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Consumer Tech: an IT Nightmare 533

Posted by samzenpus
from the customer-is-always-right dept.
snydeq writes "Advice Line's Bob Lewis discusses the difficulties IT faces in embracing the kinds of consumer technologies business users are demanding they support. 'Let's assume the consumerization of IT is the big trend many think it is. But using consumer tech in a business environment is a very different matter from being satisfied with consumer tech in a business environment. One of IT's legitimate gripes is that we're often asked to turn consumer-grade technology into business-grade technology with a wave of our magic wands. On top of the intrinsic technical challenges, there's this: IT doesn't have anything that even resembles a methodology for performing the business analysis we need to figure out what it means to put consumer tech to productive day-to-day use.'"
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Consumer Tech: an IT Nightmare

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @06:55PM (#37927892)

    we're often asked to turn consumer-grade technology into business-grade technology with a wave of our magic wands

    This is nothing new. We've been expected to do this with Microsoft Windows for nearly two decades now.

  • by TheGoodNamesWereGone (1844118) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @06:57PM (#37927904)
    They jumped it some time ago. Itunes making you have to go through Apple to do *anything* is not just a walled garden, it's a prison. Yes, consumers might put up with that shit, but businesses won't.
  • Re:Very True (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Miamicanes (730264) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @07:06PM (#37928004)

    Yeah, the $70 drive from Newegg is 7200 RPM, 2+TB, and has 64mb cache. The $300 drive from HP is 5400rpm, 320mb, and comes with a piece of paper saying it's 'certified' compatible with the server, and they'll replace it free when it dies 7-18 months from now (same as the $70 drive's equally short lifespan). What a bargain.

    Spending more for SLC vs MLC? sure. Ditto, for the network gear. But don't kid yourself... "enterprise" drives are no less failure-prone than their Best Buy Brethren. Nowadays, they're *all* crap. :-(

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @07:10PM (#37928056) Journal
    A decade ago most clueless top executives will award themselves the latest and greatest laptops and start belting out the latest version of documents/spreadsheets/presentations that is incompatible with rest of the corporations. Forcing everyone to upgrade, and Microsoft was laughing all the way to the bank.

    Now the same clueless top exec buys latest and greatest toys to play angry birds or something and expects it to work in the corporate environment. All the deliberate incompatibilities and interoperability poison pills baked into the system is coming back to bite the tails of IT crews.

  • by gregthebunny (1502041) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @07:13PM (#37928082) Journal

    I do IT support for a company of about 800-1000 people. All of our executives and corporate staff wanna use their goddammed iPads, iPhones, Androids, and other personal wotsits or doo-dads to do their work. Enough is a-freakin-nuff! We're a corporation and we need to maintain stability and compatibility over fancy and chic. You get a laptop. With Windows. And a BlackBerry... if you're lucky. Oh, and don't get me wrong... it's not like I'm being elitist or something. I love these consumer devices for home use. I have all sorts of digital toys. But they belong AT HOME!

  • by alen (225700) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @07:27PM (#37928270)

    if you buy a $3000 Enterprise Developer license then you can publish your apps directly to your organization's idevices. Apple even has detailed instructions how to do it

  • by Volante3192 (953645) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @07:29PM (#37928296)

    departments who see no middle ground between "100% supported" and "not on my network ever".

    Because there is no middle ground.
    If we help you out of the kindness of our hearts once, you will never. ever. let us forget that.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @07:34PM (#37928366)

    You want to run the thing, you want it to be yours, but you want someone to bail you out if you can't make it work. That is the nightmare IT scenario. That is the one that sucks tons of time from the group: When users want to run their own devices in their own way, but want IT to fix it when there's a problem.

    Now I should say such a situation would be feasible, but only if you are willing to hire a bunch more IT people. Have a large enough group and sure, you can have people to do all the hand holding as well as all the all the central functions expected (like making network and all the servers work, developing new custom apps, and so on). However in a typical IT environment where there are not many support people, hand holding takes time away from other tasks.

    Basically if you want to use your toys that's fine, but don't expect IT to want to waste time on them. They are your devices, you deal with them.

    In terms of the "not on my network" I don't usually support that idea but there are cases where it makes sense. Security is a concern with companies and if the management decides they want only approved devices on the network, well then that is what IT has to enforce. There are reasons for that too: User devices are the biggest source of problems easily. I work at a university and we do allow for personal laptops and other things on the network. 99.9% of the time when there's a virus or other issue, it is from one of them. Of course they bypass one of the layers of our security, our border firewall, since they come inside the network, which makes them a bit more dangerous.

    To me wanting IT to support your personal devices is the same as wanting the motor pool to work on your personal car. It just isn't reasonable. Your stuff is yours to do with as you wish, but don't expect corporate support to help you out. They have other things on their plate.

  • Mod parent up! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @07:39PM (#37928414)

    The GP has no idea what "support" means.

    I don't expect you do this for every crazy piece of hardware out there, but it would nice if you could be *helpful* as I try to figure it out myself.

    The PROBLEM is that every single person out there has the same attitude towards "support" that you do.

    With you it is your iPhone.
    With someone else it is something else.
    A third person has a third product.
    And pretty soon it is "every crazy piece of hardware" (and software and website and so forth).

    At a basic level, I expect my IT department to not *actively* disallow use of such technology, which is what I see all the time, departments who see no middle ground between "100% supported" and "not on my network ever".

    The problem is that if IT provides 50% support for X ... there will be calls from people wanting help with something that falls on the other 50% of X. Eventually it is 100% support.

    If you want that to change, then get a business case together and get management's approval and IT will get the additional funding / staffing / whatever to provide the support.

    Otherwise, deal with it. IT is there to support the management approved users on the management approved software with the management approved hardware.

  • by realxmp (518717) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @07:58PM (#37928612)

    Assuming we're going with the GP post's question RE an iPhone my answers to your questions would be as follows:

    1. The Managing Director bought it because he got annoyed about the blackberry outage.
    2. Sadly the Managing Director controls your budget, ergo he says what you do and don't support.
    3. It's an iPhone, it supports ActiveSync and provisioning profiles but you should know this already, given you read slashdot.
    4. Because you set the policy on the exchange server to require good passwords on all devices connecting via ActiveSync. If you don't know this you really shouldn't be administrating an exchange server.
    5. See point 3.
    6. You know it's encrypted because you googled iPhones and know that the any iPhone 3GS or above has encrypted memory. Thus why wiping is so quick, it just deletes the encryption key.
    7. See answer 6.
    8. See answer 3. Provisioning profiles.
    9. See answer 3. Provisioning profiles.
    10. Private VLAN it and employ port and wireless isolation.

    You've not given any questions here that you should even be asking users apart from questions 1 and 2 which are legit questions. The rest are stuff where you do the research and tell them the answer.

  • by jaymz666 (34050) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @08:03PM (#37928676)

    Just what we need, a proprietary solution with associated license fees for every product or family of products from different vendors.

  • by starfishsystems (834319) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @08:04PM (#37928688) Homepage
    No, it began with businesses buying and managing Unix workstations for their staff.

    Where it started to fall apart was when businesses thought it would be cheaper to buy Microsoft systems instead. There was a little TCO problem there. Microsoft users were managing their own systems, and they were doing it badly. Not only was their actual job function was being diluted, it also created some truly monstrous infrastructure train wrecks. That problem still isn't solved. Businesses simply think it's normal.
  • by iluvcapra (782887) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @08:14PM (#37928760)

    I do motorpool for a company of about 800-1000 people. All of our executives and corporate staff wanna drive their goddammed Mustangs, Mercedes, Smart Cars and other personal wotsits or doo-dads to their meetings. Enough is a-freakin-nuff! We're a corporation and we need to maintain stability and compatibility over fancy and chic. You get a Lincoln Town Car. With FM Radio. And a driver... if you're lucky. Oh, and don't get me wrong... it's not like I'm being elitist or something. I love these new cars for home use. I drive all kinds of cars. But they belong AT HOME!

    (Are you certain you're not trying to justify your own importance here? Your company gives people money and somehow, by some mystical force, they figure out how to purchase their own gas and oil, and arrive where they need to be without an in-house support organization.)

  • by starfishsystems (834319) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @08:30PM (#37928878) Homepage
    No, because in a "good organization" the sales guy is running on a workstation that doesn't allow ordinary users to install software, among other things. And support staff were not busy yelling at the engineer for using a personal laptop because they don't have to. He finds that he can't get on the corporate network with it.

    How do I know this? Because I've been advising organizations about secure system design for the past 20 years. Before that, I spent 15 years writing operating systems. So I've had a bit of experience watching other people's designs break while mine don't. What's your background?
  • by McGruber (1417641) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @08:44PM (#37929002)

    I do IT support for a company of about 800-1000 people. All of our executives and corporate staff wanna use their goddammed iPads, iPhones, Androids, and other personal wotsits or doo-dads to do their work. Enough is a-freakin-nuff! We're a corporation and we need to maintain stability and compatibility over fancy and chic. You get a laptop. With Windows. And a BlackBerry... if you're lucky.

    Here's the deal: Those "goddammed iPads" and other "doo-dads" are stable and allow their users to be productive. The windows laptops and crapberries are neither stable nor do they allow the user to be as productive as do the personal "doo-dads".

    More and more of the decision-makers in your company are letting their Windows laptops sit unused while they turn out productive work using their personal "doo-dads". Many of those users whom you say are "lucky" enough to be issued a Crapberry are also carrying a personal iPhone or Android for their personal calls and other personal business; they're not happy about having to carry a Crapberry because their other phone is so much more useful.

    Eventually, one of those decision-makers is going to realize that their unused laptops cost your organization $5k each. They will then multiply that $5k cost per laptop by 800 to 1000 users, a lightbulb is going to go off in their head and you're going to be looking for another job.

  • by unimacs (597299) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @08:48PM (#37929036)
    About 25 years ago, my boss, the IT manager, had the same attitude towards PCs. He referred to them as "toys". They lacked security. At the time you didn't even need to log into them. You had to upgrade and install software on them independently. Backing them up was problematic, etc. etc.

    Of course the mini-computers and terminals we all used at the time were eventually replaced with PCs.

    It's about productivity. It's about not depending on an IT department with a backlog of 2 years for every little thing. What we've done to the PC in the name of security and making life easier for IT is to make them part of a centrally controlled system just like the mini computers were 25 years ago.

    Want to use a great new piece of software? Is it on the approved list? No? Too bad.

    That is not how we should be doing things.

    I'm an IT director. Yes, you need security. Yes, centrally controlled admin is good. Being able to roll out tested software patches on mass is good. However, our role in IT is to FACILITATE, not to be a road block. That doesn't mean we have to say yes to everything but we need to understand why people want to use these devices for work and if there is a legitimate purpose, we need to figure out how to make it happen.

    Our job is to support our people, even if that makes our job harder.
  • by Xenious (24845) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @08:57PM (#37929094)

    Years ago the kit you used at work was faster, better and more powerful than your home consumer devices. Today it's the reverse and what you are forced to use at work is totally crappy next to what you have at home. Thus consumerization of IT is necessary to even get your own work done.

    Or to put it more simply, my companies OS is XP with Office 2003.

  • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @09:44PM (#37929514)

    If you came into my office with that attitude, I would tell you fuck off and also make sure your shitty device NEVER touches my network. You piece of shit device gets onto the corporate network strictly on the terms the company sets and I enforce it. If you dont like it, fuck off.

    No, you wouldn't. You see, there's a certain underlying reality here that you're in conflict with: When somebody says "I need my device that I carry with me at all times to connect to the company's mail server", they're saying "I want to do more job more efficiently." Guess what? In the eyes of the people paying your paycheck, those dudes win. Your job is to supply data to them and you know damn good and well you'd hook them up and then go back to browsing Slashdot and posting fun little short stories about what you'd do in an alternate dimension where you actually had any authority to tell anybody to fuck off. Your problem is *not* gadget happy employees.

    Now answer the GP's questions

    I did. But I guess I have to explain something that's actually really really obvious. If supporting all these devices has a measurable impact on the bottom line, you make the case and get a policy set. You nail a sign to your door that says "We will not hook up your iPad." If you can't make the case, then your job isn't going to be as easy as you'd like. Boo hoo.

  • by meburke (736645) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @09:57PM (#37929610)

    I was just talking about this to a friend of mine yesterday. I've been a "customer engineer" for most of the last 47 years. Back in the age of mainframes and minicomputers businesses understood that it took training and organization to install, maintain, and program their computers, but they started losing sight of the complexity involved in good systems design and analysis when the computer started looking about the same size as their typewriter. Now phones (which are really just smaller computers) are the same size as their old walkman. Consumers can't seem to understand that computers are multi-function machines with millions of interconnecting parts (if you include the OS and applications). Assuming you had a big open building with millions of parts and subassemblies that needed setup to perform specified tasks, and most businesses would understand the need for a small army of well-trained technicians to do the setups and maintenance.

    So, in my area, a lot of small businesses have sprung up offering computer maintenance for $35/hr. These businesses are capable of handling about 70% of all the normal maintenance on a computer, but then, so is anyone who can read a manual or call tech support. Then they get assigned a project over their heads, take the customer's money until it is very obvious that they can't do the job, and then walk away. The customer calls me and gets pissed off because I charge $110/hr instead of $35/hr and successfully clean up the mess left by the other "geek". And when the next computer problems show up do they call a competent tech? No, they go right back to calling some half-trained moron who only charges $35/hr. Business is full of slow learners.

    The bottom line is that many of the businesses out there are not designing their business processes, they are acquiring "business technology" by "jumping to solutions" without a plan. The "business-in-a-box" approach has never worked right. Most small businesses fail within the first five years, not becasuse their tools aren't adequate, but because their business decisions are inadequate. The technology decisions are just a part of the same lack of business smarts.

  • by realxmp (518717) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @10:05PM (#37929688)

    My point is it doesn't require specialised equipment or deviation from what most would call best practice. Any office where you're worried about standardised mobile devices should already have a patch panel, managed switches, a real router and if they have wi-fi at all non-consumer grade wifi access points (cisco or similar). If you're too small to have/need managed switches and VLAN's frankly you're just playing at being "enterprise". Anyway, it is often easy to support them without allowing them onto the LAN, the server active sync needs to connect to is the usually same one that provides outlook web access and done on the same IIS instance.

    Support specifically for the iPhone is simple, put all the settings into a readonly encrypted and signed provisioning profile which is only removable with a full device wipe or a password. It takes about an hour to write and properly test a provisioning profile, I'm excluding the time where you decide what your policy is because you should already have one. Any more support than that isn't my problem, check it's not server side and affecting everyone, get them to restore their device and if that fails send them to an apple store.

    This isn't special snowflake, this is good for productivity and the psychology of this is obvious. Any mobile is a very personal thing and an employee using their preferred device is more likely to check their email more often and not turn the damn thing off and shove it in a drawer. They're also more likely to understand the device, it's productivity features and make use of them.

    Also for the record, calling the managing director a special snowflake tends to get you fired. Senior staff are usually where these devices turn up first.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03, 2011 @05:31AM (#37931982)

    In software, support, personnel, maintenance, etc, 5K sounds very low to me. But maybe you are confusing "cost of a laptop" with "initial hardware cost"?

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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