Consumer tech in the enterprise space

Stefan Hammond
12 Sep 2007


- Consumer tech helps shape enterprise tech

- Mobile technology is the prime mover thus far

- Decentralized computing increases security concerns

The main trend in enterprise IT over the last few decades‾ Ongoing decentralization of computing power.

When mainframes using tape drives were the only computing devices in a large office, it made for a secure and centralized (although slow) environment. Many factors helped shift computing tasks from the progression from centralized computing"”typified by a mainframe connected to 'dumb terminals'"”to distributed computing (PCs, and now on to PDAs and converged mobile devices). While the shift towards decentralized computing has given users more power and control over their computing environments, it's also introduced security problems that didn't exist during the mainframe era.

What's led to this shift, and what does it mean for CIOs and IT decision-makers‾

The increase in computing power and quality output from peripherals meant that SOHOs could increase their workloads, but the biggest changes once personal computers became commonplace have been in the communications sphere. Email and mobile telephony have irrevocably changed the nature of communication, and while flash capabilities like video conferencing are now within the reach of consumers, lower-end apps like SMS remain more popular. The current phase is the move to converged mobile devices like PDAs and high-end mobile phones.

This unplanned growth has created new products and industries to serve"”and report on"”those products. But in the enterprise space, we've seen aggregation of repurposed technologies. As users become more familiar with their own tech devices, they're more amenable to use those devices (or similar devices) to get their work done.

The bugbear: security

The problem with decentralized computing is that every device"”laptop, iPod, thumb drive"”becomes a potential conduit for malware when plugged into another device connected to the company's network. Theoretically, best practices can prevent malware from being transmitted via such devices. But sometimes this practice is only as strong as its weakest link. When the CEO comes in on Monday with a presentation he worked on over the weekend, using his home PC connected to the Internet, who will prevent him from plugging the thumb drive into his work PC‾ That's the question some enterprises must address.

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