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Mobile & Wireless World: Rogue user problem persists

One IT staffer called the problem 'a support nightmare'

By David Ramel
May 26, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Users are driving much of the mobile/wireless innovation in the enterprise, which can cause security, support and management problems, according to speakers and attendees at Computerworld's Mobile & Wireless World conference here.
"Innovation comes from the edge, not the center," said technology journalist and Computerworld columnist Dan Gillmor in a keynote speech yesterday. But when that innovation involves devices or applications not sanctioned by company IT departments, problems can arise.
"The problem of rogue employees is maddening. It'll drive you crazy," said Marc Simms, director of IT at Shared P.E.T. Imaging LLC, after yesterday's presentations. Simms didn't speak at the conference but was on hand to accept an award for Best Practices in Mobile & Wireless.
Simms is part of a small IT support team that serves 110 employees at the Canton, Ohio-based company, which provides medical scanning services to hospitals. Shared P.E.T. ran into support problems when users began bringing in their own mobile equipment. "They were bringing their own laptops in, their own handhelds, different types of PDA devices," he said. "It became a support nightmare."
He solved the problem by defining user requirements and working with the company's hardware supplier, Dell Inc., to standardize company equipment to meet those requirements. In the process, he provided workers with wireless access, which quickly raised the issue of security. Simms said he dealt with security concerns by using FireTide Inc. mesh networks, which use proprietary technology to "lock in" network devices so that they communicate only with one another.
Larger companies deal with the same problem. Colin Seward, an IT manager at Cisco Systems Inc. who spoke at the conference, said his company has launched a program called Cisco Pocket Office Services to manage different kinds of mobile devices. Cisco "recognized that we had to support these devices [because] they were just coming into our organization anyway," he said.

Cisco Pocket Office Services certifies what devices are supported and requires users to register them and agree to conditions for terms of use. It also provides remote management of the devices, including software upgrades and security services, as well as the ability to block network access for those that are lost or stolen.
Richard Stone, wireless and mobility solutions manager at Hewlett-Packard Co., said IT managers all too often aren't proactive enough. Their attitude is, "Wireless is insecure, so we've decided to do nothing," he said. But users aren't standing still. One study, he said, found that two-thirds of mobile devices in a company were bought by employees, not the company. Sales statistics show

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