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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.

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