Consumer Gear Isn’t Always the Answer

Carl Weinschenk

From the highest vantage point, the decision to use consumer gear in the workplace – both in BYOD and approaches in which consumer equipment is given to employees – often is made on financial and not operational grounds.

Consumer gear is getting more sophisticated and, because of BYOD, is far more common in business settings. eSecuity Planet has a nice rundown of some of the dangers inherent in BYOD. They include: malware, the use by the owner of malicious websites, the likelihood that employees will charge the organization for personal use, the use of machines loaded with business data to non-employees and the loss of the machine. BostInno last month posted a nice piece that dove into the details of the security ramifications of BYOD.

Add another to the list: Consumer devices probably are not appropriate in a great number of cases. Baseline offers a very interesting case study written by Joseph Zanette, the solution manager for Ferguson Enterprises, a wholesale distributor of residential and commercial plumbing supplies. The bottom line is that consumer equipment can be limiting. Companies must pick their spots carefully.

Zanette describes the vulnerabilities of using consumer devices for the delivery force. The column doesn’t directly reference BYOD – the original devices were supplied by the organization – but the lesson is clear: The original consumer smartphones and the platform they were on simply were not up to the task at hand.

Trying to use consumer devices when they shouldn’t be used is tempting and probably common. For Ferguson, not having a custom-built solution created a manual and paper-heavy delivery process. The right corporate device facilitated a totally green approach. Another scenario in which specialized – and perhaps more expensive – gear is the prudent choice is in rough-and-tumble settings such as worksites. How much longer will a ruggedized device – such as the new Toughpad tablet from Panasonic – last than a general-release tablet? It is a question planners should consider.

In many cases, BYOD or corporate-liable consumer devices are terrific options. But the main benefits usually are on the financial side. Whether such tablets and smartphones can actually do the job efficiently is another question – and a vital one.

The Baseline piece is worth reading simply because it provides real-world insight into a case where non-specialized equipment floundered on an inadequate platform. Indeed, the task Zanette describes – managing a delivery fleet and controlling deliveries and pickups – is not particularly unique. It suggests that, quite possibly, consumer approaches are not the best option in a high number of scenarios.



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