BYOC – Personal Computer As a Corporate Machine?

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As a consultant, I use my own equipment all the . When I get to a specific client, sometimes I am asked to sign a waiver that states I will not take company data. I sign it because I am not going to ruin any relationship by walking out with secrets or lists.

Data nowadays can be controlled. We at the have talked about how that can happen many a time. However, the most important thing in a work environment is to make sure the data stays within the company – even after a person has left. Citrix Systems has given  Employees a bonus payment to buy their own laptop for corporate use. While it does give advantage, could the company lose control of the data?

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Citrix Systems is giving their employees $2100 to pay for a laptop of their choice with 3 year service. They will then be able to use it for or personal use. Some employees are embracing the idea because it means only having to carry one machine around. Since Citrix deals in “Virtualized Software”, the employee usually has to connect to the to work on data anyway.

It’s a great idea – in theory. However, long term results may cause this program to be not such a great idea. Here is why:

First of all, you give the employee the power to buy whatever they want. It’s a great feeling, but it’s not so great if they don’t buy smart. $2100 will get them a good laptop, but if they skimp on memory to get a wider screen, they may find it’s not the greatest thing when the machine is running too slow to work.

Being in IT, the best thing to do is get a standard laptop in, re-image the machine to the companies’ standard and deploy. That way if there is any issue, the IT department has an idea of what is wrong and then go to the spot that needs to be fixed. If anything, they can just re image and redeploy. It never really ties a person to a machine so if they need something better, IT can always work around it.

Another reason is something we stated in the Quickcast a couple weeks ago about Google Chrome – you never know what programs will work with the way a machine is loaded or not. Granted, with Citrix, the employees work in a virtual environment. However, not all programs like to play in Citrix.

Then there is the connection issue: People would have to call up their , then log into the Citrix webpage. That would then bring up the Virtual desktop. If the connection is bad, they may not get in or worse yet – get disconnected.

I’ve talked before about working at a job where the employees had bought their own computers. One employee was let go, but he had a strong case where he kept his laptop since he paid for it. That laptop had company data on it, so the employee walked out with customer . Now maybe he had no intention of using that data, but even so, the company also couldn’t use it.

Virtualization is a great way to give people something and control it. However, a Citrix license can be pretty expensive. You would have to give everyone a “Desktop” environment which they can work. Citrix Systems can do that simply because they don’t have to pay for the software – just the servers the employees need.

Let’s even think about who will support it and what will happen to data if the machine does go down. An IT shop might be empathetic about an employee’s data, but if it’s not company data, then getting the company to spend the time to recover it is not any type of priority.

The biggest issue is about company time and use vs. personal time and use. For a Salary employee, there is no question. But you cannot expect an employee to be able to work all the time. In the same case, you might find more distraction on a machine simply because you can install whatever you want. And who is to say the employee can’t have pictures of Playboy playmates on their hard drive? Party Poker, Limewire, Bittorrent?

In an IT shop we’ve pretty much been told – “Ignorance is no excuse”. If they load a piece of software on a machine that doesn’t have a license to it, we can get fined. If they download Limewire, then download an infected song that knows a way to cross into the Citrix environment, we could face a major problem that could bring the system down for even 1 day – which could mean thousands of dollars loss.

In theory it’s great – let them get to their work in any way possible. Give them something they can call their own. However I don’t see any savings here. I see more work for an IT department to keep up with what is being bought. I see a struggle within companies to what data gets saved and what data is not.

But the biggest question will be – what happens when the machine is broken and the hardware vendor will not replace? Who is responsible for the cost of the laptop replacement: The employee or the employer?

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