Should we supply our own laptops at work?

According to an AP article a number of companies are starting schemes where employees are given an allowance to cover the use of their own laptops at work. The theory for companies is that this might actually cost them less and maybe their staff will work more if their work is available through their personal system. The benefit to the staff that care, is that they get to exert their own personal preference in the laptop they use at work. Laptop choice is not only an expresion of geek cred, the design features of some new laptops have made them a status symbol for many urban warriors.

The company mentioned in the article was Citrix, who has an interest in promoting this type of strategy. This is disclosed in the article. As well as a very popular virtual meeting product, Citrix made its name with a terminal services product. A couple of servers running virtual desktops can maintain personal workspaces for hundreds of users. This technology allows companies to have a variety of machines on their network yet still maintain control of their SOE cost effectively. It also possible to syncronise files to your local PC so you can still acess them offline.

The issues with this system is that universal speedy access to the cloud is not here yet so having all of your business desktop located on a server in the office will mean times when the system is not convenient. Copying files down to the local system is not always a solution to this as the lack of an enforced SOE makes this a security risk. It would also mean that corporate apps would also need to be deployed which breaks the model a little.

In practice the last few companies I have worked for have used virtual desktops for at least some applications. I have yet to find this a convenient or quick way to work, with usually a pause between keystroke and action that I find annoying. I must admit that I may not have experienced the latest version of these technologies yet though. There seems to be a wave of ‘net computing’ that surfaces every 3 years or so. There are some compelling attractions to the technology which is why it continues to live on to rise again each time it falls out of failure. Each time this wave comes around again the communications options are better than the last and at some stage they will be good enough to support the use of these virtual desktops regardless of where you are.

I tend to think that this is not the time for this technology just yet. Its probably not far off though.