Mixing Business with Pleasure

Accounts receivable spreadsheet? Check. Customer PowerPoint presentation? Check. Video and photos from last vacation? Double-check.

Road warriors and others who spend time traveling on airplanes already know this as they catch a quick glimpse of computer screens during bi-coastal legs stretches.

Now, there is research to back it up: business executives are socking away more personal information on their business PCs than ever before. In fact, up to 35 percent of the executives and managers polled in a recent survey admit to storing MP3 files and personal audio and video files on their business notebooks.

“That was a bit of a surprise, because we didn’t expect that much personal use related to music,” In-Stat research analyst and report author Michael Inouye told internetnews.com.

This could be because so many executives now pack Apple iPods and MP3 music players along with their socks and shirts when they hit the road, he added.

IT executives and technical workers are more likely to use their mobile PCs as personal filing cabinets than any other category of worker, the In-Stat Business User Computing Survey stated.

These high-tech types also tend to walk softly and carry a big disk to support such activities, said Inouye.

More than 1,000 executives took part in the survey, which primarily asked questions about the types of computers carried by mobile workers and each system’s configuration.

One surprising revelation is that 23 percent of the executives queried continue to use Windows 2000 and older operating systems, which may impact the coming Vista introduction, said In-Stat.

Findings related to the content preferences of executives are perhaps most interesting, however, since this relates to an increasing problem for IT departments in dealing with mobile workers who use company computers to store personal data and applications.

Where do you draw the line between corporate church and personal state?

“It’s a fine line whether policies are abused, but I wouldn’t think it is too pervasive,” noted In-Stat’s Inouye. “It really depends on the company.”

Most companies and agencies have policies that restrict the use of computers, e-mail and the Internet for personal and non-business-related tasks. The State of Texas’ Department of Information Resources (DIR), for example, publishes computer use guidelines for state agencies and institutions of higher education.

The guidelines suggest that each department tackle personal use issues on a case-by-case basis, pointing out that it a rising and unstoppable problem.

E-mail and instant messaging is a privilege that can be revoked, the Texas DIR rules point out. Also, content sent via e-mail can be recorded and stored along with the source and destination since it may pass through a state-owned network.

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