Don Marti

Fri 28 Apr 2006 05:36:23 AM PDT

Followup on BYOL

Lots of good points about the Bring Your Own Laptop idea in the comments. (Still fighting the spam, but that's another story.)

First of all, I have seen BYOL mentioned on the sites of two IT analyst firms, and I don't have any analyst firm accounts myself, so I couldn't go back and get the citation. If you're an analyst and you've written about this, got a link? I want to give credit to people who have written about BYOL before me.

Nicholas Roussos offers a clear explanation of the idea. "Looking at the thread, the common complaint is, 'How are we IT guys supposed to fix XYZ?' Umm, that's the whole point. The IT department is no longer responsible for upkeeping these machines. They just run the servers, network, etc."

But fundamentally the BYOL or not question is about aligning authority and accountability. If you're running a corporate network that is locked down so that unauthorized devices can't be plugged into it, and employees don't have root or Administrator on their systems, you already have a close authority/accountabilty fit, and you're not a good candidate to be a BYOL operation. (Comments mentioned Microsoft and Cisco as companies that offer strict network control; Check Point also has a product that lets you manage firewalling on the laptop and VPN access, centrally. Expensive, but I wouldn't want accountability for Windows laptops without it.)

Also bad BYOL candidates are companies that have very demanding software loads such as DCC or CAD, or companies in regulated industries. But once you start getting into the territory where employees have the power to install software, or random devices can get on the company network, there's an authority/accountability disconnect, and BYOL starts to make sense. I was pretty surprised to see the proportion of real live BYOLers and administrators of BYOL-enabled companies in the comments. Afsheen, I know that people who work in TV and movies do own their own office gear and rent it to the productions they work for, but it's interesting to see it elsewhere. Stephen Collins brought in an Apple PowerBook, and there's also at least one Linux laptop at his workplace, too.

Macy writes in the comments, "There is no question that most users want control of their notebook and many are unable to keep their machine secure and spyware free. Our response has been to move to secured web based apps and toward thin client architectures." That raises a possibility: if you messed up your BYOL laptop, IT will cheerfully support letting you check out a thin client. Another idea suggested was to put up company-loaded VMWare images with preconfigured VPN and apps.

Dan Kim writes, "As someone who was in charge of a large corporation's laptop deployment, I'd like to say that this is a workable scheme." But set up a VPN, which is good advice anywhere.

toxa, Benn Glazier and Adam don't want to carry two laptops: "A laptop only makes sense if you have one and use it everywhere," toxa writes.

Tony Bags: I think the level of IT support is about the same for each, just different. BYOL downside: employees too cheap to buy decent computers. Upside: fewer machines get stolen. ("IT staffs everywhere spend WAY too much time and effort fixing problems that end users have caused because they were ....... around, letting their kids .... around on their work computers, or just not paying attention.") But still, "Personally owned or company owned, you still end up cleaning up computer user's screw ups and problems."

Discussion at The Talent Show too.

The whole idea of BYOL does make more sense if you believe that the applications that are most productive for work are more like Internet social and cooperative sites than they are like the Office Suite.