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December 16, 2010

No point in banning personal devices at work: analyst

Consumerisation of IT is unstoppable, agrees Orange

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The best way for organisations to control the consumerisation of IT is to accept it is happening and embrace it rather than banning the use of personal devices for work use, according to an analyst.

Bob Tarzey, analyst at Quocirca, was speaking at a roundtable held by security firm Check Point to discuss the implications of consumerisation of IT – the increasing use of personal devices for work purposes as well as the growing use of social media at the workplace.

He said that companies cannot bury their head in the sand about it but there are still many issues surrounding the management of personal devices.

"You can’t ban the use of personal devices at work," he said. "People will use personal devices whether or not you ban them. If you try and control what employees can do at work they are more likely to use personal devices they bring in. Unless you confiscate them at the door, you can’t stop it."

"What you can do is control what access they have to corporate resources on their personal device. But if for example you ban access to Facebook, workers will access it on their personal devices," Tarzey added. "These services on the Internet and the devices used to access them is the reality, by embracing it and accepting it you can bring some control over what employees can do."

Banning the use of personal devices at work could potentially increase the security risk to companies, Tarzey added, as employees are more likely to carry a work device alongside their own.

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"They will take less care of the work device and are more likely to lose it. A single devices means they are more likely to take care of it. I think we’ll get to the stage where people are given an allowance to buy a device that IT can access and control. What is lacking at the moment is the management tools," he said.

This point of view was echoed by Mike Welbrock, head of data marketing at Orange Business Solutions. "Consumerisation of IT is unstoppable," he said. "But we’re in a position where we don’t have the tools to deal with it. Businesses need to establish what information is important and they need to control that. It’s not about locking down every bit of information."

Tarzey highlighted the acquisitions of the likes of Big Fix, Altiris and Sybase as evidence the end point management space is increasing in importance and said he expects more consolidation in the space over the next few years.

If the management of personal devices is still some way from being ideal, the panel at the roundtable agreed that policies need to be clear and concise in order to safeguard the use of personal devices at work, although Nick Lowe, head of Western Europe sales at Check Point Software said that his company does not try to control the device itself.

"It’s futile to do that," he said. "You have to take control of the session, so it can’t be compromised and there is no footprint on the device when the session is finished. That creates a safe working environment."

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