees that could be even partially classified as Gen Y (even if it’s as a personality type, rather than an age-based demographic) then it’s something that should be on your radar to consider in the next few years.\n

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