Should You Allow MacBooks on the Network?


Apple unveiled its new lineup of MacBook models at a launch event yesterday. Beyond their incredibly strong aluminum chassis, the new MacBooks also come with a much more powerful Nvidia GeForce graphics processor unit (GPU) as well as a glass touchpad that sports the multitouch technology first seen on the iPhone. Indeed, the GeForce 9400M will be exclusive to Apple for a while yet, while the button-less touchpad is 39 percent larger and is able to register the number of fingers on its surface -- and react differently.


Recession or not, staff will invariably stroll into the office carrying the new MacBooks -- or at least want to.


This is as good a time as any to review the bigger implications, security, technical and otherwise, of allowing personal devices into the company network.


The first issue has to do with technical support. Because the number of IT personnel in an SMB is by definition small -- or non-existent -- it is almost a certainty that this precious IT resource could well be disproportionately squandered to fix issues related to non-supported platforms. Think that won't happen with those MacBooks? Think they're "secure"? Think again.


Without a policy preventing these rogue devices, IT can plan on dealing with everything from getting the departmental printers to work, connecting to the networked file server, or even getting the company intranet to render properly in the Web browser. All on a case-by-case basis. And don't forget that IT staffers are in all likelihood hired for a platform-specific set of system administration skills and are unlikely to be well-versed with other operating systems -- whether it's the Mac OS, Linux or something else. Taking a hard line protects the bottom line -- something that smaller shops may have a harder time doing, since it's more likely that IT and the employees who want to ask for this "trivial" favor will have this discussion face to face.


Over the next two days, I will talk more about a couple of other pertinent aspects to this issue.