Bring your own PC
Finance, warranty, support...can this model really work?
Workshop The rise of ‘consumer’ expectations in the workforce is driving some organisations to think up ways of giving their employees more choice when it comes to personal computers. ‘Bring your own computer’ (BYOC) has quickly become an umbrella term for employees, erm,.. bringing their own computer into the workplace. But just how prevalent is the model, and is adoption likely to grow?
For a start, the business case is not always so clear. For example, Intel has experimented with a simple version of the model for its contract employees – there being plenty of them to justify such a programme.
Intel simply had its IT department provide tech support for its contractors’ own computers, removing the need to issue laptops to them. The model may have saved Intel money due to not having to buy thousands of new laptops, but the additional work and expense created for the IT department as it had to go from employee to employee to get each device up to spec may have reduced the overall benefit.
Other BYOC models in play take more strain off the IT department. Citrix’s 2008/9 BYOC pilot involved giving employees a set amount of cash ($2,100) with which they were allowed to buy any PC of their choosing. This was then subsequently set up with a virtual machine containing work-related apps. If the employee wanted to spend more than the $2,100 it was their choice to do so, but part of the outlay had to include a three-year maintenance warranty package.
From a support perspective, the deal was that Citrix’s IT would no longer fix hardware problems, but would offer first line support and of course take responsibility for deploying applications and operating systems. Needless to say this involves using Citrix’s own virtualisation technologies. Ultimately, a user ends up with the same apps they would have if their machine had come directly from the IT department, and gets to grips with some of their employer’s products, too.
Other BYOC possibilities exist, as well. For example, if such a scheme was rolled out in an organisation which had already outsourced some or all of its IT support functions, then it might be possible to extend the terms of the existing deal to provide cover for a BYOC scheme instead of asking (for example) each individual employee to sign up for next day business support from wherever they bought their machine from. This option may keep the burden off the IT department, while keeping some semblance of control over the whole thing, too.
All the models we’ve discussed here go some way to answering the questions which surface naturally if a BYOC model is being considered: ‘who manages the device’, ‘who is responsible for fixing it when it goes wrong’, and ‘who is responsible for making sure the data on it is secure’?
The ‘Citrix model’ addresses these requirements by keeping work and personal computing environments separate, and while a neat option, does require the organisation to make an additional investment in infrastructure and software if it wasn’t already using Citrix kit. Naturally, this could be a rate limiter for this kind of approach, but other ways of delivering apps to virtual desktops exist too, which the same model could be applied to.
The pilot schemes in play today appear to answer the question as to whether these schemes can be financed and administered. However, none of them have been around long enough to provide insight into how things can work out in the longer term – when machines become ready for replacement, for example. Also, as mentioned, the Citrix example might not be replicable everywhere.
A couple of ways to support computers in a BYOC scheme without causing the IT department lots of new headaches appear to exist. Again, we do not have the benefit of experience over an extended period to confirm this. On balance, in these early days, it does look like BUY your own computer offers a better proposition for the IT department than BRING your existing computer, at least from a set up and support perspective
Although some big name organisations are trying BYOC out, we know these schemes are not exactly widespread today. We also might feel that the two well-publicised examples of Intel and Citrix are not quite ‘fair’ as in if anyone could pull this off, we might expect a tech vendor to have a decent chance. However they do happen to be a large part of the (short) list of current examples.
With that in mind, we’d love to hear from anyone with experience of how they‘ve been funded, the support effort involved and the impact of other costs such as the need for any additional management capabilities. Does this model satisfy users and IT support staff? Or, if you’ve had a think and rejected the idea, let us know why.
Great idea (but pointless).
Seriously, I'm trying to be ironic or anything!
Using Citrix or a VM is the only option, the local LAN must not let anything else through or route any host machine traffic (so even an infected keylogged system would be "safe"), and *assuming* the host machine actually works, it can be anything Win/OSX/Lin, I just built a 3Ghz dual quad core/16Gb machine for about £700 so I don't think there's any issue with price/performance these days.
However, (and it's a huge however), as soon as the maintenance is shifted from the PC to the VM and you can use *any* kit for the physical PC then the overhead on managing the PC drops as well, so a cupboard full of Ubuntu installed boxes which need no additional config or maintenance (as they are just VM hosts) is pretty cheap.
In other words, as soon as using Citrix/VM is viable for the service then maintenance for the host almost disappears anyway so you've already saved your money (why give it to the users?), i.e. if it's safe and simple for the user to do the PC config then having a professional do it will be safer and cheap (consistent).
Genius for the business
So you get a nice new job and the first thing the company says is, "You have to supply your own computer. Our IT department says the minimum spec is..." and you find that to cover their backsides they have over-spec'd the requirements and you're into a couple of grands worth of new machine.
And when it breaks down the IT guys deem it to be your problem not theirs as it's your PC.
Sounds like a great ploy if you are an accountant. Not so great if you a grunt.
RE: This is a good idea, why?
Because a bunch of dumb fscking bean counters said it was.
BTW, you do bring up some extremely valid points.
I am curious who would get screwed by the Bulls--- Society of America (aka BSA) in the event unlicensed software is found on an empolyee owned machine.
Another question comes to mind: Data ownership.
Can the employee REFUSE to allow the company to gain access to data that is stored on the employee owner computer in the event they are no longer associated with that company???
Does the company have any right to `analyze` private data on an employee owned computer in the event that there is suspicion that some wrong doing had occurred; or at the time they plan to terminate an employee???
If I got fired by an employer, where I was supplying the computer; once they handed me the pink slip, the answer to a question about looking at my computer would be `tough s---`.
IMHO some serious LEGAL minefields to wander through. I am not sure I want that task. BTW, this applies to more than simply computers, one could apply this to cell phones, iPads, etc. I would rather, from a legal standpoint, not want go down this road. I would rather keep my s--- separate from the employer's s---. If they tell me `goodbye`, then `here is your fscking s---, see ya`!!!!
It could work for contractors
As a contractor, I'd love such a scheme in companies I work with, assuming the company's software runs in a VM. I already have VirtualBox on my machine so adding a new VM would be no problem: this way, the company has complete control over what goes in the VM, while I have complete control of the hardware (and the OS that runs on it).
A BYOC scheme would solve the following issues for me (as usual YMMV):
More often than not, the hardware I have is more powerful than anything a company I work with can provide me with so I generally end up with an XP box that takes ages to do anything and on which I can't install tools that could actually help with my job. With a BYOC scheme, I could have my own hardware running my own software, while having the company's VM for work (occasionally working out of the VM when I need something that's not provided by the company).
Every single company I've ever done contracting work for have needed at least 4 weeks to source a computer, meaning that I tend to spend the initial 4 weeks of any contract using my own laptop but with no access to company networks thus making my job more difficult (and therefore costing the company I work with a fair share of the price of a laptop in lost time and effort). Having a VM that can be deployed on any BYOC hardware would reduce that time significantly.
Of course, the devil is in the details as always but I think it's an idea that could work in principle, especially for non-permanent staff. And if would help working round IR35.