A new headache for CIOs?

ACN editor Ben Furfie on why the rise of employee-owned IT in the workplace is a double-edged sword

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A new headache for CIOs? Employees are increasingly using their own IT equipment at work
By  Ben Furfie Published  July 26, 2010

I have some pretty strong opinions when it comes to an employee being allowed to use their own IT equipment in a business environment. I have strong opinions about it because I'm one of those employees who uses their own equipment.

Looking down at my desk, the keyboard belongs to me, my work phone belongs to me, but prized above all else sits my iPad.

You see, if it wasn't for my iPad, you wouldn't be reading this column today. Why? Well the reason is twofold. Firstly, I will readily admit that if my head wasn't screwed on, I'd forget it. My iPad tells me where I need to be, what I should be doing and how long it should take me to do it. In short, it organises my life.

Secondly, I'm typing this very column on it right now as I ride the Dubai Metro on the way to meet a couple companies up at Dubai Internet City. Maybe you didn't need to know that, but my point is that if it wasn't for my iPad, this would be dead time. I'd be twiddling my thumbs, becoming more and more irritated that I was losing an hour or so of my day.

Instead, I'm working and being productive. All because of my iPad.

I don't want this to sound like an advert by-proxy for Apple's new ‘wünder-device', because I would still be writing this if I owned a netbook. My point is that in this time of austerity, when more and more CIOs are finding their CFO breathing down their necks about reigning in spending, allowing employees to use their own equipment - provided it is purely for work purposes - can not only boost productivity, but also morale, without raising capital expenditure.

Despite that, the average CIO is likely to suffer palpitations at the mere suggestion that they allow employees of the firm to connect their own equipment to the corporate network. Let's face it, how many times have we been asked to remove spyware/viruses/Trojans and other unsavoury code by less technically-advanced family, friends and colleagues. Code they have ‘no idea' how it got there.

Granted, I'm not your average employee. I understand that 80% of a CIO's security plan consists of prevention, rather than protection.

Even with the most advanced IT systems using a combination of software and hardware-based security solutions, and a multitude of heuristic and semantic tools, the best way to ensure that your IT infrastructure isn't compromised is to ensure there is never any chance for it to happen.

However, with the increasing use of employees' own equipment and the recognition of social networking's use within the enterprise workplace, those risks are inevitably going to increase. It's something that was highlighted in the latest study from RSA, which warned CIOs not to stand in the way of the growing trend, lest they push against the tide of change.

Yes, this trend is going to create new challenges. It is going to give you some major headaches. And it is going to result in having to tell off some of your employees for going on the type of websites that they'll get viruses and spyware from - even outside of work - when they bring the same device into work. But you know what: RSA is right.

This is more than just an unstoppable trend. It has the potential to revolutionise the way companies look at their IT infrastructure, look at their spending and what's more, look at their heads of security.

Who knows, maybe one day, we'll be writing about CSOs rather than CIOs when it comes to this type of topic...and they'll have the CFO breathing down their neck instead.

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