Why Your Company Won't Let You Use Your iPad At Work


Photo: Nokton

A new phenom is hitting the enterprise known as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and it will have a huge impact on our jobs in the next five years.BYOD sounds simple: let employees choose their own devices and software and let them use their personal devices like smartphones and tablets, too.

What’s wrong with that? If I want to use my own iPad or smartphone for work — and I paid for it  — my company should be jumping for joy, right?

Not exactly. IT needs to protect the company’s network from viruses and to protect sensitive data from being lost or stolen. Most companies have a legal obligation to protect this stuff.

And your iPad is a threat because it can be lost or stolen.

It happens all the time. Last month, an iPad that belonged to a hospital worker was taken from the worker’s car. It contained names, addresses and test results of patients. The hospital issued letters warning patients and had to explain why employees were running around with patient data on unsecured devices.

I don’t work for a hospital, so how can that kind of thing apply to me?

This is a universal problem because employees are starting to use their own devices for work in record numbers.  Forrester Research estimates that 21 million office workers are using their own smartphone for work. Some 11 million are buying their own work laptops and 3 million bought tablets for work.

The IT department can’t always see those devices and what data is stored on it. They don’t know what files will wind up on Dropbox or other cloud services.

Should companies simply forbid people to use their own devices?

Those days are gone. Today’s workforce is full of people who have been raised on technology. They wouldn’t let IT choose their tech for them anymore than they would let IT choose their food.

What’s to be done?

A company may still pay for devices, but might let users choose from a longer list of options. This means that IT has to support a wider range of devices if they break, and to keep them patched and updated so the bad guys can’t hack them.

IT also needs to buy mobile device management software which tracks devices, encrypts them, locks them and can sometimes wipe data from them remotely if they are lost or stolen.  This software is available from big vendors like IBM or Sybase and smaller ones like Zenprise, AirWatch (and lots of others).

This isn’t perfect either. Employees would have agree to install it on personal devices used for work.

A rock and a hard place? Can’t we do better than that?

Yes, especially over time. Enterprises can opt to deliver all of their software over a cloud connection so nothing gets stored on the device. It’s a concept called desktop virtualization or virtual desktop infrastructure. VDI has traditionally been slow, clunky and expensive to use, especially for Windows. But new technologies are arriving that will make them better (like Cloud Paging).

HTML5 is also coming. This is the next generation for Web pages. It delivers rich, multimedia applications in the browser. More and more apps will run in the browser. Users can access them from any device.

Eventually, the IT department will be very different than it is today. It will be like a personal corporate app store. Employees will be able to choose which apps they want to use for their jobs from a list that IT provides and on any device they want. Employees will create their own “personal clouds” on their devices … all their work and non-work apps accessed from one device, most of it stored in the cloud, with IT in control of the ones used for work but maybe not the device itself or the other apps.

Within the next five years a new crop of devices will arise that help, too. Forrester analyst Frank Gillett calls these “frames.” They will be smart devices that can take voice and gestures commands and will act as a bridge between our personal devices and our personal clouds.

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