As professional and personal lives merge, security is an issue

As you look around today, it's become clear that as for technology and the workplace, the tail may be wagging the dog.

As you look around today, it's become clear that as for technology and the workplace, the tail may be wagging the dog.

In the old days, we first saw new technology deployed in corporate environments, usually attached to some sort of powerful desktop system. Today that's all changing.

More and more new technology is coming in through the proverbial back door in the form of mobile computing devices -- and home entertainment systems are next.

Business executives are now demanding that mobile devices be linked to corporate networks so employees can access their email and files remotely. This puts IT executives in a quandary. On the one hand they have no real control over the plethora of devices being introduced into their IT operations. Trying to rein in those devices requires them to exert a tremendous amount of political pressure on end-user behaviour.

On the other hand, building a strategy around these devices may reduce budget dollars slated for other projects. The upside is that a single platform for mobile computing applications would probably reduce the inevitable long-term support costs for mobile applications.

But the problem isn't confined to mobile computing devices. As our daily work lives continue to encroach on our home lives, the remote office setup looks more and more desirable. Meanwhile, home entertainment equipment is getting more complex and sophisticated. The end result: Many people have already begun to blend their PCs into their home entertainment systems.

Granted, this trend is still in its early stages and is frowned on by corporate IT departments, but it is a coming and unavoidable reality. Most people have some amount of corporate data on their home PCs and some number of entertainment applications on their corporate PC, which more often than not is a notebook PC taken home every night.

This blending of application environments is likely to get even more complex with the advent of home gateway systems, which are essentially dedicated servers for networking a variety of consumer electronics devices. From these gateways, people can program everything from the television to the VCR to the stereo receiver, not to mention new kinds of devices, such as the one from Tivo.

As these gateways begin to find a place in our homes, people will naturally want to program those devices from work. When they are at home, they will use those devices to access broadband links back to their offices.

Once that happens, we are all going to have a major security headache. We could fight off this trend for a couple of years, but eventually linking these devices to the office will become a requirement. And with that requirement will come a need for firewalls and anti-virus software on these gateway systems.

Ultimately, IT departments could find themselves providing support services for home networks created by their employees. In fact, with some major companies already giving away PCs with DSL connections to their employees, many companies are more than halfway toward executing this scenario.

Where all this may lead is anybody's guess. Perhaps La-Z-Boy will release an enterprise edition of its new lounge chair, specifically designed for IT managers with a need to manage global operations from the comfort of their living rooms.

What we do know is that nothing is likely to stay the way it is, and although we may delay it, change is inevitable.

Vizard is editor in chief of InfoWorld. Send email to Michael Vizard.

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