IT managers must learn to love the iPad

It's the perfect way to offload staff personal IT use

Quick – how many iPads are in your users' hands right now? You don't know? Of course not. Your IT shop is not supporting the iPad. You probably can't even figure out what an iPad is good for .

Besides, you have got bigger problems, like network security and malware and spam.

But what if you could dump those problems onto the iPad?

Look, where do most of our internet-based miseries come from? Users. Specifically, users doing what users do on the internet. They go to dangerous web sites. They click where they shouldn't. They fill up their company PCs with viruses and worms and spam – along with videos of kittens and MP3s of questionable legality.

Why do we let them do that? Because a decade or so back, when the internet was shiny and new, office PCs were the only devices they had with fast network connections. Keeping users locked out of the internet was more trouble than it was worth — they kept finding new ways around whatever walls we put up. And their managers were no help, because the managers wanted to use the web for personal stuff too.

So users did their surfing and shopping and video streaming, and IT did its best to keep up — deploying spam filters, whitelists and malware blockers as it grappled with an endless stream of otherwise unnecessary trouble tickets. And using work PCs for personal surfing became a standard perk.

Enter the iPad

It is small. It is light. It has a big, bright colour screen. It has wi-fi and 3G, so it can offer network connections that are at least as fast as those of office PCs.

Put simply, it may be the perfect personal internet-surfing device. (And even if it is not, the iPad will soon be followed by a tidal wave of iPad-wannabe competitor that should force Apple to speed up the addition of support for multitasking and the delivery of features like a camera).

Does the iPad have a place in business? Sure – as a personal internet surfing device.

The question isn't whether we should support the iPad with our business applications. Instead, we should be figuring out how to get all that non-business user stuff off our PCs and onto the iPad.

Think: What would it cost to create a separate wi-fi network in each office for users' personal surfing? A few cheap access points, just enough security, maybe some new wire to pull.

Now, how much would you save if you could offload all the user internet junk onto that separate network? You could lock down PC connections – hard. You could dramatically reduce your network management headaches, and probably reduce the bandwidth you need, too.

Users would still have that fast-network perk – just not on their work PCs.

You would finally be able to enforce your "no personal email" rules, your "no streaming video" rules and your "no clicking on unknown web sites" rules – at least on your office PCs. And if a user fills up his iPad with spam or gets infected, that is his problem. If he hogs bandwidth, other users can, um, let him know about it.

Nearly all the legal and HR problems that come with personal use of office PCs can go away too. Pornography, music and video piracy, and inappropriate emails will be on users' own machines — and out of IT's hands.

See? We really can drop all those problems onto the iPad.

Because really, users don't need work PCs for personal internet use. Let's leave them to their own devices — smartphones, BlackBerries, netbooks and, of course, tablets.

And, just maybe, we will discover what the iPad is good for: making life easier for IT.

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