Personal Laptops at Work: Good Idea or Bad?

We’ve mentioned before that’s it’s becoming increasingly trendy for organizations of all sizes to invite – or require – some of their employees to use their personal laptop as their business computer as well. One life, one computer. A recent Computerworld article has checked in to see how such a scheme is working at Proctor & Gamble, where several hundred workers are using their own personal laptops in an experimental program. Their impetus: younger employees demand the option.

Now P&G is working out the many complex legal and HR issues surrounding the idea. There are all sorts of considerations you might not think of, not just about tech support but also about liability, security, and productivity. Only time will tell if they can conquer all those challenges.

In the meantime, it’s interesting to note that several commenters to the article – most of whom it’s safe to guess come from IT departments – really hate the whole concept:

This is a *HORRIBLE* idea. I have been in IT administration and IT security for years and the worst of the worst in terms of maintenance and security are home computers. Even if the laptops used remote access software, like terminal services, RDP and SSH, they are still vulnerable to keystroke recording software. Of course, if you are in corporate espionage, this is a boon for anyone trying to get P&G IP property. This would be a good idea if 99 percent of the people bringing in laptops were not computer illiterates. I forsee trojan upon trojan getting dumped into P&G’s intranet from random laptops connecting.

With two computers, I know what is on each. When I merge them, I blur the line. How long will it be before unacceptable content is brought into and disclosed in the workplace, with resultant harrassment actions? How does the company protect sensitive information stored on the laptop hard drive that is exposed to peer-to-peer snooping when the laptop is taken home and used to download music/media content? Is the company responsible for license infringement committed on the employee’s laptop? I don’t want the company in my business, and I don’t want my content in my employer’s business.

Tough issues, indeed!

Don Willmott

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