Time For IT Guys To Unshackle Corporate Computers

from the can't-do-that dept

This one ought to infuriate some of the IT folks, but Farhad Manjoo, over at Slate, is making the case for why corporate IT folks should give up trying to control everyone's computers. He says it's silly for them to dictate which apps you can and cannot use, what websites you can and cannot visit and what mobile devices you can and cannot use. He argues that doing so only restricts employees from actually doing useful and innovative stuff and also can make employees significantly less productive.

The response from IT folks will always be about the cost of maintaining all of this -- noting (perhaps correctly) that any time there are any problems, people will call up IT folks who will have to try to service all sorts of things, rather than having a standard list. And, of course, they'll say that users are often dumb, and prone to doing things that put computers and networks at risk. Thus, locking stuff down isn't only cost effective, but it's prudent to protect the company.

In the end, though, if that prevents important work from getting done (or done quickly), that seems like a problem. In the past, we've pointed out study after study after study suggesting that those who are actually allowed to do personal surfing at work are happier and more productive. Manjoo makes that point as well, mentioning recent studies that have shown the same thing and suggesting that companies that trust their workers on these sorts of things tend to get much more out of those employees.

Filed Under: it, limitations, personal surfing, security


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  1. icon
    James Riley (profile), 27 Aug 2009 @ 6:30am

    Good points and bad points

    The fact is, it isn't as simple as that. Very rarely will you have a shop that is set up where EVERYTHING is stored in the cloud and it's possible to reimage machines on a whim - often times there are cloud features available but users choose to ignore them in favor of the local hard drive.

    Yes, it's possible to lock that down too but only to a certain extent. No one backs up their information, or if they do, they use their email account to do so and then freak out if they are told, quite correctly, that they need to knock it off if they want their email to be more responsive. There's a hard limit for a reason - we don't run an email server just to store your kids' 10 MP resolution PNG files.

    There's always the exceptions to the rule, the idiots who happen to be louder than the IT department and insist on using non-standard storage and obtaining admin rights through illicit means (coercion, manipulation, outright lying, etc.), and the supervisors who are just too pissed off and worrying about other things to be concerned with them.

    And let's not forget the asshats who will bitch and moan until the cows come home if you forget to back up that random hidden folder with their personal items in it, despite their having signed, at their orientation, a form basically telling them in no uncertain terms that work systems belonged to the company and they could be fired for using company resources for personal use.

    It's great to talk about how companies need to take a lighter approach to employee treatment and allow them to do whatever it is that they want, but no one understands just how much more of a burden that is for IT to deal with. No one gets that just being able to see this one joke site or this one girl's myspace page full of poorly coded HTML and possibly dangerous SQL injections can cause damage, not just to their computer (resulting in ALL of their pictures / music / work emails / etc.) but to the servers passing the information along, to their co-workers computers, and any devices connected to their computer as well (iPod, thumbdrives, etc.).

    Oh, and let's not forget the risk to corporate secrets when you open up a buttload of corporate computers to the public internet. Wave goodbye to any hope of keeping embarassing secrets from going public immediately. Watch the stock price plunge faster than Gates McFadden's career post-Star Trek: TNG.

    Opening everything up to the public is a great ideal but so is communism.

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