Employees are buying a lot of their own technologies to use at work — including laptops, cell phones, and GPS systems — according to a new survey. This phenomenon presents IT departments with a series of complex challenges.


I recently mentioned the issue of employees bringing more of their own technologies into the enterprise in my article on Gen Y and I’ve also discussed the issue of employee-owned smartphones. But, frankly, the new data from digital research firm In-Stat — see the chart on the right from USA Today — shows much higher percentages of employee-owned devices than I would have expected.

It looks like In-Stat cast a wide net in their survey by asking employees about technologies that they sometimes use for work and whether the company paid for them or not.

Nevertheless, the numbers are significant because it means that employees are a using their personal devices to access corporate data in large numbers. That can present a lot of serious challenges for IT, such as security, compliance, and customer privacy. That’s why there’s a push for IT to officially support more of these user-owned devices so that it can verify or set up enterprise-approved security and privacy settings.

This isn’t a totally new phenomenon. Ten years ago I remember lots of business professionals running around with their own personally-purchased Palm Pilots, which were loaded with a mix of personal and corporate data. That situation would not pass many of today’s compliance regulations — Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA for example.

The difference today is that most of these same professionals now use smartphones to manage their data, with or without the blessing of the IT department. For example, with a smartphone powered by Windows Mobile, employees can access their Outlook/Exchange mailbox, contacts, and calendar by connecting the phone via Outlook Web Access in a few simple steps (and with IT being largely unaware of it).

For more, read the USA Today article Some employees buy own laptops, phones for work.

Do you have any personal devices that you use for work? What percentage of your users do you think are using personal devices for work in your company? Does your IT department support any personal devices? Join the discussion.