Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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8/18/2006
06:51 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
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Laptops: Do We Really Need 'Em?

Ask business travelers if they're willing to do without their laptop computers, and they'll say "No." Unless they're from New York or Philadelphia, in which case the "no" is preceded by a string of expletives that'll blister the paint off a Chevy Camaro. Business travelers believe they need their laptops to get work done on the road. Ask a business traveler which they'd prefer--cut off a hand or give up the laptop--and most business travelers would go for the hand. After all, t

Ask business travelers if they're willing to do without their laptop computers, and they'll say "No."

Unless they're from New York or Philadelphia, in which case the "no" is preceded by a string of expletives that'll blister the paint off a Chevy Camaro.

Business travelers believe they need their laptops to get work done on the road. Ask a business traveler which they'd prefer--cut off a hand or give up the laptop--and most business travelers would go for the hand. After all, they can still type with the other hand.

But is the laptop really necessary?

The recent terrorist arrests in England and the security clampdown that followed have made it tougher for business travelers to get their laptops on the plane. Every airline terror incident since the early '90s has made it more difficult to bring laptop computers and other electronics on board. One day soon, it may become impossible.

And even if the security regs don't change, are laptops really necessary?

Laptops are huge fiduciary risks for companies that deploy them to workers. Thieves stole a laptop and hard drive from the home of a Veterans Administration worker in May, along with 26.5 million records containing confidential information on veterans and their spouses.

The laptop itself represents more than a thousand dollars in hardware and software costs riding around on the shoulder of an employee who likely doesn't have securing that device as the topmost concern on his mind.

And who the heck wants to schlep a five-pound brick across the country anyway? The only reason we do it is because there's no alternative.

In the wake of the recent security scare, IT departments and business travelers are looking for alternatives, and we're here to help. Reporter Sharon Gaudin looks at how business travelers and IT departments are planning for the possibility of doing without their laptops, and then she shares her thoughts about the subject in a blog entry. David DeJean looks at tools available today to let you leave the laptop behind. And Patricia Keefe speculates about how a laptop ban on planes might have a ripple affect on other industries (Tish's speculation was featured in our daily newsletter last week).

Also, Elena Malykhina writes about how possible requirements to check electronics might affect demand for ruggedized laptops and other equipment, and K.C. Jones has tips on getting your laptop ready for airline security.

Are security hassles making you rethink business travel? Take our poll and let us know, or leave a message on the InformationWeek Weblog.

And for the opposite perspective on the whole issue, check out our March feature on how to make a laptop computer your one and only PC.

Of course, you don't have to go up in an airplane to face an emergency. Reporter Larry Greenemeier looks at two exercises by emergency services dealing with problems on the ground. Strong Angel III is a test of technology and techniques for coping with a simulated disaster, including viral outbreaks and terrorist attacks, right where I live here in San Diego. And at Synthetic Portland, local officials, academics, and business leaders discussed a model for data sharing during an emergency. Larry contributes his $0.02 about airline security and Strong Angel III on his blog post.

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