In a release today, Citrix announced a new campaign touting virtual desktops and its XenDesktop product. Most of Citrix's predicted benefits for virtual desktops are what typical of what virtual desktops promise—lower administration costs, more portability, and better performance. But their number one prediction, that employees will own the laptops they use for work instead of companies, strikes me as a potential game changer for IT.

Citrix claims that employee-owned laptops will make employees more satisfied, because they'll get the computers they want rather than a one-size-fits-all company machine. Things will be easier for IT and CIOs because they'll only have to watch out for a centrally-administered virtual desktop for each user instead of a large number of physical computers. Citrix also promises better performance, as the heavy lifting is done remotely on a powerful server instead of each user's machine. See the release from Citrix for more on the advantages of the BYOC model.

While I've certainly been in environments where I wished I could use my own computer instead of a company-owned system, I feel obligated to point out some possible disadvantages.

  • Purchasing is shifted to employees. Citrix predicts that "employees in a BYOC program will receive vouchers, which can be applied to the purchase and support of any laptop they choose." That would work fine in an ideal situation, but what if you work for a company that doesn't provide a large enough voucher, forcing you to lay out your own money for a work computer? What about the discounts that a company gets for placing a large order from a computer maker but individuals won't get? And what if an uneducated user purchases a system that lacks power or expected functions, like the infamous "Vista Capable" machines?

  • IT pros have to know everything. Multiple OS networks seem to be increasing in popularity, but as long as your company is buying your systems there's a limit on what you'll have to hook up. Set employees free to buy any computer they want, and suddenly you won't just have to deal with a couple versions of Windows and a few Apple machines. You'll be asked to fix and connect every version of every OS imaginable, because anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

  • Security gets more complex. No matter how well you isolate a virtual desktop from the computer it's running on, the two still have to interact. If a user's computer is infected with malware and spending all of its cycles working for a botnet, that's still the IT department's problem. But instead of a corporate machine with known hardware and software, you have to clean a personal laptop with any possible configuration.

  • Work and play get mixed up. It's easy to tell employees not to install software or visit certain sites when they're on a corporate computer, but can you tell your employees not to do those things on their own machines in their own time? You either have to give up some control of your computing environment or get employees to agree to restrict their use of their own property.

So, do you think the advantages outweigh the negatives? Do you think your company would ever adopt BYOC?

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