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12/12/2017

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Performance is good, though, thanks to a Haswell Core i5 processor that runs at a healthy 2.6GHz, along with 8GB of memory and a 500GB hybrid drive. That combination manages solid scores of 2608 and 3026 points in the Home and Work suites in PCMark 8, and matches the performance of many of its more expensive rivals.The Prestige weighs 2.2kg, which is a little heavy to carry around in a backpack, but it’s actually below average for a 15-inch laptop that includes a built-in DVD drive. The battery also managed just four minutes short of five hours when running the intensive PCMark 8 benchtests, so it’ll earn its keep if you do need to take it away from the office occasionally.Back in the old days providing your employees with corporate computer equipment was an expensive business. When I was 19 I was the university holidays PC guy in an office full of RPG III developers; the fact that they thought their System/38 with its 5250 terminals was a pretty neat piece of kit was the only reason they didn't envy the spanking new IBM PS/2 Model 80 under my desk.Over the past 20 years I have had a succession of expensive company computers: a Macintosh LC that had the same 68020 processor as the Sun-3 kit of which I was sysadmin at the time; the Mac IIfx that replaced it; the PowerBook Duo 2300c that came a few years later. Companies were spending vast amount of money on equipment for their staff.

These days you can buy a really decent corporate PC for next to nothing. In fact, if you fancy moving to thin client you can even make it last five years and use open-source software to keep costs down even more.Yet here we are in a world where companies are actively encouraging people to bring their own computers to work and use them for their day jobs.So why is this? And how do you work with them to make sure that both you and your employees get the best from a BYOD (bring your own device) world?You are used to people having various pieces of standard software on their machines: an office suite, email, calendaring, a web browser.Some users have role-specific stuff too – project management software, perhaps, or your particular finance application. If a user moves to BYOD deciding what to install on their device is a no-brainer: nothing that is commercially licensed.Putting licensed corporate software onto users' own machines is a nightmare. The moment one of them leaves (or, even trickier, is fired) you have a problem on your hands because a licensed copy of your software is now floating around in the big wide world.

Yes, you can include clauses in employment contracts insisting that employees who leave must remove any company software and data from their personal devices. But are the clauses really enforceable?Have workers stolen your property? Probably. But what if you catch up with them and they say: “Oh, [insert manager's name here] told me I could keep it if I went quietly”?I have seen it done with expensive laptops, so it is bound to happen with corporate software too. It makes your life difficult when the software vendor counts up the copies of its product that are reporting home to its server with your licence key installed.To give your users access to corporate applications you will need a virtualised infrastructure of some sort – virtual desktops or a Terminal Services-style setup where users log into central servers to run their apps.This isn't a bad thing to do: it means you have excellent control over operating-system and application updates, and if you are sensible about how you build it you can make it look identical to users whether they are in your office or sitting at home.

In return, though, you will want to enforce some kind of standard, primarily to ensure that your users have a web browser that is sufficiently new to work with any apps you have that are (a) browser-based and (b) available without being connected either directly or via VPN to the corporate network.One of the reasons for going for BYOD is to reduce not just your equipment costs but also your support costs. If you own fewer systems you need fewer support staff.It is pretty obvious where you draw the line between what you support and what you don't. For example, if a user can't connect their Mac to the wireless LAN and you can demonstrate that it is working fine (for instance by showing them that their phone is connected OK) then it is their problem.Or is it? The result of people not being able to use their BYOD devices is that they can't do their jobs, which means you as the employer are losing out on productivity.Now, you really don't want to succumb to helping your users out with fixes to their devices. As soon as you have helped one person you will have a queue for the support guys. Then there is the question of liability should someone on your help desk bugger up someone's PC and delete their family photos.

The best approach, then, is to have a handful of thin-client machines in the cupboard which you can give to users whose BYOD machines are out of action, on the strict understanding that there is a limit on how long they can have them for.People's own devices need to be outside the firewall; they access applications via the likes of Terminal Services or a Citrix platform rather than via a VPN (which could be used for malware distribution).You need two-factor authentication to be sure you are sensibly secure. Happily such mechanisms are ten a penny and easy to install these days, so there is no excuse for not doing so.Oh, and remember we mentioned making the experience the same for users at home and in the office? Well, they are outside the firewall in both cases so you can have them accessing precisely the same interface wherever they are.Although you are shying away from buying corporate equipment, consider providing screens or keyboards for the users. They last ages and are cheap to provide. You probably have loads left over, even though you have binned your old, obsolete PCs, and they are a genuine aid to productivity.I am typing this on an ageing MacBook Pro that is fine for just writing stuff, but for my day job as an IT ops manager I crave screen space. I am more productive with project plans, spreadsheets and the like if I don't have to scroll everywhere.

Most of your users' BYOD devices will be laptops, so consider giving them some cheap peripherals.We have already noted that you will be accessing applications remotely, but what about instances when you need to have data on your personal device? The most popular way to work with corporate data on the move is on one's phone.Of particular interest is email, of course, but given that you can natively access many types of document on Android and iOS devices without needing licensed software, people also want to be able to carry data around with them.This throws up an interesting dilemma: if you put corporate data on someone's own device, there is the potential for them to stroll off with it when they leave. Happily, there are plenty of answers to this problem, all of them variations on a theme: the sandbox.The idea is pretty simple. You don't want users to have the data natively on their devices because you have no control over their phones and can't guarantee they will delete it when they leave.When people leave you can simply turn off their access and be happy that they can no longer see the data So you run an application on the device which is registered with a server in your organisation and which “corrals” the data within that application.

The application can be configured to render the data inaccessible unless it can contact the server (or perhaps contact the server within a few hours, otherwise users won't be able to read stuff when they are in 3G deadspots or on the Tube).Hence when people leave you can simply turn off their access and be happy that they can no longer see the data.These products started with email and calendar access with the likes of MobileIron and Good for Enterprise, but nowadays they are far more complex and support more general ranges of applications. They are also much better at addressing the requirement of having a single, personally owned device for both corporate and personal use.So packages like Samsung's Knox and RIM's BlackBerry Balance provide the ability to swap between personal mode and corporate mode on a device, the latter being nailed down by corporate security policies.In some ways it is surprising that it has taken the vendors so long to catch on to this, but we have got there at last. Such packages offer a sensible compromise between controlling corporate data and not allowing the employer to blat personal data when someone leaves the company.

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