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March 14, 2013

Guest blog: Are PCs going the way of the dodo?

Nathan Pearce, F5 EMEA Product Manager writes for CBR about the recent Gartner report which highlights the decline of PC sales. Nathan reflects on the changing role of mobile devices, the shift in working practices and how businesses can make flexible working a success.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Over the last few months, there has been a huge amount of discussion in the media about the death of the PC. Despite Yahoo’s recent ban, mobile working has become the norm and many of us are choosing to invest in tablets and laptops rather than sedentary PCs so that we can work whenever and from wherever we want.

A recent Gartner report revealed that worldwide PC shipments declined by 4.9 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2012, while PC shipments in Europe, the Middle East and Africa fell by 9.6 per cent. This is more than the effect of a weak global economy – this is the sign of a genuine shift in working practice and buying behaviour.

Rather than tablets ‘cannabalising’ PC sales, we should think of this shift as evidence of the evolution of PCs. When tablets (or should I say the iPad) burst onto the market in 2010, we all thought of them as a nice little extra; a stylish device to supplement our mobiles, PCs and laptops. But this is no longer the case. Tablets have now become a must-have and the way we use them is changing. While they used to be seen as a gadget for online browsing and video consumption, we are increasingly recognising tablets as a genuinely useful business device.

Despite all the perks of flexible working, it raises numerous security issues as employees have access to sensitive corporate data on unmanaged and potentially unsecured devices, on unsecured networks. Few businesses have a comprehensive security policy in place and many unwitting execs have fallen foul of malware infections as a result of not having taken the necessary security precautions to keep their mobile devices protected. Organisations need dynamic, agile policy enforcement to govern the way they lock down data and applications. If an employee logs in to the corporate datacentre from a compromised device, then that employee becomes as much of a risk as a hacker with direct access to the corporate datacentre.

Yet we can’t discount mobile working simply due to security concerns. These can easily be overcome, and one of the ways is exploiting context. If organisations can get a deep enough understanding of their application traffic, they can apply context, ensuring they deliver exactly the right data to the right person at the right time in a fast, available and secure way. Rather than locking a user out because they’re accessing data on an unfamiliar network for example, extra layers of security should be applied to ensure that data is safe but without slowing the delivery process.

It’s also important to move on from managing devices as a whole, to managing security at the app level. By recognising the devices employees are using before connectivity reaches data, businesses can ensure they’re protected. Although your CEO may access files using their company PC, equally they may now access this data from their tablet or home laptop. Recognising traffic will enable employees to have this flexibility but also the business to incorporate measures which ask for more security authentication from devices outside of the network.

As tablet adoption continues to boom, businesses need to wise up to the security risks that mobile working presents and enforce a dynamic security policy to make the most of the benefits that flexible working has to offer.

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Nathan Pearce, F5 EMEA Product Manager

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