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Consumerization Of IT: How To Support All These Gadgets

Should you offer no IT support for employees' consumer tech, or embrace it and do all you can?

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Consumerization Of IT: How To Make It Work For You

There's a rule of thumb for most CIOs: When the CEO makes a request, the answer is YES. If you're a systems administrator, therefore, you're on the lookout for your CIO saying YES to mobile device support, because that means a big yellow school bus is getting ready to run you over.

The consumer effect is turning companies' IT labs into something that resembles the return bin at Best Buy, thanks to the variety of devices they're testing for business use. After CIOs make the call on whether to allow consumer tech into their companies in the first place, based on risks, costs, and benefits, the next big call is the glorious task of figuring out how to deploy, secure, and manage the gadget of the week.

Should you even offer IT support to employees bringing in consumer tech? The answer is all over the map, our survey of 551 business technology pros finds. Only 22% say their companies draw a hard line of no support, but another 20% offer only very limited support. About one-third don't have any policy, so IT helps where it can, while 23% encourage their device mavens to contact tech support.

It's not a simple decision. If these devices were completely frivolous, you could make a case for ignoring them. But if iPads become a productivity boon to salespeople, then eventually you'll need a scalable plan to support them.

Big companies for years flocked to the BlackBerry because its operating system is stable and secure, and BlackBerry Enterprise Server makes quick work of managing and deploying a huge number of those devices. Sure, you can't play Angry Birds on your BlackBerry, but are company employees really supposed to be playing games, watching movies, and listening to music on the job?

Not on the clock, perhaps, but many employees expect to use one device for personal and professional tasks. Companies are starting to meet them at least halfway. According to our research, 67% of companies let employees get company email on their personal devices, and 48% let them connect those devices to the VPN.

So if you've accepted that you have little say and even less control over what devices pop onto your LAN, then you're ahead of the game. However, you still need a plan for supporting the wide range of consumer devices headed your way. Prepare for some problems in the following areas.

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