Mobility: The final frontier

By Joanie Wexler, Network World |  Networking

The proliferation of wireless access to corporate intranets and the Internet is further blurring the lines between personal and business use of mobile devices. According to research data from Telephia, based on surveys of 4,000 U.S. mobile network users, for example, about 91% use their wireless devices for both personal and business purposes. Where, then, does the responsibility of the enterprise IT department begin and end for supporting and paying for devices that are being used in part for activities that are not specifically work-related?

The issue hearkens back to a few age-old questions. For example, should one’s company foot the bill for personal phone calls? (This conundrum led to the personal access code feature in PBXs for tracking calls and enabling departmental chargebacks in many organizations.) Should the IT department support applications installed by users? And to what degree should one’s company support and pay for remote-access connections to the corporate network that can do double-duty for personal Internet use?

These issues are becoming magnified as wireless mobility, together with the pervasiveness of the Internet, forms the final frontier of distributed computing. With wireless, the IT support situation can get even more complicated, because wireless technology is complex and not yet well understood by many networking professionals. So the more users futz with their mobile-enabled devices, the tougher troubleshooting can be for traditional IT staff.

The integrated mobile computing and networking capabilities enabled by wireless network access may prompt some IT departments to rethink their traditional budgeting, chargeback and technical support strategies. They also might want to establish some corporate policies on how and where certain devices can be used, and for what tasks, based on whether a company believes that encouraging personal use of mobile devices and network services serves to enhance or hinder user productivity.

I’d like to know your thoughts on this question. Do you think the integration of personal and business use of technology is making users more productive, less productive or is having no impact? Also, let me know if you have been rethinking any of your IT budget or support policies based on user trends toward such integration.

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