iPads run amok: Does your company need a tablet policy?

With tablet mania in full swing, should IT take charge, back off or strike a middle course in trying to control everyone's new favorite gadget?

tablet security

When RehabCare executives started asking IT for the Apple iPad several months back, CIO Dick Escue didn't skip a beat.

Unlike many of his peers in the healthcare industry, he had no real qualms about security, despite the specter of compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Nor did he have misgivings about users loading up the devices with personal stuff like photos and music. As for worries about putting an additional support burden on his IT staff -- according to Escue, not a problem.

While these concerns have other IT shops scrambling, the RehabCare team was well ahead of the game. Thanks to a widespread deployment of the Apple iPhone a couple of years back, the company had a formal deployment strategy for the iPad and, potentially, for other emerging tablets.

Rather than trying to ban mobile units or deploy them haphazardly, RehabCare's IT group implemented new corporate policies and standardized on mobile management technologies that opened doors for the iPhone, and now the iPad, to participate in the enterprise in a secure, centrally managed fashion.

Based on this prior experience with the Apple iPhone, Escue was already well aware that users, not the IT department, are rapidly becoming the driving force behind new technology adoption -- a trend some call the consumerization of IT. (For more on the "bring your own technology movement," see Computerworld's recent video chat with Carfax CTO Gary Lee.)

"There was a time when work was where you got new technology, but that day is over thanks to unbounded innovation in the consumer technology world," explains Escue, who heads up technology efforts for RehabCare, a nationwide operator of acute care and rehabilitation hospitals.

Managing the tablet surge

With the recent introduction of the iPad 2, Motorola Xoom, RIM PlayBook, and new versions of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, tablet mania is taking the enterprise by storm.

Gartner estimates that 69.8 million media tablets will be shipped in 2011, and analysts and forward-thinking tech managers say it's time for IT execs to do more than simply take notice of that surge.

As with the iPhone before it, the iPad is cropping up in all corners of the enterprise, brought in by C-level execs, sales folks and worker bees who purchased the device for personal use and, now hooked, are hungry to use it on the job.

Regardless of whether staffers work on their own tablets or are given corporate-issued gear, the influx means IT needs a systematic approach for managing, tracking, securing and supporting these devices, just like they do for any other corporate computing platform.

At a recent Computerworld Premier 100 event, Gary Lee from Carfax chats with technologies editor Johanna Ambrosio about the issues and challenges surrounding letting employees choose their own technology, including smartphones, tablets and even notebooks.

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