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PC lockdown tyranny desktop virtualisation to the rescue?

Steve Hodgkinson | Aug. 21, 2008
The practice of locking PCs down is increasingly at odds with the flexibility required by todays knowledge workers.

Locking PCs down is an IT management best practice. But it is increasingly at odds with the flexibility required by todays knowledge workers. Desktop virtualisation software provides new options for achieving both control and flexibility.

Users will act to preserve the autonomy they need to be productive enter the convenience laptop

Ovum logoDesktops, laptops and smartphones are an organisations digital perimeter the edge of the secure network. As such, they comprise a significant source of security vulnerabilities and compliance risks arising from malware and inappropriate content payloads downloaded from the Internet.

In addition, the software on these devices is becoming increasingly complex, with unpredictable consequences arising from user-installed applications and plug-ins. The practical realities of provisioning new devices and handling support calls necessitate the creation of a known and standardised operating environment.

As ex-US President Ronald Reagan famously stated about the role of government, we need the corporate IT group to protect us from each other.

However, the policy of locking down devices is increasingly being viewed as too blunt an instrument. Many users have a legitimate need for a more flexible working environment. The latest generation of web applications and media players requires continuous software updates and plug-ins.

In addition the boundaries between our work and personal lives are becoming increasingly blurred by long days, travel and working from home. For most knowledge workers (as opposed to task workers) the desktop or laptop remains quintessentially an individualised if not a personal productivity tool.

We know it is also a corporate tool and asset, but an overly restrictive corporate IT regime has inevitable impacts on flexibility, productivity and innovation. As always, users are creative at developing workarounds against such tyranny - such as putting documents and data on a memory stick and working at home. Ive also been startled lately by the number of people Ive observed bringing personal laptops to work. At the airport security scanner it is also surprising how many people travel with two laptops or two mobile phones. As the price of devices such as the Asus Eee PC falls, we will likely see more people opting for the flexibility of a convenience laptop for a blend of work and play. Data will inevitably flow back and forth between the devices via email, websites and memory sticks even if the convenience laptop is not authenticated to the corporate network.

CIOs should investigate the new generation of desktop virtualisation software tools

Whether we condone it or not, the two laptop scenario happens. It is a crude do-it-yourself form of virtualisation. There are better and more secure ways to do this.


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