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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Tim Savage of ENS Group knows that employees’ use of personal devices for work poses security concerns. So he’s hosting a seminar on the topic.

Devices’ double duty

Using personal gadgets for work offers rewards and risks

Photo illustration by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal
Joel Daas at Manpower separates work (Blackberry) and personal (iPhone) gadgetry. But not all do.

It’s a BYOD affair.

Professionals in the business world are “bringing their own devices” to the office. With technology moving at a breakneck pace – and the economy still lagging – many companies aren’t in a position to buy the latest equipment.

But that doesn’t stop individual employees from toting their tech toys to work. Throw in an onslaught of new smartphones and tablets arriving on shelves in time for the holidays, and the trend will probably continue.

Joel Daas, local Manpower staffing manager, is among a fading number of executives with – gasp – a Blackberry.

“Yeah, I still use it for work,” he said, “but I prefer my iPhone for reading emails with links because it opens better and the screen is bigger. I hate those dinky little buttons on the Blackberry.”

That’s not to say Manpower, a staffing firm, doesn’t offer iPhones to its employees. In fact, Daas could have one. But “I’d rather use the iPhone for my personal use instead.”

According to 2010 census figures, U.S. non-farm businesses spent $263.1 billion on non-capitalized and capitalized information and communication technology equipment, including computer software.

This represents an increase of 3.1 percent from the revised 2009 estimate of $255.3 billion. The uptick makes sense when you consider computer systems and other gadgetry become more expensive with each new update.

Technology analysts say the trend of workers bringing their own devices offers rewards – and risks.

On one hand, companies can save money if employees use their personal devices for work. Security, however, becomes an issue when your teenager has as much access to the iPad or other such gadgets as your boss.

“In general, the reality is that security is very important when dealing with health information,” said Geoff Thomas, spokesman for Lutheran Health. “Therefore, the devices we may be using at home aren’t always the devices to use at work.”

This is where Tim Savage hopes he comes in. Savage is a principal with ENS Group of Fort Wayne, a technology consulting firm. His company is planning a “Bring Your Own Device” seminar, which will discuss ways to prevent security breaches at the workplace.

“Most people have left the Blackberry, even if their company still provides them,” Savage said.

Still, he said the BYOD trend presents a lot of security questions: How do you protect yourself from company and personal data loss? How do you make sure no Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, laws are being violated? And what happens if an iPhone gets lost?

The free event is set for 11 a.m. Oct. 17, at Eddie Merlot’s, 1502 S. Illinois Road. Registration is required by Oct. 15 at www.ensi.com.

Officials at Good Technology Inc., an IT security solutions company based in Sunnyvale Calif., believe the “influx of personal mobile devices in enterprise is changing policy drastically.”

“BYOD programs, combined with supporting solutions and policies to ensure security and compliance, are fast becoming the predominant model for enabling broad employee mobility across multiple industries and around the globe,” a company report stated.

Nestle Dreyers Ice Cream Co. is updating technologies at its North Wells Street location. The global company, based in Oakland, Calif., invested $1.5 million in June at its Fort Wayne site.

The project is in addition to a $28 million equipment and building upgrade that includes IT. Human Resources Manager Rick Benson said the company is fairly flexible when it comes to employee use of mobile devices.

“We love our technology,” he said, adding that employees are anxious to get their hands on the new iPhone 5. “The company is very supportive and really tries to keep a good work-life balance for everyone.”

That means a worker can check his child’s homework assignments on a school’s website from a company smartphone. Shooting a text when running late for dinner isn’t frowned upon either, Benson said.

“As long as it isn’t abused,” he said, “we don’t have a problem with it.”

pwyche@jg.net

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