Can We Control Company Privacy on Personal Devices?

12/13/2012 05:45 EST | Updated 02/12/2013 05:12 EST
Instagram is demonstrated on an iPhone Monday, April 9, 2012, in New York. Since Verizon Wireless broke AT&T's exclusive grip on the iPhone last year, several other phone carriers now offer Apple's popular smartphone. On Monday, T-Mobile said it will make a stronger bid for used iPhones from AT&T as Apple prepares to launch a new version. (AP Photo/Karly Domb Sadof)

Despite the fact there have been two entire generations of people who have grown up in the Internet era, I remain amazed by the proliferation of personal devices in today's homes. We've moved well beyond having a PC only for work to having multiple home computers, media servers for our videos and music, smart phones for every family member and tablets so we can control and access our media from anywhere.

Therefore it comes as little surprise that the impact of personal devices is hitting the enterprise -- and it's starting to hit hard as CIOs and IT specialists figure out how to maintain security, corporate privacy and protect intellectual capital in an environment where employees expect access to everything from anywhere, at any time.

According to the IDC iView Consumerization of IT Study, 40.7 per cent of the devices now used by information workers to access business applications are ones they own themselves, including home PCs, smartphones, and tablets (and this number is up 10 points from the previous year's survey). The same survey found 30 per cent of these same workers use personally-owned PCs for work, and nearly 10 per cent reported using their personal tablet for work, a number that is sure to swell with the release of Windows 8 and new offerings like convertible Ultrabooks just coming to market.

Planting your head firmly in the sand and hoping this situation will go away may be tempting but rethinking your business' approach to end-user computing is a better idea. The stark reality is you need to take steps to protect your corporation while addressing head-on your employees' desires to use their new devices for work and play.

Many companies in all sectors are struggling with how to effectively handle this issue. A recent Intel case study with Greenwood College School highlighted this very challenge. The school traditionally provided its students with laptops to access all the curriculum, and cloud services provided access to classwork. They soon found students were increasingly bringing in their own devices, including smartphones and personal computers, and when we spoke, they were looking into how best to integrate external personal devices without compromising the network security and proprietary curriculum; challenges for which there is no easy answer or a quick fix.

Intel's approach to consumerization has been to embrace the trend -- a trend that is moving beyond "bring your own device" to include the entire computing environment such as the applications and Internet services we use in our personal lives. We believe that you need to put the user at the centre of your computing environment and build out a strategy to keep employees productive from any device, while protecting security and corporate assets. A planning guide for device integration and tips for coping within your organization can be found here.

Let's face it, you can either to embrace personal devices in the workplace and proactively put security measures in place, or you can deal with the aftermath when employees will inevitably find their own work-around.