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enfranchising wireless cowboys

By cweinsch ·
Hi. My name is Carl Weinschenk, and I'm a writer for Tech Republic. I'm working on a story that I thought I'd seek comment on.

A management source I have interviewed at length lays out the following: The proliferation of things wireless--from PDAs to easy-to-throw up hot spots--has encouraged folks to bring an ever-increasing amount of unauthorized gear into the enterprise. These early adopters are usually good at hiding the expense in their T&E reports and are reluctant to give up gadgets and networks they like and feel they benefit by. They don't particularly care that these things create security and other hassles.

His answer is to enfranchise these early adopters. He suggests flushing them out (by carefully going over their T&Es), talking to them and explaining, for instance, that the unauthorized WiFi they threw up may compromise important data. Moreover, he says that their input should be encouraged and worked into official policies.

These folks, he says, actually aretechnology leaders, in a way, and should be treated that way.

I'd be very interested in any input from TR members.

Thanks, Carl Weinschenk

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Early Adopters

by Oldefar In reply to enfranchising wireless co ...

The discussion occured in 1984 as we were planning to consolidate various departments from leased offices across a metro area into owned space. We had a wiring standard in place - a 4-pair for our voice and 3270 connections and a second 4-pair for other data. The intent was to use private ISDN over our huge private phone network.

What I found was pockets of Appletalk networks, ethernet networks, and async local switched networks installed by local department cowboys. These early adopters were finding ways to meet their department objectives in spite of an autocratic MIS division. Most were willing to move to ethernet over twisted pair (no standard yet), saw no value in a building backbone, and really wanted no dealings with any IT group.

By 1989, the terminal was becoming more of a relic everywhere. These same cowboys were now working on a total cut from the mainframes, although resource sharing was driving the communications network from primarily voice to half data, and the merits of IP versus alternative comm protocols was the hot discussion.

In 1994, Internet access and email was still being debated but these cowboys were already finding new solutions to business needs using these.

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Security issues

by TheChas In reply to enfranchising wireless co ...

From purely a security standpoint, I am shocked at any corporate setting where users are allowed to acquire and install hardware on their own.

My next concern for any organization with unauthorized hardware, is what shape are they in if a BSA audit were to happen.

If users are installing hardware on their own, how much user installed software is in place.

While I applaud the early adapters, I cringe at the implications in our present litigious society of any user installed hardware or software.

To deal with the desires of the early adapters in a corporate setting, you need to set up a semi-formal review and approval process.

This way, both IT and management can be aware of what is going on. You also have a method to track the installed software.
As a plus, IT can actually monitor and evaluate the usefulness of the new technology.


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by Oldefar In reply to Security issues

For some reason, many people in IT and in particular those involved with IT security believe that anyone operating outside of their control cannot possibly be aware of the issues surrounding the use of technology.

This is probably a fairly good assumption when dealing with users. At the point technology reaches the general user population it has become a tool. Like drivers who know little about and have little interest in the workings of their vehicles, the general user is focused on areasaway from the tools used.

With the early adopters, it is probably a poor assumption and is often part of the reason these people avoid the corporate IT folks. These cowboys often know more about the issues and solutions than the experts in IT. Most take care to balance business requirements with their love of new and innovative solutions.

Or so it has been in my experience over the past 30 plus years.

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